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Title: Constraining the location of gamma-ray flares in luminous blazars

Abstract

Locating the gamma-ray emission sites in blazar jets is a long standing and highly controversial issue. We jointly investigate several constraints on the distance scale r and Lorentz factor Γ of the gamma-ray emitting regions in luminous blazars (primarily flat spectrum radio quasars). Working in the framework of one-zone external radiation Comptonization models, we perform a parameter space study for several representative cases of actual gamma-ray flares in their multiwavelength context. We find a particularly useful combination of three constraints: from an upper limit on the collimation parameter Γθ ≲ 1, from an upper limit on the synchrotron self-Compton (SSC) luminosity L{sub SSC} ≲ L{sub X}, and from an upper limit on the efficient cooling photon energy E{sub cool,obs} ≲ 100 MeV. These three constraints are particularly strong for sources with low accretion disk luminosity L{sub d}. The commonly used intrinsic pair-production opacity constraint on Γ is usually much weaker than the SSC constraint. The SSC and cooling constraints provide a robust lower limit on the collimation parameter Γθ ≳ 0.1-0.7. Typical values of r corresponding to moderate values of Γ ∼ 20 are in the range 0.1-1 pc, and are determined primarily by the observed variability timescale t{sub var,obs}.more » Alternative scenarios motivated by the observed gamma-ray/millimeter connection, in which gamma-ray flares of t{sub var,obs} ∼ a few days are located at r ∼ 10 pc, are in conflict with both the SSC and cooling constraints. Moreover, we use a simple light travel time argument to point out that the gamma-ray/millimeter connection does not provide a significant constraint on the location of gamma-ray flares. We argue that spine-sheath models of the jet structure do not offer a plausible alternative to external radiation fields at large distances; however, an extended broad-line region is an idea worth exploring. We propose that the most definite additional constraint could be provided by determination of the synchrotron self-absorption frequency for correlated synchrotron and gamma-ray flares.« less

Authors:
;  [1];  [2]
  1. JILA, University of Colorado and National Institute of Standards and Technology, 440 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309 (United States)
  2. Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, Bartycka 18, 00-716 Warsaw (Poland)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22365650
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 789; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ACCRETION DISKS; COOLING; COSMIC GAMMA SOURCES; DISTANCE; EMISSION; GALAXIES; GAMMA RADIATION; LUMINOSITY; MEV RANGE; OPACITY; PHOTONS; QUASARS; SELF-ABSORPTION; SPACE; SPECTRA; STELLAR FLARES; VISIBLE RADIATION

