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Isolated Neutron Stars

Group members: Sandro Mereghetti, Patrizia Caraveo, Andrea De Luca, Andrea Tiengo, Paolo Esposito, Martino Marelli, Nicola Sartore, Andrea Giuliani

The advances obtained thanks to observations in the optical, X-ray and gamma-ray energy bands have dramatically changed our vision of isolated neutron stars, that was previously based mainly on the observations of the population of radio pulsars. The new emerging picture implies a much wider variety in the birth properties of neutron stars and their evolution in time, as testified by the presence of different classes of objects: radio-quiet pulsars, gamma-ray pulsars, compact central objects in supernova remnants, dim X-ray emitting neutron stars, magnetars. High-energy observations of these neutron stars provide a unique way to study a variety of phenomena which are relevant for different branches of physics. For example, the study of the thermal X-ray emission from the star photospheres and of their cooling history gives information on the equation of state of nuclear density matter, while non-thermal processes observed at X and gamma ray energies are relevant for the physics of particle acceleration, relativistic shocks, and strong magnetic fields.

The understanding of the various classes, and the building up of a consistent evolutionary scenario is the long term goal of our research group which has been involved since more than thirty years in the identification and study of isolated neutron stars exploiting all the main satellites for X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy (e.g. Einstein Observatory, ROSAT, BeppoSAX, ASCA, XMM-Newton, Chandra, Swift, COS-B, AGILE, Fermi), complemented by optical observations with the Hubble Space Telescope and ground telescopes at ESO.

Some highlights of our researches are: