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The High Energy X-ray Probe (HEX-P): A New Window into Neutron Star Accretion

Presentation #107.38 in the session Stellar/Compact Objects - Poster Session.

Published onMay 03, 2024
The High Energy X-ray Probe (HEX-P): A New Window into Neutron Star Accretion

Accreting neutron stars (NSs) represent a unique laboratory for probing the physics of accretion in the presence of strong magnetic fields. Additionally, the matter inside the NS itself exists in an ultra-dense, cold state that cannot be reproduced in Earth-based laboratories. Consequently, observational studies of these objects are a way to probe the most extreme physical regimes. We demonstrate how the the High-Energy X-ray Probe (HEX-P) can address open questions regarding accreting NSs in both low-mass and high-mass X-ray binary systems. In particular, with the broad X-ray passband and improved sensitivity afforded by a low X-ray background, HEX-P will be able to 1) distinguish between competing continuum emission models; 2) provide tighter upper limits on NS radii via reflection modeling techniques that are independent and complementary to other existing methods; 3) constrain magnetic field geometry, plasma parameters, and accretion column emission patterns by characterizing fundamental and harmonic cyclotron lines and exploring their behavior with pulse phase; 4) directly measure the surface magnetic field strength of highly magnetized NSs at the lowest accretion luminosities; as well as 5) detect cyclotron line features in extragalactic sources and probe their dependence on luminosity in the super-Eddington regime in order to distinguish between geometrical evolution and accretion-induced decay of the magnetic field. In these ways HEX-P will provide an essential new tool for exploring the physics of NSs, their magnetic fields, and the physics of extreme accretion.

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