Publications by Year: 2020

Mastichiadis A, Florou I, Kefala E, Boula SS, Petropoulou M. A roadmap to hadronic supercriticalities: a comprehensive study of the parameter space for high-energy astrophysical sources. [Internet]. 2020;495:2458 - 2474. WebsiteAbstract
Hadronic supercriticalities are radiative instabilities that appear when large amounts of energy are stored in relativistic protons. When the proton energy density exceeds some critical value, a runaway process is initiated resulting in the explosive transfer of the proton energy into electron-positron pairs and radiation. The runaway also leads to an increase of the radiative efficiency, namely the ratio of the photon luminosity to the injected proton luminosity. We perform a comprehensive study of the parameter space by investigating the onset of hadronic supercriticalities for a wide range of source parameters (I.e. magnetic field strengths of 1 G-100 kG and radii of 1011-1016 cm) and maximum proton Lorentz factors (103-109). We show that supercriticalities are possible for the whole range of source parameters related to compact astrophysical sources, like gamma-ray bursts and cores and jets of active galactic nuclei. We also provide an in-depth look at the physical mechanisms of hadronic supercriticalities and show that magnetized relativistic plasmas are excellent examples of non-linear dynamical systems in high-energy astrophysics.
Liodakis I, Petropoulou M. VizieR Online Data Catalog: Proton synchrotron gamma-rays in blazars (Liodakis+, 2020). [Internet]. 2020:J/ApJ/893/L20. WebsiteAbstract
Parameter estimates for the sources in our sample. (1 data file).
Liodakis I, Petropoulou M. Proton Synchrotron Gamma-Rays and the Energy Crisis in Blazars. [Internet]. 2020;893:L20. WebsiteAbstract
The origin of high-energy emission in blazars jets (I.e., leptonic versus hadronic) has been a longstanding matter of debate. Here, we focus on one variant of hadronic models where proton synchrotron radiation accounts for the observed steady γ-ray blazar emission. Using analytical methods, we derive the minimum jet power ( ${P}_{j,\min }$ ) for the largest blazar sample analyzed to date (145 sources), taking into account uncertainties of observables and jet's physical parameters. We compare ${P}_{j,\min }$ against three characteristic energy estimators for accreting systems, I.e., the Eddington luminosity, the accretion disk luminosity, and the power of the Blandford-Znajek process, and find that ${P}_{j,\min }$ is about 2 orders of magnitude higher than all energetic estimators for the majority of our sample. The derived magnetic field strengths in the emission region require either large amplification of the jet's magnetic field (factor of 30) or place the γ-ray production site at sub-pc scales. The expected neutrino emission peaks at ∼0.1-10 EeV, with typical peak neutrino fluxes ∼10-4 times lower than the peak γ-ray fluxes. We conclude that if relativistic hadrons are present in blazar jets, they can only produce a radiatively subdominant component of the overall spectral energy distribution of the blazar's steady emission.
Ji H, Alt A, Antiochos S, Baalrud S, Bale S, Bellan PM, Begelman M, Beresnyak A, Blackman EG, Brennan D, et al. Major Scientific Challenges and Opportunities in Understanding Magnetic Reconnection and Related Explosive Phenomena throughout the Universe. [Internet]. 2020:arXiv:2004.00079. WebsiteAbstract
This white paper summarizes major scientific challenges and opportunities in understanding magnetic reconnection and related explosive phenomena as a fundamental plasma process.
