Time-Dependent Electron Acceleration in Pulsar-Wind Termination Shocks: Application to the 2011 April Crab Nebula Gamma-Ray Flare

19 Dec 2017  ·  Kroon John J., Becker Peter A., Finke Justin D. ·

The $\gamma$-ray flares from the Crab nebula observed by {\it AGILE} and {\it Fermi}-LAT between 2007-2013 reached GeV photon energies and lasted several days. The strongest emission, observed during the 2011 April "super-flare," exceeded the quiescent level by more than an order of magnitude... These observations challenge the standard models for particle acceleration in pulsar wind nebulae, because the radiating electrons have energies exceeding the classical radiation-reaction limit for synchrotron. Particle-in-cell simulations have suggested that the classical synchrotron limit can be exceeded if the electrons also experience electrostatic acceleration due to shock-driven magnetic reconnection. In this paper, we revisit the problem using an analytic approach based on solving a fully time-dependent electron transport equation describing the electrostatic acceleration, synchrotron losses, and escape experienced by electrons in a magnetically confined plasma "blob" as it encounters and passes through the pulsar-wind termination shock. We show that our model can reproduce the $\gamma$-ray spectra observed during the rising and decaying phases of each of the two sub-flare components of the 2011 April super-flare. We integrate the spectrum for photon energies $\ge 100\,$MeV to obtain the light curve for the event, which agrees with the observations. We find that strong electrostatic acceleration occurs on both sides of the termination shock, driven by magnetic reconnection. We also find that the dominant mode of particle escape changes from diffusive escape to advective escape as the blob passes through the shock. read more

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High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena