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Spectral evolution of non-thermal electron distributions in intense radiation fields

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Horns,  D.
Division Prof. Dr. Werner Hofmann, MPI for Nuclear Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Kirk,  John G.
Division Prof. Dr. Werner Hofmann, MPI for Nuclear Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Manolakou, K., Horns, D., & Kirk, J. G. (2007). Spectral evolution of non-thermal electron distributions in intense radiation fields. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 474(3), 689-700.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0011-7BB8-7
Abstract
(abridged) Models of many astrophysical gamma-ray sources assume they contain a homogeneous distribution of electrons that are injected as a power-law in energy and evolve by interacting with radiation fields, magnetic fields and particles in the source and by escaping. This problem is particularly complicated if the radiation fields have higher energy density than the magnetic field and are sufficiently energetic that inverse Compton scattering is not limited to the Thomson regime. We present a simple, time-dependent, semi-analytical solution of the electron kinetic equation that treats both continuous and impulsive injection, cooling via synchrotron and inverse Compton radiation, (taking into account Klein-Nishina effects) and energy dependent particle escape. The kinetic equation for an arbitrary, time-dependent source function is solved by the method of Laplace transformations. Using an approximate expression for the energy loss rate that takes into account synchrotron and inverse Compton losses including Klein-Nishina effects for scattering off an isotropic photon field with either a power-law or black-body distribution, we find explicit expressions for the cooling time and escape probability of individual electrons. This enables the full, time-dependent solution to be reduced to a single quadrature. From the electron distribution, we then construct the time-dependent, multi-wavelength emission spectrum. We compare our solutions with several limiting cases and discuss the general appearance and temporal behaviour of spectral features (i.e., cooling breaks, bumps etc.). As a specific example, we model the broad-band energy spectrum of the open stellar association Westerlund-2 at different times of its evolution, and compare it with observations.