Isolated neutron stars (NSs) show a bewildering variety of astrophysical manifestations, presumably shaped by themagnetic field strength and topology at birth. Here, using state-of-the-art calculations of the coupled magnetic and thermal evolution of NSs, we compute the thermal spectra and pulse profiles expected for a variety of initial magnetic field configurations. In particular, we contrast models with purely poloidal magnetic fields to models dominated by a strong internal toroidal component. We find that, while the former displays double-peaked profiles and very low pulsed fractions, in the latter, the anisotropy in the surface temperature produced by the toroidal field often results in a single pulse profile, with pulsed fractions that can exceed the 50-60 per cent level even for perfectly isotropic local emission. We further use our theoretical results to generate simulated 'observed' spectra, and show that blackbody (BB) fits result in inferred radii that can be significantly smaller than the actual NS radius, even as low as ~1-2 km for old NSs with strong internal toroidal fields and a high absorption column density along their line of sight. We compute the size of the inferred BB radius for a few representative magnetic field configurations, NS ages and magnitudes of the column density. Our theoretical results are of direct relevance to the interpretation of X-ray observations of isolated NSs, as well as to the constraints on the equation of state of dense matter through radius measurements. © 2013 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.
- Magnetic field-stars