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Resolving the Crab pulsar wind nebula at teraelectronvolt energies
North West Univ, Ctr Space Res, Potchefstroom, South Africa..
Max Planck Inst Kernphys, Heidelberg, Germany.;Dublin Inst Adv Studies, Dublin, Ireland.;Natl Acad Sci Republ Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia..
Max Planck Inst Kernphys, Heidelberg, Germany..
Aix Marseille Univ, CPPM, CNRS, IN2P3, Marseille, France..
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2020 (English)In: Nature Astronomy, E-ISSN 2397-3366, Vol. 4, no 2, p. 167-173Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

An angular extension at gamma-ray energies of 52 arcseconds is detected for the Crab nebula, revealing the emission region of the highest-energy gamma rays; simulations of the electromagnetic emission provide a non-trivial test of our understanding of particle acceleration in the Crab nebula. The Crab nebula is one of the most-studied cosmic particle accelerators, shining brightly across the entire electromagnetic spectrum up to very-high-energy gamma rays(1,2). It is known from observations in the radio to gamma-ray part of the spectrum that the nebula is powered by a pulsar, which converts most of its rotational energy losses into a highly relativistic outflow. This outflow powers a pulsar wind nebula, a region of up to ten light-years across, filled with relativistic electrons and positrons. These particles emit synchrotron photons in the ambient magnetic field and produce very-high-energy gamma rays by Compton up-scattering of ambient low-energy photons. Although the synchrotron morphology of the nebula is well established, it has not been known from which region the very-high-energy gamma rays are emitted(3-8). Here we report that the Crab nebula has an angular extension at gamma-ray energies of 52 arcseconds (assuming a Gaussian source width), much larger than at X-ray energies. This result closes a gap in the multi-wavelength coverage of the nebula, revealing the emission region of the highest-energy gamma rays. These gamma rays enable us to probe a previously inaccessible electron and positron energy range. We find that simulations of the electromagnetic emission reproduce our measurement, providing a non-trivial test of our understanding of particle acceleration in the Crab nebula.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Nature Publishing Group, 2020. Vol. 4, no 2, p. 167-173
National Category
Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
Research subject
Physics, Astroparticle Physics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-92466DOI: 10.1038/s41550-019-0910-0ISI: 000512983200019OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-92466DiVA, id: diva2:1410941
Available from: 2020-03-02 Created: 2020-03-02 Last updated: 2020-03-02Bibliographically approved

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Becherini, YvonneBylund, TomasPunch, MichaelSenniappan, Mohanraj

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