Publications by Year: 2015

Petropoulou M, Dimitrakoudis S, Padovani P, Resconi E, Giommi P, Mastichiadis A. On the neutrino emission from BL Lacs. In: Vol. 34. ; 2015. pp. 1125. Website
Sironi L, Petropoulou M, Giannios D. Relativistic jets shine through shocks or magnetic reconnection?. [Internet]. 2015;450:183 - 191. WebsiteAbstract
Observations of gamma-ray-bursts and jets from active galactic nuclei reveal that the jet flow is characterized by a high radiative efficiency and that the dissipative mechanism must be a powerful accelerator of non-thermal particles. Shocks and magnetic reconnection have long been considered as possible candidates for powering the jet emission. Recent progress via fully-kinetic particle-in-cell simulations allows us to revisit this issue on firm physical grounds. We show that shock models are unlikely to account for the jet emission. In fact, when shocks are efficient at dissipating energy, they typically do not accelerate particles far beyond the thermal energy, and vice versa. In contrast, we show that magnetic reconnection can deposit more than 50 per cent of the dissipated energy into non-thermal leptons as long as the energy density of the magnetic field in the bulk flow is larger than the rest-mass energy density. The emitting region, i.e. the reconnection downstream, is characterized by a rough energy equipartition between magnetic fields and radiating particles, which naturally accounts for a commonly observed property of blazar jets.
Gazeas K, Vasilopoulos G, Petropoulou M, Sapountzis K. Optical follow-up of V404 Cyg during the current enhanced activity. [Internet]. 2015;7650:1. WebsiteAbstract
V404 Cyg is a known black hole Low mass X-ray binary with a late G-type companion, having a ~6.5 d orbital period. On June 15 18:32 UT Swift Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) was triggered due to the high X-ray activity of the system (Barthelmy et al.
Hovatta T, Petropoulou M, Richards JL, Giannios D, Wiik K, Baloković M, Lähteenmäki A, Lott B, Max-Moerbeck W, Ramakrishnan V, et al. A combined radio and GeV γ-ray view of the 2012 and 2013 flares of Mrk 421. [Internet]. 2015;448:3121 - 3131. WebsiteAbstract
In 2012 Markarian 421 underwent the largest flare ever observed in this blazar at radio frequencies. In the present study, we start exploring this unique event and compare it to a less extreme event in 2013. We use 15 GHz radio data obtained with the Owens Valley Radio Observatory 40-m telescope, 95 GHz millimetre data from the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy, and GeV γ-ray data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The radio light curves during the flaring periods in 2012 and 2013 have very different appearances, in both shape and peak flux density. Assuming that the radio and γ-ray flares are physically connected, we attempt to model the most prominent sub-flares of the 2012 and 2013 activity periods by using the simplest possible theoretical framework. We first fit a one-zone synchrotron self-Compton (SSC) model to the less extreme 2013 flare and estimate parameters describing the emission region. We then model the major γ-ray and radio flares of 2012 using the same framework. The 2012 γ-ray flare shows two distinct spikes of similar amplitude, so we examine scenarios associating the radio flare with each spike in turn. In the first scenario, we cannot explain the sharp radio flare with a simple SSC model, but we can accommodate this by adding plausible time variations to the Doppler beaming factor. In the second scenario, a varying Doppler factor is not needed, but the SSC model parameters require fine-tuning. Both alternatives indicate that the sharp radio flare, if physically connected to the preceding γ-ray flares, can be reproduced only for a very specific choice of parameters.
Petropoulou M, Dimitrakoudis S, Padovani P, Mastichiadis A, Resconi E. Photohadronic origin of γ -ray BL Lac emission: implications for IceCube neutrinos. [Internet]. 2015;448:2412 - 2429. WebsiteAbstract
The recent IceCube discovery of 0.1-1 PeV neutrinos of astrophysical origin opens up a new era for high-energy astrophysics. Although there are various astrophysical candidate sources, a firm association of the detected neutrinos with one (or more) of them is still lacking. A recent analysis of plausible astrophysical counterparts within the error circles of IceCube events showed that likely counterparts for nine of the IceCube neutrinos include mostly BL Lacs, among which Mrk 421. Motivated by this result and a previous independent analysis on the neutrino emission from Mrk 421, we test the BL Lac-neutrino connection in the context of a specific theoretical model for BL Lac emission. We model the spectral energy distribution (SED) of the BL Lacs selected as counterparts of the IceCube neutrinos using a one-zone leptohadronic model and mostly nearly simultaneous data. The neutrino flux for each BL Lac is self-consistently calculated, using photon and proton distributions specifically derived for every individual source. We find that the SEDs of the sample, although different in shape and flux, are all well fitted by the model using reasonable parameter values. Moreover, the model-predicted neutrino flux and energy for these sources are of the same order of magnitude as those of the IceCube neutrinos. In two cases, namely Mrk 421 and 1H 1914-194, we find a suggestively good agreement between the model prediction and the detected neutrino flux. Our predictions for all the BL Lacs of the sample are in the range to be confirmed or disputed by IceCube in the next few years of data sampling.