Petropoulou M, Murase K, Santander M, Buson S, Tohuvavohu A, Kawamuro T, Vasilopoulos G, Negoro H, Ueda Y, Siegel MH, et al. Multi-epoch Modeling of TXS 0506+056 and Implications for Long-term High-energy Neutrino Emission. [Internet]. 2020;891:115. WebsiteAbstract
The IceCube report of a ∼ 3.5σ excess of 13 ± 5 neutrino events in the direction of the blazar TXS 0506+056 in 2014-2015 and the 2017 detection of a high-energy neutrino event, IceCube-170922A, during a gamma-ray flare from the same blazar, have revived the interest in scenarios for neutrino production in blazars. We perform comprehensive analyses on the long-term electromagnetic emission of TXS 0506+056 using optical, X-ray, and gamma-ray data from the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image, and the Fermi Large Area Telescope. We also perform numerical modeling of the spectral energy distributions (SEDs) in four epochs prior to 2017 with contemporaneous gamma-ray and lower-energy (optical and/or X-ray) data. We find that the multi-epoch SEDs are consistent with a hybrid leptonic scenario, where the gamma-rays are produced in the blazar zone via external inverse Compton scattering of accelerated electrons, and high-energy neutrinos are produced via the photomeson production process of co-accelerated protons. The multi-epoch SEDs can be satisfactorily explained with the same jet parameters and variable external photon density and electron luminosity. Using the maximal neutrino flux derived for each epoch, we put an upper limit of ∼0.4-2 on the muon neutrino number in 10 years of IceCube observations. Our results are consistent with the IceCube-170922A detection, which can be explained as an upper fluctuation from the average neutrino rate expected from the source, but in strong tension with the 2014-2015 neutrino flare.
Christie IM, Petropoulou M, Sironi L, Giannios D. Interplasmoid Compton scattering and the Compton dominance of BL Lacs. [Internet]. 2020;492:549 - 555. WebsiteAbstract
Blazar emission models based on magnetic reconnection succeed in reproducing many observed spectral and temporal features, including the short-duration luminous flaring events. Plasmoids, a self-consistent by-product of the tearing instability in the reconnection layer, can be the main source of blazar emission. Kinetic simulations of relativistic reconnection have demonstrated that plasmoids are characterized by rough energy equipartition between their radiating particles and magnetic fields. This is the main reason behind the apparent shortcoming of plasmoid-dominated emission models to explain the observed Compton ratios of BL Lac objects. Here, we demonstrate that the radiative interactions among plasmoids, which have been neglected so far, can assist in alleviating this contradiction. We show that photons emitted by large, slow-moving plasmoids can be a potentially important source of soft photons to be then upscattered, via inverse Compton, by small fast-moving, neighbouring plasmoids. This interplasmoid Compton scattering process can naturally occur throughout the reconnection layer, imprinting itself as an increase in the observed Compton ratios from those short and luminous plasmoid-powered flares within BL Lac sources, while maintaining energy equipartition between radiating particles and magnetic fields.
Zhang TB, Petropoulou M, Murase K, Oikonomou F. A Neutral Beam Model for High-energy Neutrino Emission from the Blazar TXS 0506+056. [Internet]. 2020;889:118. WebsiteAbstract
The IceCube collaboration reported an ∼3.5σ excess of 13 ± 5 neutrino events in the direction of the blazar TXS 0506+056 during an ∼6 month period in 2014-2015, as well as the (∼3σ) detection of a high-energy muon neutrino during an electromagnetic flare in 2017. We explore the possibility that the 2014-2015 neutrino excess and the 2017 multimessenger flare are both explained in a common physical framework that relies on the emergence of a relativistic neutral beam in the blazar jet due to interactions of accelerated cosmic rays (CRs) with photons. We demonstrate that the neutral beam model provides an explanation for the 2014-2015 neutrino excess without violating X-ray and γ-ray constraints and yields results consistent with the detection of one high-energy neutrino during the 2017 flare. If both neutrino associations with TXS 05065+056 are real, our model requires that (I) the composition of accelerated CRs is light, with a ratio of helium nuclei to protons ≳5; (II) a luminous external photon field (∼1046 erg s-1) variable (on yearlong timescales) is present; and (III) the CR injection luminosity, as well as the properties of the dissipation region (I.e., Lorentz factor, magnetic field, and size), vary on yearlong timescales.
