The High-Energy Polarization-Limiting Radius of Neutron Star Magnetospheres II -- Magnetized Hydrogen Atmospheres
In the presence of strong magnetic fields, the vacuum becomes a birefringent medium. We show that this QED effect couples the direction of the polarization of photons leaving the NS surface, to the direction of the magnetic field along the ray's path. We analyze the consequences that this effect has on aligning the polarization vectors to generate large net polarizations, while considering thermal radiation originating from a thermal hydrogen atmosphere. Counter to previous predictions, we show that the thermal radiation should be highly polarized even in the optical. When detected, this polarization will be the first demonstration of vacuum birefringence. It could be used as a tool to prove the high magnetic field nature of AXPs and it could also be used to constrain physical NS parameters, such as $R/M$, to which the net polarization is sensitive.