Journal Article

High-energy particle acceleration and production of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays in the giant lobes of Centaurus A

M. J. Hardcastle, C. C. Cheung, I. J. Feain and Ł. Stawarz

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 393, issue 3, pages 1041-1053
Published in print March 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online February 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
High-energy particle acceleration and production of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays in the giant lobes of Centaurus A

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The nearby radio galaxy Centaurus A is poorly studied at high frequencies with conventional radio telescopes because of its very large angular size, but is one of a very few extragalactic objects to be detected and resolved by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). We have used the five-year WMAP data for Cen A to constrain the high-frequency radio spectra of the 10° giant lobes and to search for spectral changes as a function of position along the lobes. We show that the high-frequency radio spectra of the northern and southern giant lobes are significantly different: the spectrum of the southern lobe steepens monotonically (and is steeper further from the active nucleus) whereas the spectrum of the northern lobe remains consistent with a power law. The inferred differences in the northern and southern giant lobes may be the result of real differences in their high-energy particle acceleration histories, perhaps due to the influence of the northern middle lobe, an intermediate-scale feature which has no detectable southern counterpart. In light of these results, we discuss the prospects for Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detections of inverse-Compton emission from the giant lobes and the lobes' possible role in the production of the ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (UHECR) detected by the Pierre Auger Observatory. We show that the possibility of a Fermi detection depends sensitively on the physical conditions in the giant lobes, with the northern lobe more likely to be detected, and that any emission observed by Fermi is likely to be dominated by photons at the soft end of the Fermi energy band. On the other hand, we argue that the estimated conditions in the giant lobes imply that UHECRs can be accelerated there, with a potentially detectable γ-ray signature at TeV energies.

Keywords: acceleration of particles; cosmic rays; galaxies: jets; radio continuum: galaxies

Journal Article.  11205 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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