Journal Article

On the theory of astronomical masers – I. Statistics of maser radiation


in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 396, issue 4, pages 2319-2331
Published in print July 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
On the theory of astronomical masers – I. Statistics of maser radiation

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In this paper, we re-analyse the amplification process of broad-band continuum radiation by astronomical masers in the one-dimensional case. The basic equations appropriate for the scalar maser and the random nature of the maser radiation field are derived from basic physical principles. Comparison with the standard radiation transfer equation allows us to examine the underlying assumptions involved in the current theory of astronomical masers. Simulations are carried out to follow the amplification of different realizations of the broad-band background radiation by the maser. The observable quantities such as intensity and spectral line profile are obtained by averaging over an ensemble of the emerging radiation corresponding to the amplified background radiation field. Our simulations show that the fluctuations of the radiation field inside the astronomical maser deviate significantly from Gaussian statistics even when the maser is only partially saturated. Coupling between different frequency modes and the population pulsing are shown to have increasing importance in the transport of maser radiation as the maser approaches saturation. Our results suggest that the standard formulation of radiation transfer provides a satisfactory description of the intensity and the line narrowing effect in the unsaturated and partially saturated masers within the framework of the one-dimensional model. However, the application of the same formulation to the strong saturation regime should be considered with caution.

Keywords: line: formation; masers; polarization; radiative transfer

Journal Article.  7298 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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