Radiation astronomy/Electrons

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Auroras are mostly caused by energetic electrons precipitating into the atmosphere.[1] Credit: Samuel Blanc[1].{{free media}}

Although electron astronomy is usually not recognized as a formal branch of astronomy, the measurement of electron fluxes helps to understand a variety of natural phenomena.

""[E]lectron astronomy" has an interesting future".[2]

Astronomy[edit | edit source]

The composite shows upper atmospheric lightning and electrical discharge phenomena. Credit: Abestrobi.{{free media}}

With respect to the rocky-object Earth, between the surface and various altitudes there is an electric field induced by the ionosphere. It changes with altitude from about 150 volts per meter at the suface to lower values at higher altitude. In fair weather, it is relatively constant, in turbulent weather it is accompanied by ions. At greater altitude these chemical species continue to increase in concentration. To dissipate the accumulation of greater charge differential between the surface and the ionosphere, the gases between suffer breakdown (ionization) that permits lightning to be either a draw of negative charge, usually electrons, upward from the surface or a transfer of positive charge to the ground.

Radiation[edit | edit source]

This graphic shows the position of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, relative to the heliosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.{{free media}}
Chronology, from July to October 2012, of the rate of particles with energy greater than 0.5 MeV received by the Voyager 1 probe, marks its exit from the heliosphere. Credit: NASA.{{free media}}

Def. "the non-linear scattering of radiation off electrons" is called induced Compton scattering.[3]

"The effect of scattering is to move photons to lower frequencies."[3] "[T]he fact that the radio pulses [from a pulsar] are not suppressed by induced scattering suggests that the wind's Lorentz factor exceeds ~104.[3]

The Lorentz factor is defined as:[4]


  • v is the relative velocity between inertial reference frames,
  • β is the ratio of v to the speed of light c.
  • τ is the proper time for an observer (measuring time intervals in the observer's own frame),
  • c is the speed of light.

As an example, "[t]he power into the Crab Nebula is apparently supplied by an outflow [wind] of ~1038 erg/s from the pulsar"[3] where there are "electrons (and positrons) in such a wind"[3]. These beta particles coming out of the pulsar are moving very close to light speed.

Electrons[edit | edit source]

This rare picture show the 4 type of charged particles that we can detect in a cloud chamber : alpha, proton, electron and muons (probably). Credit: Cloudylabs.{{free media}}

The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative charge, equal to -1.60217646x10-19 C. Current, or the rate of flow of charge, is defined such that one coulomb, so 1/-1.60217646x10-19, or 6.24150974x1018 electrons flowing past a point per second give a current of one ampere. The charge on an electron is often given as -e. Note that charge is always considered positive, so the charge of an electron is always negative.

The electron has a mass of 9.10938188x10-31 kg, or about 1/1840 that of a proton. The mass of an electron is often written as me.

When working, these values can usually be safely approximated to:

-e = -1.60x10-19 C
me = 9.11x10-31kg

It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle.[5][6] The intrinsic angular momentum (spin) of the electron is a half-integer value in units of ħ, which means that it is a fermion.

As of December 5, 2011, "Voyager 1 is about ... 18 billion kilometers ... from the [S]un [but] the direction of the magnetic field lines has not changed, indicating Voyager is still within the heliosphere ... the outward speed of the solar wind had diminished to zero in April 2010 ... inward pressure from interstellar space is compacting [the magnetic field] ... Voyager has detected a 100-fold increase in the intensity of high-energy electrons from elsewhere in the galaxy diffusing into our solar system from outside ... [while] the [solar] wind even blows back at us."[7]

Delta rays[edit | edit source]

Delta electron is knocked out by a 180 GeV muon at the SPS at CERN. Credit: Wilcokoppert.{{free media}}

A delta ray is characterized by very fast electrons produced in quantity by alpha particles or other fast energetic charged particles knocking orbiting electrons out of atoms. Collectively, these electrons are defined as delta radiation when they have sufficient energy to ionize further atoms through subsequent interactions on their own.

"The conventional procedure of delta-ray counting to measure charge (Powell, Fowler, and Perkins 1959), which was limited to resolution sigmaz = 1-2 because of uncertainties of the criterion of delta-ray ranges, has been significantly improved by the application of delta-ray range distribution measurements for 16O and 32S data of 200 GeV per nucleon (Takahashi 1988; Parnell et al. 1989)."[8] Here, the delta-ray tracks in emulsion chambers have been used for "[d]irect measurements of cosmic-ray nuclei above 1 TeV/nucleon ... in a series of balloon-borne experiments".[8]

Epsilon rays[edit | edit source]

Epsilon radiation is tertiary radiation caused by secondary radiation (e.g., delta radiation). Epsilon rays are a form of particle radiation and are composed of electrons. The term is very rarely used today.

Antimatter[edit | edit source]

Map of the distribution of positrons towards the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, including the newly discovered antimatter "cloud". Credit: W. Purcell (NWU) et al., OSSE, Compton Observatory, NASA.{{free media}}

The brightest feature corresponds to the nucleus of the Galaxy. The horizontal structure lies along the plane of the Galaxy. The antimatter "cloud" is located above the Galactic center.

