EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 377, Number 3, October III 2001
Page(s) 827 - 834
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011149
Published online 15 October 2001

A&A 377, 827-834 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011149

Are the hotspots of radio galaxies the sites of in situ acceleration of relativistic particles?

Gopal-Krishna1, P. Subramanian1, 2, P. J. Wiita3, 4 and P. A. Becker5

1  National Centre for Radio Astrophysics/TIFR, Pune University Campus, Post Bag No. 3, Ganeshkhind, Pune 411007, India
    e-mail: krishna@ncra.tifr.res.in
2  Inter University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics, Pune University Campus, Post Bag No. 4, Ganeshkhind, Pune 411007, India
    e-mail: psubrama@iucaa.ernet.in
3  Department of Physics and Astronomy, Georgia State University, University Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30303-3083, USA
    e-mail: wiita@chara.gsu.edu
4  Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544-1001, USA
5  Center for Earth Observing and Space Research, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA
    e-mail: pbecker@gmu.edu

(Received 6 February 2001 / Accepted 14 August 2001 )

Using a large set of optically detected hotspots in powerful extragalactic double radio sources, we examine the basic question of whether the detection of optical synchrotron radiation requires in situ acceleration of relativistic electrons within the hotspots/lobes. For this, we take into account the jet's bulk relativistic motion, as well as its likely misalignment from the plane of the sky. Together, both these factors can drastically reduce the apparent range of the ultra-relativistic electrons ejected from the nucleus in the form of a jet. The conventionally adopted parameter space for the fundamental variables, namely, the hotspot magnetic field, radio source orientation angle relative to the line-of-sight and the bulk speed of the jet plasma, is considered. We find that the observed optical/near-IR synchrotron emission of the hotspots can be explained even if the radiating relativistic electrons were accelerated exclusively within the nuclear region, provided the energy losses incurred by the electrons during their transport down the jet are dominated by inverse Compton upscatterings of the cosmic microwave background photons. Under this circumstance, in situ acceleration of relativistic electrons inside the hotspots or lobes is not found to be mandated by their reported optical/near-infrared detections.

Key words: acceleration of particles -- radiation mechanisms: non-thermal -- galaxies: active -- galaxies: jets -- radio continuum: galaxies -- X-rays: galaxies

Offprint request: P. J. Wiita, wiita@chara.gsu.edu

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© ESO 2001

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