Publications by Year: 2016

Petropoulou M, Kamble A, Sironi L. Radio synchrotron emission from secondary electrons in interaction-powered supernovae. [Internet]. 2016;460:44 - 66. WebsiteAbstract
Several supernovae (SNe) with an unusually dense circumstellar medium (CSM) have been recently observed at radio frequencies. Their radio emission is powered by relativistic electrons that can be either accelerated at the SN shock (primaries) or injected as a by-product (secondaries) of inelastic proton-proton collisions. We investigate the radio signatures from secondary electrons, by detailing a semi-analytical model to calculate the temporal evolution of the distributions of protons, primary and secondary electrons. With our formalism, we track the cooling history of all the particles that have been injected into the emission region up to a given time, and calculate the resulting radio spectra and light curves. For an SN shock propagating through the progenitor wind, we find that secondary electrons control the early radio signatures, but their contribution decays faster than that of primary electrons. This results in a flattening of the light curve at a given radio frequency that depends only upon the radial profiles of the CSM density and of the shock velocity, υ0. The relevant transition time at the peak frequency is {∼ } {190} d K_ep,-3^{-1} A_{w, 16}{/β _{0, -1.5}^2}, where Aw is the wind mass-loading parameter, β0 = υ0/c and Kep are the electron-to-proton ratio of accelerated particles. We explicitly show that late peak times at 5 GHz (I.e. tpk ≳ 300-1000 d) suggest a shock wave propagating in a dense wind (Aw ≳ 1016-1017 gr cm-1), where secondary electrons are likely to power the observed peak emission.
Christie IM, Petropoulou M, Mimica P, Giannios D. Modelling accretion disc and stellar wind interactions: the case of Sgr A*. [Internet]. 2016;459:2420 - 2431. WebsiteAbstract
Sgr A* is an ideal target to study low-luminosity accreting systems. It has been recently proposed that properties of the accretion flow around Sgr A* can be probed through its interactions with the stellar wind of nearby massive stars belonging to the S-cluster. When a star intercepts the accretion disc, the ram and thermal pressures of the disc terminate the stellar wind leading to the formation of a bow shock structure. Here, a semi-analytical model is constructed which describes the geometry of the termination shock formed in the wind. With the employment of numerical hydrodynamic simulations, this model is both verified and extended to a region prone to Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities. Because the characteristic wind and stellar velocities are in ∼108 cm s-1 range, the shocked wind may produce detectable X-rays via thermal bremsstrahlung emission. The application of this model to the pericentre passage of S2, the brightest member of the S-cluster, shows that the shocked wind produces roughly a month long X-ray flare with a peak luminosity of L ≈ 4 × 1033 erg s-1 for a stellar mass-loss rate, disc number density, and thermal pressure strength of dot{M}_w= 10^{-7} M_{☉} yr^{-1}, nd = 105 cm-3, and α = 0.1, respectively. This peak luminosity is comparable to the quiescent X-ray emission detected from Sgr A* and is within the detection capabilities of current X-ray observatories. Its detection could constrain the density and thickness of the disc at a distance of ∼3000 gravitational radii from the supermassive black hole.
Petropoulou M, Dermer CD. Properties of Blazar Jets Defined by an Economy of Power. [Internet]. 2016;825:L11. WebsiteAbstract
The absolute power of a relativistic black hole jet includes the power in the magnetic field, the leptons, the hadrons, and the radiated photons. A power analysis of a relativistic radio/γ-ray blazar jet leads to bifurcated leptonic synchrotron-Compton (LSC) and leptohadronic synchrotron (LHS) solutions that minimize the total jet power. Higher Doppler factors with increasing peak synchrotron frequency are implied in the LSC model. Strong magnetic fields {B}\prime ≳ 100 {{G}} are found for the LHS model with variability times ≲ {10}3 {{s}}, in accord with highly magnetized, reconnection-driven jet models. Proton synchrotron models of ≳ 100 {GeV} blazar radiation can have sub-Eddington absolute jet powers, but models of dominant GeV radiation in flat spectrum radio quasars require excessive power.
