Monte Carlo simulations of relativistic radiation-mediated shocks: II. Photon-starved regime

Hirotaka Ito*, Amir Levinson, Shigehiro Nagataki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Radiation-mediated shocks (RMS) play a key role in shaping the early emission observed in many transients. In most cases, e.g. shock breakout in supernovae, llGRBs, and neutron star mergers, the upstream plasma is devoid of radiation, and the photons that ultimately reach the observer are generated predominantly inside and downstream of the shock. Predicting the observed spectrum requires detailed calculations of the shock structure and thermodynamic state that account properly for the shock microphysics. We present results of self-consistent Monte Carlo simulations of photon-starved RMS, which yield the shock structure and emission for a broad range of shock velocities, from subrelativistic (βsh = 0.1) to highly relativistic (Γsh = 20). Our simulations confirm that in relativistic RMS the immediate downstream temperature is regulated by exponential pair creation, ranging from 50 keV at βsh = 0.5-200 keV at Γsh = 20. At lower velocities, the temperature becomes sensitive to the shock velocity, with kT ∼ 0.5 keV at βsh = 0.1. We also confirm that in relativistic shocks the opacity is completely dominated by newly created pairs, which has important implications for the breakout physics. We find the transition to pair dominance to occur at βsh = 0.5 roughly. In all cases examined, the spectrum below the νFν peak has been found to be substantially softer than the Planck distribution. This has important implications for the optical emission in fast and relativistic breakouts, and their detection. The applications to GRB 060218 and GRB 170817A are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1902-1913
Number of pages12
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020


FundersFunder number
Yukawa Institute Computer Facility
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science16KK0109, JP19H00693, JP19K03878, JP16K21630
Israel Science Foundation1114/17


    • Plasmas
    • Radiation mechanisms: non-thermal
    • Radiative transfer
    • Scattering
    • Shock waves


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