Yoshida K, Bailyn C, Cruz B, Urry C, Coppi P, Vasilopoulos G, Petropoulou M, Meyer M. Cross-Correlation Analysis between Gamma-ray and Optical/Infrared Variability for Bright Blazars Monitored in 2008-2017. In: Vol. 235. ; 2020. pp. 405.08. WebsiteAbstract
We present the results of cross-correlation analysis between the Fermi-LAT gamma-ray and SMARTS optical/infrared light curves of bright 8 blazars monitored in 2008-2017. For the temporal correlation analysis of unevenly sampled variability data, we use the Discrete Correlation Function (DCF), and created an empirical bootstrapping method to assess the significance of the DCF amplitude for each blazar. The DCFs between gamma-ray and optical/infrared light curves with one week binning time scale suggest that 6 of the 8 blazars show a significant peak at zero lag at or above 3 sigma level. That is consistent with the leptonic model in which optical/infrared photons are produced by synchrotron radiation of relativistic electrons and gamma rays are produced by inverse Compton scattering of ambient photons by the synchrotron-emitting electrons. However, the DCFs with one day binning time scale suggest that among 8 blazars, only one blazar — 3C 454.3 — still has a significant peak at zero lag. The other 7 blazars tend to show much smaller peaks than those with a weekly time bin. In addition, for a given blazar, strong changes of the DCFs from one epoch to the next are shown by the analyses of time periods of one or two years. These results complicate the simplest understanding of blazar emission mechanisms. We discuss possible physical explanations.
Ajello M, Inoue Y, Hartmann D, Bloser P, Finke J, Vestrand W, Prescod-Weinstein C, Oberlack U, Petropoulou M, The L, et al. The MeV Background with AMEGO. In: Vol. 235. ; 2020. pp. 372.16. WebsiteAbstract
The emission of our Universe is well characterized at most wavelengths, but a gap remains at MeV energies. This is an energy range where nuclear decays from type Ia supernovae (SNIa), emission from radio-loud and radio-quiet active galactic nuclei (AGN) and potentially dark matter interaction can each contribute to the MeV background. An all-sky MeV mission like AMEGO will allow us to measure the intensity and the angular fluctuations of the MeV background. This will allow us to constrain models of SNIa formation, the evolution of radio-loud and radio-quiet AGN, the growth of the most massive black holes and to constrain the cross-section for dark matter interaction.
Meyer M, Petropoulou M, Christie I. The observability of plasmoid-powered $\gamma$-ray flares with the Fermi Large Area Telescope. [Internet]. 2020:arXiv:2012.09944. WebsiteAbstract
The exact mechanism for the production of fast $\gamma$-ray variability in blazars remains debated. Magnetic reconnection, in which plasmoids filled with relativistic particles and magnetic fields are formed, is a viable candidate to explain the broadband electromagnetic spectrum and variability of these objects. Using state-of-the-art magnetic reconnection simulations, we generate realistic $\gamma$-ray light curves that would be observed with the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT). A comparison with observed $\gamma$-ray flares from flat spectrum radio quasars (FSRQs) reveals that magnetic reconnection events lead to comparable flux levels and variability patterns, in particular when the reconnection layer is slightly misaligned with the line of sight. Emission from fast plasmoids moving close to the line of sight could explain fast variability on the time scales of minutes for which evidence has been found in observations of FSRQs. Our results motivate improvements in existing radiative transfer simulations as well as dedicated searches for fast variability as evidence for magnetic reconnection events.
Murase K, Kimura SS, Zhang TB, Oikonomou F, Petropoulou M. High-energy Neutrino and Gamma-Ray Emission from Tidal Disruption Events. [Internet]. 2020;902:108. WebsiteAbstract
Tidal disruption events (TDE) have been considered as cosmic-ray and neutrino sources for a decade. We suggest two classes of new scenarios for high-energy multi-messenger emission from TDEs that do not have to harbor powerful jets. First, we investigate high-energy neutrino and gamma-ray production in the core region of a supermassive black hole. In particular, we show that ∼1-100 TeV neutrinos and MeV gamma rays can efficiently be produced in hot coronae around an accretion disk. We also study the consequences of particle acceleration in radiatively inefficient accretion flows (RIAFs). Second, we consider possible cosmic-ray acceleration by sub-relativistic disk-driven winds or interactions between tidal streams, and show that subsequent hadronuclear and photohadronic interactions inside the TDE debris lead to GeV-PeV neutrinos and sub-GeV cascade gamma rays. We demonstrate that these models should be accompanied by soft gamma rays or hard X-rays as well as optical/UV emission, which can be used for future observational tests. Although this work aims to present models of non-jetted high-energy emission, we discuss the implications of the TDE AT2019dsg that might coincide with the high-energy neutrino IceCube-191001A, by considering the corona, RIAF, hidden sub-relativistic wind, and hidden jet models. It is not yet possible to be conclusive about their physical association and the expected number of neutrinos is typically much less than unity. We find that the most optimistic cases of the corona and hidden wind models could be consistent with the observation of IceCube-191001A, whereas jet models are unlikely to explain the multi-messenger observations.
