Gamma-ray flares in the Crab Nebula: A case of relativistic reconnection?
The Crab Nebula was formed after the collapse of a massive star about a thousand years ago, leaving behind a pulsar that inflates a bubble of ultra-relativistic electron-positron pairs permeated with magnetic field. The observation of brief but bright flares of energetic gamma rays suggests that pairs are accelerated to PeV energies within a few days; such rapid acceleration cannot be driven by shocks. Here, it is argued that the flares may be the smoking gun of magnetic dissipation in the Nebula. Using 2D and 3D particle-in-cell simulations, it is shown that the observations are consistent with relativistic magnetic reconnection, where pairs are subject to strong radiative cooling. The Crab flares may highlight the importance of relativistic magnetic reconnection in astrophysical sources.
- Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544 (United States)
- Center for Integrated Plasma Studies, Physics Department, University of Colorado, UCB 390, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0390 (United States)
- JILA, University of Colorado and National Institute of Standards and Technology, UCB 440, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0440 (United States)
- Publication Date:
- OSTI Identifier:
- Resource Type:
- Journal Article
- Resource Relation:
- Journal Name: Physics of Plasmas; Journal Volume: 21; Journal Issue: 5; Other Information: (c) 2014 AIP Publishing LLC; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- Country of Publication:
- United States
- 70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; ACCELERATION; ASTROPHYSICS; CRAB NEBULA; ELECTRONS; GAMMA RADIATION; MAGNETIC FIELDS; MAGNETIC RECONNECTION; PEV RANGE; POSITRONS; PULSARS; RADIATIVE COOLING; RELATIVISTIC RANGE; SIMULATION