Synchrotron emission in small-scale magnetic fields as a possible explanation for prompt emission spectra of gamma-ray bursts

Asaf Pe'er, Bing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations

Abstract

Synchrotron emission is believed to be a major radiation mechanism during gamma-ray bursts' (GRBs) prompt emission phase. A significant drawback of this assumption is that the theoretical predicted spectrum, calculated within the framework of the "internal shocks" scenario using the standard assumption that the magnetic field maintains a steady value throughout the shocked region, leads to a slope Fν ∝ ν-1/2 below 100 keV, which is in contradiction to the much harder spectra observed. This is due to the electron cooling time being much shorter than the dynamical time. In order to overcome this problem, we propose here that the magnetic field created by the internal shocks decays on a length scale much shorter than the comoving width of the plasma. We show that under this assumption synchrotron radiation can reproduce the observed prompt emission spectra of the majority of the bursts. We calculate the required decay length of the magnetic field, and find it to be ∼104-105 cm (equivalent to 105-10 6 skin depths), much shorter than the characteristic comoving width of the plasma, ∼3 × 109 cm. We implement our model to the case of GRB 050820A, where a break at ≲4 keV was observed, and show that this break can be explained by synchrotron self-absorption. We discuss the consequences of the small-scale magnetic field scenario on current models of magnetic field generation in shock waves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-461
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume653
Issue number1 I
DOIs
StatePublished - 10 Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Gamma rays: bursts
  • Gamma rays: theory
  • Magnetic fields
  • Plasmas radiation mechanisms: nonthermal

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