Hybrid Thermal‐Nonthermal Synchrotron Emission from Hot Accretion Flows
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CitationOzel, Feryal, Dimitrios Psaltis, and Ramesh Narayan. 2000. “Hybrid Thermal‐Nonthermal Synchrotron Emission from Hot Accretion Flows.” The Astrophysical Journal 541 (1): 234–49. https://doi.org/10.1086/309396.
AbstractWe investigate the effect of a hybrid electron population, consisting of both thermal and nonthermal particles, on the synchrotron spectrum, image size, and image shape of a hot accretion flow onto a supermassive black hole. We find two universal features in the emitted synchrotron spectrum: (1) a prominent shoulder at low (less than or similar to 10(11) Hz) frequencies that is weakly dependent on the shape of the electron energy distribution, and (2) an extended tail of emission at high (greater than or similar to 10(13) Hz) frequencies whose spectral slope depends on the slope of the power-law energy distribution of the electrons. In the low-frequency shoulder, the luminosity can be up to 2 orders of magnitude greater than with a purely thermal plasma even if only a small fraction (<1%) of the steady state electron energy is in the nonthermal electrons. We apply the hybrid model to the Galactic center source, Sgr A*. The observed radio and IR spectra imply that at most 1% of the steady state electron energy is present in a power-law tail in this source. This corresponds to no more than 10% of the electron energy injected into the nonthermal electrons and hence 90% into the thermal electrons. We show that such a hybrid distribution can be sustained in the flow because thermalization via Coulomb collisions and synchrotron self-absorption are both inefficient. The presence of nonthermal electrons enlarges the size of the radio image at low frequencies and alters the frequency dependence of the brightness temperature. A purely thermal electron distributions produces a sharp-edged image, while a hybrid distribution causes strong limb brightening. These effects can be seen up to frequencies similar to 10(11) Hz and are accessible to radio interferometers.
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