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Photon bubbles - Overstability in a magnetized atmosphere
Arons, Jonathan
AA(California, University, Berkeley; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore)
Astrophysical Journal, Part 1 (ISSN 0004-637X), vol. 388, April 1, 1992, p. 561-578. Research supported by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (ApJ Homepage)
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NASA/STI Keywords:
Magnetohydrodynamic Stability, Neutron Stars, Photons, Radiation Pressure, Stellar Atmospheres, Stellar Magnetic Fields, Acoustic Velocity, Magnetic Field Configurations, Specific Heat
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The formation of 'photon bubbles' in a convectively stable scattering atmosphere supported against gravity entirely by radiation pressure is studied by means of linear stability theory. A simple model is developed for the 2D structure of a plasma mound formed by laminar accretion onto the magnetic poles of a neutron star, in which upward photon diffusion balances downward photon advection with the plasma. It is shown that the vertical pressure and density structure is the same as in an isothermal atmosphere. Application of the stability theory to this model suggests photon bubbles would form in a polar accretion mound under the conditions expected in accretion-powered pulsars within a few tenths of a millisecond. Because long-wavelength modes have the largest rise speeds, eventual dominance by a few large bubbles is suggested, and possible connections between bubble formation and short-time variability in accretion-powered pulsars is discussed, as well as a possible connection of the photon bubble phenomenon to the rapid time variability observed in the Rapid Burster and in quasi-period oscillator sources.

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