Def. an elementary subatomic particle which forms matter is called a quark.

Note: quarks are never found alone in nature.

Def. the smallest possible, and therefore indivisible, unit of a given quantity or quantifiable phenomenon is called the quantum.

Def. one of certain integers or half-integers that specify the state of a quantum mechanical system is called a quantum number.

Def. a quantum number that depends upon the relative number of strange quarks and anti-strange quarks is called strangeness.

Def. symmetry of interactions under spatial inversion is called parity.

Def. "the quantity of [unbalanced][9] positive or negative ions in or on an object;[10] measured in coulombs"[9] or "a quantum number of some subatomic particles which determines their electromagnetic interactions"[11] is called an electric charge.

Def. the mean duration of the life of someone or something is called the mean lifetime.

Def. a quantum angular momentum associated with subatomic particles, which also creates a magnetic moment is called a spin.

Def. the "quantity of matter which a body contains, irrespective of its bulk or volume"[12] or a "quantity of matter cohering together so as to make one body, or an aggregation of particles or things which collectively make one body or quantity"[13] is called mass, or a mass.

Def. a subatomic particle corresponding to another particle with the same mass, spin and mean lifetime but with charge, parity, strangeness and other quantum numbers flipped in sign is called an antiparticle.

Def. matter that is composed of antiparticles of those that constitute normal matter is called antimatter.

A positron differs from a quark by its lack of strong interaction.

Def. "[t]he antimatter equivalent of an electron,[14] having the same mass but a positive charge"[15] is called a positron.

Nuclear transmutations[edit | edit source]

This graph shows positron emissions, among others, from nuclear transmutation. Credit: Napy1kenobi.{{free media}}

If the proton and neutron are part of an atomic nucleus, these decay processes transmute one chemical element into another. For example:

where A = 22, Z = 11, N = Na, Z-1 = 10, and N' = Ne.

Beta decay does not change the number of nucleons, A, in the nucleus but changes only its charge, Z. Thus the set of all nuclides with the same A can be introduced; these isobaric nuclides may turn into each other via beta decay. Among them, several nuclides (at least one) are beta stable, because they present local minima of the mass excess: if such a nucleus has (A, Z) numbers, the neighbour nuclei (A, Z−1) and (A, Z+1) have higher mass excess and can beta decay into (A, Z), but not vice versa. For all odd mass numbers A the global minimum is also the unique local minimum. For even A, there are up to three different beta-stable isobars experimentally known. There are about 355 known beta-decay stable nuclides total.

Radioactivity[edit | edit source]

Radioactivity of a Thorite mineral is seen in a cloud chamber Credit: Cloudylabs.{{free media}}

In β+
decay, or "positron emission", the weak interaction converts a nucleus into its next-lower neighbor on the periodic table while emitting an positron (e+
) and an electron neutrino (ν

decay cannot occur in an isolated proton because it requires energy due to the mass of the neutron being greater than the mass of the proton. β+
decay can only happen inside nuclei when the value of the binding energy of the mother nucleus is less than that of the daughter nucleus. The difference between these energies goes into the reaction of converting a proton into a neutron, a positron and a neutrino and into the kinetic energy of these particles.

Positron emission' or beta plus decay+ decay) is a type of beta decay in which a proton is converted, via the weak force, to a neutron, releasing a positron and a neutrino.

Isotopes which undergo this decay and thereby emit positrons include carbon-11, potassium-40, nitrogen-13, oxygen-15, fluorine-18, and iodine-121. As an example, the following equation describes the beta plus decay of carbon-11 to boron-11, emitting a positron and a neutrino:

Annihilations[edit | edit source]

Naturally occurring electron-positron annihilation is a result of beta plus decay. Credit: Jens Maus.{{free media}}
A Germanium detector spectrum shows the annihilation radiation peak (under the arrow). Note the width of the peak compared to the other gamma rays visible in the spectrum. Credit: Hidesert.{{free media}}

The positron or antielectron is the antiparticle or the antimatter counterpart of the electron. The positron has an electric charge of +1e, a spin of ½, and has the same mass as an electron. When a low-energy positron collides with a low-energy electron, annihilation occurs, resulting in the production of two or more gamma ray photons.

Def. the process of a particle and its corresponding antiparticle combining to produce energy is called annihilation.

The figure at right shows a positron (e+) emitted from an atomic nucleus together with a neutrino (v). Subsequently, the positron moves randomly through the surrounding matter where it hits several different electrons (e-) until it finally loses enough energy that it interacts with a single electron. This process is called an "annihilation" and results in two diametrically emitted photons with a typical energy of 511 keV each. Under normal circumstances the photons are not emitted exactly diametrically (180 degrees). This is due to the remaining energy of the positron having conservation of momentum.

Electron–positron annihilation occurs when an electron (e
) and a positron (e+
, the electron's antiparticle) collide. The result of the collision is the annihilation of the electron and positron, and the creation of gamma ray photons or, at higher energies, other particles:

 + e+
 → γ + γ

The process [does] satisfy a number of conservation laws, including:

As with any two charged objects, electrons and positrons may also interact with each other without annihilating, in general by elastic scattering.