Petropoulou M, Coenders S, Dimitrakoudis S. Time-dependent neutrino emission from Mrk 421 during flares and predictions for IceCube. [Internet]. 2016;80:115 - 130. WebsiteAbstract
Blazars, a subclass of active galactic nuclei, are prime candidate sources for the high energy neutrinos recently detected by IceCube. Being one of the brightest sources in the extragalactic X-ray and γ-ray sky as well as one of the nearest blazars to Earth, Mrk 421 is an excellent source for testing the scenario of the blazar-neutrino connection, especially during flares where time-dependent neutrino searches may have a higher detection probability. Here, we model the spectral energy distribution of Mrk 421 during a 13-day flare in 2010 with unprecedented multi-wavelength coverage, and calculate the respective neutrino flux. We find a correlation between the >1 PeV neutrino and photon fluxes, in all energy bands. Using typical IceCube through-going muon event samples with good angular resolution and high statistics, wederive the mean event rate above 100 TeV (∼0.57 evt/yr) and show that it is comparable to that expected from a four-month quiescent period in 2009. Due to the short duration of the flare, an accumulation of similar flares over several years would be necessary to produce a meaningful signal for IceCube. To better assess this, we apply the correlation between the neutrino and γ-ray fluxes to the 6.9 yr Fermi-LAT light curve of Mrk 421. We find that the mean event count above 1 PeV for the full IceCube detector livetime is 3.59 ± 0.60 (2.73 ± 0.38) νμ +νbarμ with (without) major flares included in our analysis. This estimate exceeds, within the uncertainties, the 95% (90%) threshold value for the detection of one or more muon (anti-)neutrinos. Meanwhile, the most conservative scenario, where no correlation of γ-rays and neutrinos is assumed, predicts 1.60 ± 0.16νμ +νbarμ events. We conclude that a non-detection of high-energy neutrinos by IceCube would probe the neutrino/γ-ray flux correlation during major flares or/and the hadronic contribution to the blazar emission.
Kantzas D, Petropoulou M, Mastichiadis A. Early-time signatures of γ-ray emission from supernovae in dense circumstellar media. In: ; 2016. pp. 139. WebsiteAbstract
We present our results on the γ-ray emission from interaction-powered supernovae (SNe), a recently discovered SN type that is suggested to be surrounded by a circumstellar medium (CSM) with densities 10^7-10^12~ cm^-3. Such high densities favor inelastic collisions between relativistic protons accelerated in the SN blast wave and CSM protons and the production of γ-ray photons through neutral pion decays. Using a numerical code that includes synchrotron radiation, adiabatic losses due to the expansion of the source, photon-photon interactions, proton-proton collisions and proton-photon interactions, we calculate the multi-wavelength non-thermal photon emission soon after the shock breakout and follow its temporal evolution until 100-1000 days. Focusing on the γ-ray emission at >100 MeV, we show that this could be detectable by the Fermi-LAT telescope for nearby (<10 Mpc) SNe with dense CSM (>10^11 cm^(-3)).
Vasilopoulos G, Petropoulou M. The X-ray dust-scattered rings of the black hole low-mass binary V404 Cyg. [Internet]. 2016;455:4426 - 4441. WebsiteAbstract
We report on the first detection of X-ray dust-scattered rings from the Galactic low-mass X-ray binary V404 Cyg. The observation of the system with Swift/XRT on 2015 June 30 revealed the presence of five concentric ring-like structures centred at the position of V404 Cyg. Follow-up Swift/XRT observations allowed a time-dependent study of the X-ray rings. Assuming that these are the result of small-angle, single X-ray scattering by dust grains along the line of sight, we find that their angular size scales as θ ∝ √{t} in agreement with theoretical predictions. The dust grains are concentrated in five dust layers located at about 2.12, 2.05, 1.63, 1.50 and 1.18 kpc from the observer. These coincide roughly with locations of enhanced extinction as determined by infrared photometry. Assuming that the grain size distribution is described by a generalized Mathis-Rumpl-Nordsieck model, we find that the power-law index of the most distant cloud is q ∼ 4.4, while q ∼ 3.5-3.7 in all other clouds. We constrain at a 3σ level the maximum grain size of the intermediate dust layers in the range 0.16-0.20 μm and set a lower limit of ∼ 0.2 μm in the other clouds. Hints of an exponential cutoff at the angular intensity profile of the outermost X-ray ring suggest that the smallest grains have sizes 0.01 ≤ αmin ≲ 0.03 μm. Based on the relative ratios of dust column densities we find the highest dust concentration at ∼1.6 kpc. Our results indicate a gradient in the dust properties within 1 kpc from V404 Cyg.
