Journal Article

The spectrum of the broad-line region and the high-energy emission of powerful blazars

Fabrizio Tavecchio and Gabriele Ghisellini

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 386, issue 2, pages 945-952
Published in print May 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The spectrum of the broad-line region and the high-energy emission of powerful blazars

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High-energy emission (from the X-ray through the γ-ray band) of Flat Spectrum Radio Quasars is widely associated with the inverse Compton (IC) scattering of ambient photons, produced either by the accretion disc or the broad-line region (BLR), high-energy electrons in a relativistic jet. In the modelling of the IC spectrum, one usually adopts a simple blackbody approximation for the external radiation field, though the real shape is probably more complex. The knowledge of the detailed spectrum of the external radiation field would allow to better characterize the soft-medium X-ray IC spectrum, which is crucial to address several issues related to the study of these sources. Here, we present a first step in this direction, calculating the IC spectra expected by considering a realistic spectrum for the external radiation energy density produced by the BLR, as calculated with the photoionization code cloudy. We find that under a wide range of the physical parameters characterizing the BLR clouds, the IC spectrum calculated with the blackbody approximation reproduces quite well the exact spectrum for energies above few keV. In the soft-energy band, instead, the IC emission calculated using the BLR emission shows a complex shape, with a moderate excess with respect to the approximate spectrum, which becomes more important for decreasing values of the peak frequency of the photoionizing continuum. We also show that the high-energy spectrum shows a marked steepening, due to the energy dependence of the scattering cross-section, above a characteristic energy of 10–20 GeV, quasi-independent on the Lorentz factor of the jet.

Keywords: radiation mechanisms: non-thermal; scattering; quasars: general; X-rays: general

Journal Article.  5886 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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