Nonthermal radiation mechanisms

Vahé Petrosian, Andrei Bykov, Yoel Rephaeli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we review the possible radiation mechanisms for the observed non-thermal emission in clusters of galaxies, with a primary focus on the radio and hard X-ray emission. We show that the difficulty with the non-thermal, non-relativistic Bremsstrahlung model for the hard X-ray emission, first pointed out by Petrosian (Astrophys. J. 557, 560, 2001) using a cold target approximation, is somewhat alleviated when one treats the problem more exactly by including the fact that the background plasma particle energies are on average a factor of 10 below the energy of the non-thermal particles. This increases the lifetime of the non-thermal particles, and as a result decreases the extreme energy requirement, but at most by a factor of three. We then review the synchrotron and so-called inverse Compton emission by relativistic electrons, which when compared with observations can constrain the value of the magnetic field and energy of relativistic electrons. This model requires a low value of the magnetic field which is far from the equipartition value. We briefly review the possibilities of gamma-ray emission and prospects for GLAST observations. We also present a toy model of the non-thermal electron spectra that are produced by the acceleration mechanisms discussed in an accompanying paper Petrosian and Bykov (Space Sci. Rev., 2008, this issue, Chap. 11).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-206
Number of pages16
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Magnetic fields
  • Radiation mechanisms: non-thermal
  • X-rays: galaxies: clusters


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