Petropoulou M, Dimitrakoudis S, Padovani P, Resconi E, Giommi P, Mastichiadis A. The many faces of blazar emission in the context of hadronic models. [Internet]. 2016:arXiv:1601.06010. WebsiteAbstract
We present two ways of modeling the spectral energy distribution of blazars in the hadronic context and discuss the predictions of each "hadronic variant" on the spectral shape, the multi-wavelength variability, the cosmic-ray flux, and the high-energy neutrino emission. Focusing on the latter, we then present an application of the hadronic model to individual BL Lacs that were recently suggested to be the counterparts of some of the IceCube neutrinos, and conclude by discussing the contribution of the whole BL Lac class to the observed neutrino background.
Petropoulou M, Giannios D, Sironi L. Blazar flares powered by plasmoids in relativistic reconnection. [Internet]. 2016;462:3325 - 3343. WebsiteAbstract
Powerful flares from blazars with short (∼min) variability time-scales are challenging for current models of blazar emission. Here, we present a physically motivated ab initio model for blazar flares based on the results of recent particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations of relativistic magnetic reconnection. PIC simulations demonstrate that quasi-spherical plasmoids filled with high-energy particles and magnetic fields are a self-consistent by-product of the reconnection process. By coupling our PIC-based results (I.e. plasmoid growth, acceleration profile, particle and magnetic content) with a kinetic equation for the evolution of the electron distribution function we demonstrate that relativistic reconnection in blazar jets can produce powerful flares whose temporal and spectral properties are consistent with the observations. In particular, our model predicts correlated synchrotron and synchrotron self-Compton flares of duration of several hours-days powered by the largest and slowest moving plasmoids that form in the reconnection layer. Smaller and faster plasmoids produce flares of sub-hour duration with higher peak luminosities than those powered by the largest plasmoids. Yet, the observed fluence in both types of flares is similar. Multiple flares with a range of flux-doubling time-scales (minutes to several hours) observed over a longer period of flaring activity (days or longer) may be used as a probe of the reconnection layer's orientation and the jet's magnetization. Our model shows that blazar flares are naturally expected as a result of magnetic reconnection in a magnetically dominated jet.
Sironi L, Giannios D, Petropoulou M. Plasmoids in relativistic reconnection, from birth to adulthood: first they grow, then they go. [Internet]. 2016;462:48 - 74. WebsiteAbstract
Blobs, or quasi-spherical emission regions containing relativistic particles and magnetic fields, are often assumed ad hoc in emission models of relativistic astrophysical jets, yet their physical origin is still not well understood. Here, we employ a suite of large-scale 2D particle-in-cell simulations in electron-positron plasmas to demonstrate that relativistic magnetic reconnection can naturally account for the formation of quasi-spherical plasmoids filled with high-energy particles and magnetic fields. Our simulations extend to unprecedentedly long temporal and spatial scales, so we can capture the asymptotic physics independently of the initial setup. We characterize the properties of the plasmoids, continuously generated as a self-consistent by-product of the reconnection process: they are in rough energy equipartition between particles and magnetic fields; the upper energy cutoff of the plasmoid particle spectrum is proportional to the plasmoid width w, corresponding to a Larmor radius ∼0.2 w; the plasmoids grow in size at ∼0.1 of the speed of light, with most of the growth happening while they are still non-relativistic (`first they grow'); their growth is suppressed once they get accelerated to relativistic speeds by the field line tension, up to the Alfvén speed (`then they go'). The largest plasmoids reach a width wmax ∼ 0.2 L independently of the system length L, they have nearly isotropic particle distributions and contain the highest energy particles, whose Larmor radius is ∼0.03 L. The latter can be regarded as the Hillas criterion for relativistic reconnection. We briefly discuss the implications of our results for the high-energy emission from relativistic jets and pulsar winds.
Padovani P, Resconi E, Giommi P, Petropoulou M, et al. Blazars as Neutrinos Emitters. In: ; 2016. pp. 55. Website