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Ionization and maximum energy of nuclei in shock acceleration theory

By Giovanni Morlino


We study the acceleration of heavy nuclei at SNR shocks when the process of ionization is taken into account. Heavy atoms ($Z_N >$ few) in the interstellar medium which start the diffusive shock acceleration (DSA) are never fully ionized at the moment of injection. The ionization occurs during the acceleration process, when atoms already move relativistically. For typical environment around SNRs the photo-ionization due to the background galactic radiation dominates over Coulomb collisions. The main consequence of ionization is the reduction of the maximum energy which ions can achieve with respect to the standard result of the DSA. In fact the photo-ionization has a timescale comparable to the beginning of the Sedov-Taylor phase, hence the maximum energy is no more proportional to the nuclear charge, as predicted by standard DSA, but rather to the effective ions' charge during the acceleration process, which is smaller than the total nuclear charge $Z_N$. This result can have a direct consequence in the prediction of the knee structure of the cosmic ray spectrum. Moreover the acceleration of ultra-heavy elements beyond the Iron's maximum energy is very hard to achieve making unlikely their possible contribution to the cosmic ray spectrum in the transition region between Galactic and extragalactic component.Comment: 7 pages, Contributed talk to the 25th Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics; Dec. 6-10, 2010; Heidelberg (Germany). To be published in Proceedings of Scienc

Topics: Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
Year: 2011
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