Petropoulou M, Mastichiadis A. Bethe-Heitler emission in BL Lacs: filling the gap between X-rays and γ-rays. [Internet]. 2015;447:36 - 48. WebsiteAbstract
We present the spectral signatures of the Bethe-Heitler pair production (pe) process on the spectral energy distribution (SED) of blazars, in scenarios where the hard γ-ray emission is of photohadronic origin. If relativistic protons interact with the synchrotron blazar photons producing γ rays through photopion processes, we show that, besides the ∼2-20 PeV neutrino emission, the typical blazar SED should have an emission feature due to the synchrotron emission of pe secondaries that bridges the gap between the low- and high-energy humps of the SED, namely in the energy range 40 keV-40 MeV. We first present analytical expressions for the photopion and pe loss rates in terms of observable quantities of blazar emission. For the pe loss rate in particular, we derive a new approximate analytical expression for the case of a power-law photon distribution, which has an excellent accuracy with the numerically calculated exact one, especially at energies much above the threshold for pair production. We show that for typical blazar parameters, the photopair synchrotron emission emerges in the hard X-ray/soft γ-ray energy range with a characteristic spectral shape and non-negligible flux, which may even be comparable to the hard γ-ray flux produced through photopion processes. We argue that the expected `pe bumps' are a natural consequence of leptohadronic models, and as such, they may indicate that blazars with a three-hump SED are possible emitters of high-energy neutrinos.
Petropoulou M, Piran T, Mastichiadis A. Spectral signatures of compact sources in the inverse Compton catastrophe limit. [Internet]. 2015;452:3226 - 3245. WebsiteAbstract
The inverse Compton catastrophe is defined as a dramatic rise in the luminosity of inverse Compton scattered photons. It is described by a non-linear loop of radiative processes that sets in for high values of the electron compactness and is responsible for the efficient transfer of energy from electrons to photons, predominantly through inverse Compton scatterings. We search for the conditions that drive a magnetized non-thermal source to the inverse Compton catastrophe regime and study its multiwavelength (MW) photon spectrum. We develop a generic analytical framework and use numerical calculations as a backup to the analytical predictions. We find that the escaping radiation from a source in the Compton catastrophe regime bears some unique features. The MW photon spectrum is a broken power law with a break at ∼mec2 due to the onset of the Klein-Nishina suppression. The spectral index below the break energy depends on the electron and magnetic compactnesses logarithmically, while it is independent of the electron power-law index (s). The maximum radiating power emerges typically in the γ-ray regime, at energies ∼mec2 (∼γmax mec2) for s > 2 (s ≲ 2), where γmax is the maximum Lorentz factor of the injected electron distribution. We apply the principles of the inverse Compton catastrophe to blazars and γ-ray bursts using the analytical framework we developed, and show how these can be used to impose robust constraints on the source parameters.
Padovani P, Petropoulou M, Giommi P, Resconi E. A simplified view of blazars: the neutrino background. [Internet]. 2015;452:1877 - 1887. WebsiteAbstract
Blazars have been suggested as possible neutrino sources long before the recent IceCube discovery of high-energy neutrinos. We re-examine this possibility within a new framework built upon the blazar simplified view and a self-consistent modelling of neutrino emission from individual sources. The former is a recently proposed paradigm that explains the diverse statistical properties of blazars adopting minimal assumptions on blazars' physical and geometrical properties. This view, tested through detailed Monte Carlo simulations, reproduces the main features of radio, X-ray, and γ-ray blazar surveys and also the extragalactic γ-ray background at energies ≳ 10 GeV. Here, we add a hadronic component for neutrino production and estimate the neutrino emission from BL Lacertae objects as a class, `calibrated' by fitting the spectral energy distributions of a preselected sample of such objects and their (putative) neutrino spectra. Unlike all previous papers on this topic, the neutrino background is then derived by summing up at a given energy the fluxes of each BL Lac in the simulation, all characterized by their own redshift, synchrotron peak energy, γ-ray flux, etc. Our main result is that BL Lacs as a class can explain the neutrino background seen by IceCube above ∼0.5 PeV while they only contribute ∼10 per cent at lower energies, leaving room to some other population(s)/physical mechanism. However, one cannot also exclude the possibility that individual BL Lacs still make a contribution at the ≈20 per cent level to the IceCube low-energy events. Our scenario makes specific predictions, which are testable in the next few years.
Petropoulou M, Dimitrakoudis S. Constraints of flat spectrum radio quasars in the hadronic model: the case of 3C 273. [Internet]. 2015;452:1303 - 1315. WebsiteAbstract
We present a method of constraining the properties of the γ-ray emitting region in flat spectrum radio quasars in the one-zone proton synchrotron model, where the γ-rays are produced by synchrotron radiation of relativistic protons. We show that for low enough values of the Doppler factor δ, the emission from the electromagnetic (EM) cascade which is initiated by the internal absorption of high-energy photons from photohadronic interactions may exceed the observed ∼GeV flux. We use that effect to derive an absolute lower limit of δ; first, an analytical one, in the asymptotic limit where the external radiation from the broad-line region (BLR) is negligible, and then a numerical one in the more general case that includes BLR radiation. As its energy density in the emission region depends on δ and the region's distance from the galactic centre, we use the EM cascade to determine a minimum distance for each value of δ. We complement the EM cascade constraint with one derived from variability arguments and apply our method to the FSRQ 3C 273. We find that δ ≳ 18-20 for B ≲ 30 G and ∼day time-scale variability; the emission region is located outside the BLR, namely at r ≳ 10RBLR ∼ 3 pc; the model requires at pc-scale distances stronger magnetic fields than those inferred from core shift observations; while the jet power exceeds by at least one order of magnitude the accretion power. In short, our results disfavour the proton synchrotron model for the FSRQ 3C 273.