Mastichiadis A, Petropoulou M. Hadronic X-ray Flares from Blazars. [Internet]. 2020:arXiv:2009.12158. WebsiteAbstract
The detection of a high-energy neutrino from the flaring blazar TXS 0506+056 and the subsequent discovery of a neutrino excess from the same direction have strengthened the hypothesis that blazars are cosmic neutrino sources. The lack, however, of $\gamma$-ray flaring activity during the latter period challenges the standard scenario of correlated $\gamma$-ray and high-energy neutrino emission in blazars. We propose instead that TeV-PeV neutrinos are produced in coincidence with X-ray flares that are powered by proton synchrotron radiation. In this case, neutrinos are produced by photomeson interactions of protons with their own synchrotron radiation, while MeV to GeV $\gamma$-rays are the result of synchrotron-dominated electromagnetic cascades developed in the source. Using a time-dependent approach, we find that this "pure hadronic flaring" hypothesis has several interesting consequences. The X-ray flux is a good proxy for the all-flavor neutrino flux, while certain neutrino-rich X-ray flares may be dark in GeV-TeV $\gamma$-rays. Lastly, hadronic X-ray flares are accompanied by an equally bright MeV component that is detectable by proposed missions like e-ASTROGAM and AMEGO. We then applied this scenario to the extreme blazar 3HSP J095507.9+355101 that has been associated with IceCube-200107A while undergoing an X-ray flare. We showed that the number of muon and antimuon neutrinos above 100 TeV during hadronic flares can be up to $\sim3-10$ times higher than the expected number in standard leptohadronic models. Still, frequent hadronic flaring activity is necessary for explaining the detected neutrino event IceCube-200107A.
Ji H, Karpen J, Alt A, Antiochos S, Baalrud S, Bale S, Bellan PM, Begelman M, Beresnyak A, Bhattacharjee A, et al. Major Scientific Challenges and Opportunities in Understanding Magnetic Reconnection and Related Explosive Phenomena in Solar and Heliospheric Plasmas. [Internet]. 2020:arXiv:2009.08779. WebsiteAbstract
Magnetic reconnection underlies many explosive phenomena in the heliosphere and in laboratory plasmas. The new research capabilities in theory/simulations, observations, and laboratory experiments provide the opportunity to solve the grand scientific challenges summarized in this whitepaper. Success will require enhanced and sustained investments from relevant funding agencies, increased interagency/international partnerships, and close collaborations of the solar, heliospheric, and laboratory plasma communities. These investments will deliver transformative progress in understanding magnetic reconnection and related explosive phenomena including space weather events.
Petropoulou M, Oikonomou F, Mastichiadis A, Murase K, Padovani P, Vasilopoulos G, Giommi P. Comprehensive Multimessenger Modeling of the Extreme Blazar 3HSP J095507.9+355101 and Predictions for IceCube. [Internet]. 2020;899:113. WebsiteAbstract
3HSP J095507.9+355101 is an extreme blazar that has been possibly associated with a high-energy neutrino (IceCube-200107A) detected 1 day before the blazar was found to undergo a hard X-ray flare. We perform a comprehensive study of the predicted multimessenger emission from 3HSP J095507.9+355101 during its recent X-ray flare, but also in the long term. We focus on one-zone leptohadronic models, but we also explore alternative scenarios: (i) a blazar-core model, which considers neutrino production in the inner jet, close to the supermassive black hole; (ii) a hidden external-photon model, which considers neutrino production in the jet through interactions with photons from a weak broad line region; (iii) a proton-synchrotron model, where high-energy protons in the jet produce γ-rays via synchrotron; and (iv) an intergalactic cascade scenario, where neutrinos are produced in the intergalactic medium by interactions of a high-energy cosmic-ray beam escaping the jet. The Poisson probability to detect a single muon neutrino in 10 years from 3HSP J095507.9+355101 with the real-time IceCube alert analysis is ∼1% (3%) for the most optimistic one-zone leptohadronic model (the multi-zone blazar-core model). Meanwhile, detection of a single neutrino during the 44-day-long high X-ray flux-state period following the neutrino detection is 0.06%, according to our most optimistic leptohadronic model. The most promising scenarios for neutrino production also predict strong intrasource γ-ray attenuation above ∼100 GeV. If the association is real, then IceCube-Gen2 and other future detectors should be able to provide additional evidence for neutrino production in 3HSP J095507.9+355101 and other extreme blazars.
