Underlying particle spectrum of Mkn 421 during the huge X-ray flare in April 2013
1 Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Homi Bhabha Road, Colaba, 400 005 Mumbai, India
2 Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Post Bag 4, Ganeshkhind, 411007 Pune, India
3 Now at ETH Zurich, Institute for Particle Physics, Otto-Stern-Weg 5, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
Received: 6 April 2015
Accepted: 9 June 2015
Context. In April 2013, the nearby TeV blazar, Mkn 421, showed one of the largest flares in X-rays in the past decade.
Aims. We study all multiwavelength data available during MJD 56 392 to 56 403, with special emphasis on X-ray data to understand the underlying particle energy distribution.
Methods. We studied the correlations between the UV and gamma-ray bands with the X-ray band using the z-transformed discrete correlation function. We modelled the underlying particle energy spectrum with a single population of electrons emitting synchrotron radiation, and statistically fitted the simultaneous time-resolved data from Swift-XRT and NuSTAR.
Results. The flux varied rapidly in the X-ray band, with a minimum doubling timescale of 1.69 ± 0.13 h. There were no corresponding flares in UV and gamma-ray bands. The variability in UV and gamma rays was relatively modest with ~8% and ~16%, respectively, and no significant correlation was found with the X-ray light curve. The observed X-ray spectrum shows a clear curvature that can be fit by a log parabolic spectral form. This is best explained as originating from a log parabolic electron spectrum. However, a broken power law or a power law with an exponentially falling electron distribution cannot be ruled out either. Moreover, the excellent broadband spectrum from 0.3–79 keV allows us to make predictions of the UV flux. We find that this prediction is compatible with the observed flux during the low state in X-rays. However, during the X-ray flares, depending on the adopted model, the predicted flux is a factor of 2–50 lower than the observed one. This suggests that the X-ray flares are probably caused by a separate population that does not contribute significantly to the radiation at lower energies. Alternatively, the underlying particle spectrum can be much more complex than those explored in this work.
Key words: BL Lacertae objects: individual: Mkn 421 / galaxies: active / X-rays: galaxies / radiation mechanisms: non-thermal
© ESO, 2015