Purdue University Graduate School
haozhang_dissertation_v1.pdf (26.82 MB)

Non-thermal Particle Acceleration and Emission from Relativistic Jets

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posted on 2023-04-19, 19:12 authored by Hao ZhangHao Zhang

Astrophysical jets are collimated streams of magnetized plasma launched from compact objects, such as neutron stars or black holes. These jets, powered by the accretion of surrounding gas onto the compact object, can accelerate particles to extreme energies and produce powerful radiation.

In this report, I investigate energy dissipation and particle acceleration in two key regions in jets: (i) external shocks which form where jets interact with ambient gas and (ii) internally in the jet where particles are likely to be energized through the process of magnetic reconnection.

First, I explore inverse Compton scatterings of electrons accelerated at the external shock as a candidate for the high energy emissions from gamma-ray burst afterglows. I consider two sources of seed photons for scattering: synchrotron photons from the blast wave (synchrotron self-Compton) and photon fields external to the shock (external Compton) from the star-forming region in the host galaxy. I develop an analytical model to predict the high-energy spectra from these blasts and reproduce the observed spectra and lightcurves of GRB~190114C. The model implies that inverse Compton can dominate the sub-TeV/TeV emission in this event.

Second, I study the particle acceleration mechanism of magnetic reconnection internally in astrophysical jets. I employ particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations of 3D relativistic magnetic reconnection. My analysis reveals a novel acceleration mechanism that only operates in 3D that results in faster particle acceleration. Unlike in 2D simulations where particles are trapped in the reconnected plasma and stop being accelerated, a fraction of particles in 3D can escape from this region (along the third direction) and be further accelerated. The escaped particles are characterized by a harder energy spectrum with a higher cutoff compared to those found in previous studies. Based on the PIC simulation findings, I build an analytical model for the particle kinetics, which divides particles into two groups --- one undergoing fast energization in the reconnection upstream region and the other residing in the reconnected plasma without energy change. The model predicts a power-law spectra for both groups of particles. PIC simulations reveal a universal magnetization-independent spectra with $dN/d\gamma\propto \gamma^{-2}$ for the overall particle population. The results demonstrate that relativistic reconnection in jets may be a promising mechanism for generating Ultra-High-energy Cosmic Rays. 


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Physics and Astronomy

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dimitrios Giannios

Additional Committee Member 2

Paul Duffell

Additional Committee Member 3

Kyoung-Soo Lee

Additional Committee Member 4

Martin Kruczenski

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