Petropoulou M, Beniamini P, Vasilopoulos G, Giannios D, Barniol Duran R. Deciphering the properties of the central engine in GRB collapsars. [Internet]. 2020;496:2910 - 2921. WebsiteAbstract
The central engine in long gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) is thought to be a compact object produced by the core collapse of massive stars, but its exact nature (black hole or millisecond magnetar) is still debatable. Although the central engine of GRB collapsars is hidden to direct observation, its properties may be imprinted on the accompanying electromagnetic signals. We aim to decipher the generic properties of central engines that are consistent with prompt observations of long GRBs detected by the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) on board the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. Adopting a generic model for the central engine, in which the engine power and activity time-scale are independent of each other, we perform Monte Carlo simulations of long GRBs produced by jets that successfully breakout from the star. Our simulations consider the dependence of the jet breakout time-scale on the engine luminosity and the effects of the detector's flux threshold. The two-dimensional (2D) distribution of simulated detectable bursts in the gamma-ray luminosity versus gamma-ray duration plane is consistent with the observed one for a range of parameter values describing the central engine. The intrinsic 2D distribution of simulated collapsar GRBs peaks at lower gamma-ray luminosities and longer durations than the observed one, a prediction that can be tested in the future with more sensitive detectors. Black hole accretors, whose power and activity time are set by the large-scale magnetic flux through the progenitor star and stellar structure, respectively, are compatible with the properties of the central engine inferred by our model.
Zhang H, Christie IM, Petropoulou M, Rueda-Becerril JM, Giannios D. Inverse Compton signatures of gamma-ray burst afterglows. [Internet]. 2020;496:974 - 986. WebsiteAbstract
The afterglow emission from gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) is believed to originate from a relativistic blast wave driven into the circumburst medium. Although the afterglow emission from radio up to X-ray frequencies is thought to originate from synchrotron radiation emitted by relativistic, non-thermal electrons accelerated by the blast wave, the origin of the emission at high energies (HE; ≳GeV) remains uncertain. The recent detection of sub-TeV emission from GRB 190114C by the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes (MAGIC) raises further debate on what powers the very high energy (VHE; ≳300 GeV) emission. Here, we explore the inverse Compton scenario as a candidate for the HE and VHE emissions, considering two sources of seed photons for scattering: synchrotron photons from the blast wave (synchrotron self-Compton or SSC) and isotropic photon fields external to the blast wave (external Compton). For each case, we compute the multiwavelength afterglow spectra and light curves. We find that SSC will dominate particle cooling and the GeV emission, unless a dense ambient infrared photon field, typical of star-forming regions, is present. Additionally, considering the extragalactic background light attenuation, we discuss the detectability of VHE afterglows by existing and future gamma-ray instruments for a wide range of model parameters. Studying GRB 190114C, we find that its afterglow emission in the Fermi-Large Area Telescope (LAT) band is synchrotron dominated. The late-time Fermi-LAT measurement (I.e. t ∼ 104 s), and the MAGIC observation also set an upper limit on the energy density of a putative external infrared photon field (I.e. ${\lesssim} 3\times 10^{-9}\, {\rm erg\, cm^{-3}}$ ), making the inverse Compton dominant in the sub-TeV energies.
