Published in Space Science Reviews, Volume 134, Issue 1-4, pp. 207-227, 2008.
astro-ph/0801.0923

For a PDF version of the article, click here.

PARTICLE ACCELERATION MECHANISMS

V. Petrosian 1 and A.M. Bykov 2



1 Department of Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
E-mail: vahep@stanford.edu
2 A.F. Ioffe Institute for Physics and Technology, St. Petersburg, 194021, Russia
E-mail: byk@astro.ioffe.ru


Abstract. In this paper we review the possible mechanisms for production of non-thermal electrons which are responsible for the observed non-thermal radiation in clusters of galaxies. Our primary focus is on non-thermal Bremsstrahlung and inverse Compton scattering, that produce hard X-ray emission. We first give a brief review of acceleration mechanisms and point out that in most astrophysical situations, and in particular for the intracluster medium, shocks, turbulence and plasma waves play a crucial role. We also outline how the effects of the turbulence can be accounted for. Using a generic model for turbulence and acceleration, we then consider two scenarios for production of non-thermal radiation. The first is motivated by the possibility that hard X-ray emission is due to non-thermal Bremsstrahlung by nonrelativistic particles and attempts to produce non-thermal tails by accelerating the electrons from the background plasma with an initial Maxwellian distribution. For acceleration rates smaller than the Coulomb energy loss rate, the effect of energising the plasma is to primarily heat the plasma with little sign of a distinct non-thermal tail. Such tails are discernible only for acceleration rates comparable or larger than the Coulomb loss rate. However, these tails are accompanied by significant heating and they are present for a short time of < 106 yr, which is also the time that the tail will be thermalised. A longer period of acceleration at such rates will result in a runaway situation with most particles being accelerated to very high energies. These more exact treatments confirm the difficulty with this model, first pointed out by Petrosian (2001). Such non-thermal tails, even if possible, can only explain the hard X-ray but not the radio emission which needs GeV or higher energy electrons. For these and for production of hard X-rays by the inverse Compton model, we need the second scenario where there is injection and subsequent acceleration of relativistic electrons. It is shown that a steady state situation, for example arising from secondary electrons produced from cosmic ray proton scattering by background protons, will most likely lead to flatter than required electron spectra or it requires a short escape time of the electrons from the cluster. An episodic injection of relativistic electrons, presumably from galaxies or AGN, and/or episodic generation of turbulence and shocks by mergers can result in an electron spectrum consistent with observations but for only a short period of less than one billion years.

Keywords: intergalactic medium; particle acceleration; galaxies: clusters: general


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION
Electric Field Acceleration
Fermi Acceleration
Stochastic Acceleration

TURBULENCE AND STOCHASTIC ACCELERATION
Basic Scenario
Dispersion Relations
Kinetic Equations and their Coefficients

PARTICLE ACCELERATION IN CLUSTERS OF GALAXIES
Acceleration of Background Particles
Acceleration of Injected Particles

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

APPENDIX: PARTICLE KINETIC EQUATIONS
Stochastic Acceleration by Turbulence
Acceleration in Large Scale Turbulence and Shocks

REFERENCES

Next