Some neutron star low-mass X-ray binaries have very long outbursts (lasting several years) which can generate a significant amount of heat in the neutron star crust. After the system has returned to quiescence, the crust then thermally relaxes. This provides a rare opportunity to study the thermal properties of neutron star crusts, putting constraints on the thermal conductivity and hence the structure and composition of the crust. KS 1731-260 is one of only four systems where this crustal cooling has been observed. Here, we present a new Chandra observation of this source approximately eight years after the end of the last outburst and four years since the last observation. We find that the source has continued to cool, with the cooling curve displaying a simple power-law decay. This suggests that the crust has not fully thermally relaxed yet and may continue to cool further. A simple power-law decay is in contrast to theoretical cooling models of the crust, which predict that the crust should now have cooled to the same temperature as the neutron star core.
Stars, Interstellar Medium and the Galaxy
Continued Cooling of the Crust in the Neutron Star Low-mass X-ray Binary KS 1731–260
Edward M. Cackett et al. 2010 ApJ 722 L137