Hakobyan H, Petropoulou M, Spitkovsky A, Sironi L. Secondary Energization in Compressing Plasmoids during Magnetic Reconnection. [Internet]. 2020:arXiv:2006.12530. WebsiteAbstract
Plasmoids -- magnetized quasi-circular structures formed self-consistently in reconnecting current sheets -- were previously considered to be the graveyards of energetic particles. In this paper, we demonstrate the important role of plasmoids in shaping the particle energy spectrum in relativistic reconnection (i.e., with upstream magnetization $\sigma_{\rm up} \gg 1$). Using two dimensional particle-in-cell simulations in pair plasmas with $\sigma_{\rm up}=10$ and $100$, we study a secondary particle energization process that takes place inside compressing plasmoids. We demonstrate that plasmoids grow in time, while their interiors compress, amplifying the internal magnetic field. The magnetic field felt by particles injected in an isolated plasmoid increases linearly with time, which leads to particle energization as a result of magnetic moment conservation. For particles injected with a power-law distribution function, this energization process acts in such a way that the shape of the injected power law is conserved, while producing an additional non-thermal tail $f(E)\propto E^{-3}$ at higher energies followed by an exponential cutoff. The cutoff energy, which increases with time as $E_{\rm cut}\propto\sqrt{t}$, can greatly exceed $\sigma_{\rm up} m_e c^2$. We analytically predict the secondary acceleration timescale and the shape of the emerging particle energy spectrum, which can be of major importance in certain astrophysical systems, such as blazar jets.
Beniamini P, Duran RB, Petropoulou M, Giannios D. Ready, Set, Launch: Time Interval between a Binary Neutron Star Merger and Short Gamma-Ray Burst Jet Formation. [Internet]. 2020;895:L33. WebsiteAbstract
The joint detection of GW170817/GRB 170817 confirmed the long-standing theory that binary neutron star mergers produce short gamma-ray burst (sGRB) jets that can successfully break out of the surrounding ejecta. At the same time, the association with a kilonova provided unprecedented information regarding the physical properties (such as masses and velocities) of the different ejecta constituents. Combining this knowledge with the observed luminosities and durations of cosmological sGRBs detected by the Burst Alert Telescope onboard the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, we revisit the breakout conditions of sGRB jets. Assuming self-collimation of sGRB jets does not play a critical role, we find that the time interval between the binary merger and the launch of a typical sGRB jet is $\lesssim 0.1\,{\rm{s}}$ . We also show that for a fraction of at least $\sim 30 \% $ of sGRBs, the usually adopted assumption of static ejecta is inconsistent with observations, even if the polar ejecta mass is an order of magnitude smaller than that in GRB 170817. Our results disfavor magnetar central engines for powering cosmological sGRBs, limit the amount of energy deposited in the cocoon prior to breakout, and suggest that the observed delay of ∼1.7 s in GW170817/GRB 170817 between the gravitational wave and gamma-ray signals is likely dominated by the propagation time of the jet to the gamma-ray production site.
Vasilopoulos G, Ray P, Koliopanos F, Petropoulou M, Haberl F, Lander S. Understanding spin-evolution and super-orbital modulation of Ultraluminous X-ray pulsars. In: Vol. 236. ; 2020. pp. 133.01. WebsiteAbstract
Ultra luminous X-ray pulsars (ULXP) are fascinating objects, whose X-ray emission greatly exceeds the Eddington limit for a solar mass object. Given the coherent pulsations we now know that these systems host accreting magnetized Neutron Stars (NS), thus challenging our understanding of accretion theory. Moreover several of these systems show super-orbital variability where the observed flux change by factor more than 10. Key questions about the nature of these systems are; is there is beaming involved that enhances the derived isotropic Luminosity? What is the magnetic field of the NS in ULXPs and how this compares to the typical X-ray pulsars? and what is the nature of the super-orbital modulation? The study of individual ULXPS can help us answer these key questions. Here I will present observational constrains on the properties of NGC 300 ULX1. Through a year long X-ray monitoring we discovered that even when the X-ray flux of the system decreased by a factor of 20 the spin-up of the NS continues at a constant rate denoting constant mass accretion onto the NS. Moreover, I will discuss the changes in the observed flux in the context of a precessing disc and outflows. In addition, I will discuss the properties of newly confirmed ULXP M51 ULX7, I will show that outflows are not a necessary requirement to account for super orbital variability, and will discuss alternative mechanisms.