Citation Formats

Nalewajko, Krzysztof, Begelman, Mitchell C., and Sikora, Marek, E-mail: knalew@jila.colorado.edu. Constraining the location of gamma-ray flares in luminous blazars. United States: N. p., 2014. Web. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/161.
Nalewajko, Krzysztof, Begelman, Mitchell C., & Sikora, Marek, E-mail: knalew@jila.colorado.edu. Constraining the location of gamma-ray flares in luminous blazars. United States. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/161.
Nalewajko, Krzysztof, Begelman, Mitchell C., and Sikora, Marek, E-mail: knalew@jila.colorado.edu. Thu . "Constraining the location of gamma-ray flares in luminous blazars". United States. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/161.
@article{osti_22365650,
title = {Constraining the location of gamma-ray flares in luminous blazars},
author = {Nalewajko, Krzysztof and Begelman, Mitchell C. and Sikora, Marek, E-mail: knalew@jila.colorado.edu},
abstractNote = {Locating the gamma-ray emission sites in blazar jets is a long standing and highly controversial issue. We jointly investigate several constraints on the distance scale r and Lorentz factor Γ of the gamma-ray emitting regions in luminous blazars (primarily flat spectrum radio quasars). Working in the framework of one-zone external radiation Comptonization models, we perform a parameter space study for several representative cases of actual gamma-ray flares in their multiwavelength context. We find a particularly useful combination of three constraints: from an upper limit on the collimation parameter Γθ ≲ 1, from an upper limit on the synchrotron self-Compton (SSC) luminosity L{sub SSC} ≲ L{sub X}, and from an upper limit on the efficient cooling photon energy E{sub cool,obs} ≲ 100 MeV. These three constraints are particularly strong for sources with low accretion disk luminosity L{sub d}. The commonly used intrinsic pair-production opacity constraint on Γ is usually much weaker than the SSC constraint. The SSC and cooling constraints provide a robust lower limit on the collimation parameter Γθ ≳ 0.1-0.7. Typical values of r corresponding to moderate values of Γ ∼ 20 are in the range 0.1-1 pc, and are determined primarily by the observed variability timescale t{sub var,obs}. Alternative scenarios motivated by the observed gamma-ray/millimeter connection, in which gamma-ray flares of t{sub var,obs} ∼ a few days are located at r ∼ 10 pc, are in conflict with both the SSC and cooling constraints. Moreover, we use a simple light travel time argument to point out that the gamma-ray/millimeter connection does not provide a significant constraint on the location of gamma-ray flares. We argue that spine-sheath models of the jet structure do not offer a plausible alternative to external radiation fields at large distances; however, an extended broad-line region is an idea worth exploring. We propose that the most definite additional constraint could be provided by determination of the synchrotron self-absorption frequency for correlated synchrotron and gamma-ray flares.},
doi = {10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/161},
journal = {Astrophysical Journal},
number = 2,
volume = 789,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Jul 10 00:00:00 EDT 2014},
month = {Thu Jul 10 00:00:00 EDT 2014}
}
  • Here, we present a γ-ray photon flux and spectral variability study of the flat-spectrum radio quasar 3C 273 over a rapid flaring activity period between September 2009 to April 2010. Five major flares were observed in the source during this period. The most rapid flare observed in the source has a flux doubling time of 1.1 hr. The rapid γ-ray flares allow us to constrain the location and size of the γ-ray emission region in the source. The γγ-opacity constrains the Doppler factor δ γ ≥ 10 for the highest energy (15 GeV) photon observed by the Fermi-Large Area Telescopemore » (LAT). Causality arguments constrain the size of the emission region to 1.6 × 10 15 cm. The γ-ray spectra measured over this period show clear deviations from a simple power law with a break in the 1–2 GeV energy range. We discuss possible explanations for the origin of the γ-ray spectral breaks. Our study suggests that the γ-ray emission region in 3C 273 is located within the broad line region (< 1.6 pc). As a result, the spectral behavior and temporal characteristics of the individual flares indicate the presence of multiple shock scenarios at the base of the jet.« less
  • Blazar spectral models generally have numerous unconstrained parameters, leading to ambiguous values for physical properties like Doppler factor δ{sub D} or fluid magnetic field B'. To help remedy this problem, a few modifications of the standard leptonic blazar jet scenario are considered. First, a log-parabola function for the electron distribution is used. Second, analytic expressions relating energy loss and kinematics to blazar luminosity and variability, written in terms of equipartition parameters, imply δ{sub D}, B', and the peak electron Lorentz factor γ{sub pk}{sup ′}. The external radiation field in a blazar is approximated by Lyα radiation from the broad-line regionmore » (BLR) and ≈0.1 eV infrared radiation from a dusty torus. When used to model 3C 279 spectral energy distributions from 2008 and 2009 reported by Hayashida et al., we derive δ{sub D} ∼ 20-30, B' ∼ few G, and total (IR + BLR) external radiation field energy densities u ∼ 10{sup –2}-10{sup –3} erg cm{sup –3}, implying an origin of the γ-ray emission site in 3C 279 at the outer edges of the BLR. This is consistent with the γ-ray emission site being located at a distance R ≲ Γ{sup 2} ct {sub var} ∼ 0.1(Γ/30){sup 2}(t {sub var}/10{sup 4} s) pc from the black hole powering 3C 279's jets, where t {sub var} is the variability timescale of the radiation in the source frame, and at farther distances for narrow-jet and magnetic-reconnection models. Excess ≳ 5 GeV γ-ray emission observed with Fermi LAT from 3C 279 challenges the model, opening the possibility of a second leptonic component or a hadronic origin of the emission. For low hadronic content, absolute jet powers of ≈10% of the Eddington luminosity are calculated.« less
  • Inverse Compton cascades (ICCs) initiated by energetic gamma rays (E {approx}> 100 GeV) enhance the GeV emission from bright, extragalactic TeV sources. The absence of this emission from bright TeV blazars has been used to constrain the intergalactic magnetic field (IGMF), and the stringent limits placed on the unresolved extragalactic gamma-ray background (EGRB) by Fermi have been used to argue against a large number of such objects at high redshifts. However, these are predicated on the assumption that inverse Compton scattering is the primary energy-loss mechanism for the ultrarelativistic pairs produced by the annihilation of the energetic gamma rays onmore » extragalactic background light photons. Here, we show that for sufficiently bright TeV sources (isotropic-equivalent luminosities {approx}> 10{sup 42} erg s{sup -1}) plasma beam instabilities, specifically the 'oblique' instability, present a plausible mechanism by which the energy of these pairs can be dissipated locally, heating the intergalactic medium. Since these instabilities typically grow on timescales short in comparison to the inverse Compton cooling rate, they necessarily suppress the ICCs. As a consequence, this places a severe constraint on efforts to limit the IGMF from the lack of a discernible GeV bump in TeV sources. Similarly, it considerably weakens the Fermi limits on the evolution of blazar populations. Specifically, we construct a TeV-blazar luminosity function from those objects currently observed and find that it is very well described by the quasar luminosity function at z {approx} 0.1, shifted to lower luminosities and number densities, suggesting that both classes of sources are regulated by similar processes. Extending this relationship to higher redshifts, we show that the magnitude and shape of the EGRB above {approx}10 GeV are naturally reproduced with this particular example of a rapidly evolving TeV-blazar luminosity function.« less
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