Constraints on the symmetry energy from observational probes of the neutron star crust
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- Newton, W.G., Hooker, J., Gearheart, M. et al. Eur. Phys. J. A (2014) 50: 41. doi:10.1140/epja/i2014-14041-x
A number of observed phenomena associated with individual neutron star systems or neutron star populations find explanations in models in which the neutron star crust plays an important role. We review recent work examining the sensitivity to the slope of the symmetry energy L of such models, and constraints extracted on L from confronting them with observations. We focus on six sets of observations and proposed explanations: i) The cooling rate of the neutron star in Cassiopeia A, confronting cooling models which include enhanced cooling in the nuclear pasta regions of the inner crust; ii) the upper limit of the observed periods of young X-ray pulsars, confronting models of magnetic field decay in the crust caused by the high resistivity of the nuclear pasta layer; iii) glitches from the Vela pulsar, confronting the paradigm that they arise due to a sudden recoupling of the crustal neutron superfluid to the crustal lattice after a period during which they were decoupled due to vortex pinning; iv) the frequencies of quasi-periodic oscillations in the X-ray tail of light curves from giant flares from soft gamma-ray repeaters, confronting models of torsional crust oscillations; v) the upper limit on the frequency to which millisecond pulsars can be spun-up due to accretion from a binary companion, confronting models of the r-mode instability arising above a threshold frequency determined in part by the viscous dissipation timescale at the crust-core boundary; and vi) the observations of precursor electromagnetic flares a few seconds before short gamma-ray bursts, confronting a model of crust shattering caused by resonant excitation of a crustal oscillation mode by the tidal gravitational field of a companion neutron star just before merger.