The creation of only one photon can occur for tightly bound atomic electrons.[16] In the most common case, two photons are created, each with energy equal to the rest energy of the electron or positron (511 keV).[17] It is also common for three to be created, since in some angular momentum states, this is necessary to conserve C parity.[18] Any larger number of photons [can be created], but the probability becomes lower with each additional photon. When either the electron or positron, or both, have appreciable kinetic energies, other heavier particles can also be produced (such as D mesons), since there is enough kinetic energy in the relative velocities to provide the rest energies of those particles. Photons and other light particles may be produced, but they will emerge with higher energies.

At energies near and beyond the mass of the carriers of the weak force, the W and Z bosons, the strength of the weak force becomes comparable with electromagnetism.[18] It becomes much easier to produce particles such as neutrinos that interact only weakly.

The heaviest particle pairs yet produced by electron–positron annihilation are W+
pairs. The heaviest single particle is the Z boson.

Annihilation radiation is not monoenergetic, unlike gamma rays produced by radioactive decay. The production mechanism of annihilation radiation introduces Doppler broadening.[19] The annihilation peak produced in a gamma spectrum by annihilation radiation therefore has a higher full width at half maximum (FWHM) than other gamma rays in [the] spectrum. The difference is more apparent with high resolution detectors, such as Germanium detectors, than with low resolution detectors such as Sodium iodide. Because of their well-defined energy (511 keV) and characteristic, Doppler-broadened shape, annihilation radiation can often be useful in defining the energy calibration of a gamma ray spectrum.

Pair production[edit | edit source]

Average ion-pair production rates in lower atmosphere are by radiation and cosmic radiation. Credit: BoH.{{free media}}

The reverse reaction, electron–positron creation, is a form of pair production governed by two-photon physics.

Two-photon physics, also called gamma-gamma physics, [studies] the interactions between two photons. If the energy in the center of mass system of the two photons is large enough, matter can be created.[20]

γ → e
 + e+

In nuclear physics, [the above reaction] occurs when a high-energy photon interacts with a nucleus. The photon must have enough energy [> 2*511 keV, or 1.022 MeV] to create an electron plus a positron. Without a nucleus to absorb momentum, a photon decaying into electron-positron pair (or other pairs for that matter such as a muon and anti-muon or a tau and anti-tau can never conserve energy and momentum simultaneously.[21]

These interactions were first observed in Patrick Blackett's counter-controlled cloud chamber. In 2008 the Titan laser aimed at a 1-millimeter-thick gold target was used to generate positron–electron pairs in large numbers.[22] "The LLNL scientists created the positrons by shooting the lab's high-powered Titan laser onto a one-millimeter-thick piece of gold."[22]

Planetary sciences[edit | edit source]

This is a schematic of Jupiter's magnetosphere and the components influenced by Io (near the center of the image). Credit: John Spencer.{{free media}}

The image at right represents "[t]he Jovian magnetosphere [magnetic field lines in blue], including the Io flux tube [in green], Jovian aurorae, the sodium cloud [in yellow], and sulfur torus [in red]."[23]

"Io may be considered to be a unipolar generator which develops an emf [electromotive force] of 7 x 105 volts across its radial diameter (as seen from a coordinate frame fixed to Jupiter)."[24]

"This voltage difference is transmitted along the magnetic flux tube which passes through Io. ... The current [in the flux tube] must be carried by keV electrons which are electrostatically accelerated at Io and at the top of Jupiter's ionosphere."[24]

"Io's high density (4.1 g cm-3) suggests a silicate composition. A reasonable guess for its electrical conductivity might be the conductivity of the Earth's upper mantle, 5 x 10-5 ohm-1 cm-1 (Bullard 1967)."[24]

As "a conducting body [transverses] a magnetic field [it] produces an induced electric field. ... The Jupiter-Io system ... operates as a unipolar inductor" ... Such unipolar inductors may be driven by electrical power, develop hotspots, and the "source of heating [may be] sufficient to account for the observed X-ray luminosity".[25]

"The electrical surroundings of Io provide another energy source which has been estimated to be comparable with that of the [gravitational] tides (7). A current of 5 x 106 A is ... shunted across flux tubes of the Jovian field by the presence of Io (7-9)."[26]

"[W]hen the currents [through Io] are large enough to cause ohmic heating ... currents ... contract down to narrow paths which can be kept hot, and along which the conductivity is high. Tidal heating [ensures] that the interior of Io has a very low eletrical resistance, causing a negligible extra amount of heat to be deposited by this current. ... [T]he outermost layers, kept cool by radiation into space [present] a large resistance and [result in] a concentration of the current into hotspots ... rock resistivity [and] contact resistance ... contribute to generate high temperatures on the surface. [These are the] conditions of electric arcs [that can produce] temperatures up to ionization levels ... several thousand kelvins".[26]

"[T]he outbursts ... seen [on the surface may also be] the result of the large current ... flowing in and out of the domain of Io ... Most current spots are likely to be volcanic calderas, either provided by tectonic events within Io or generated by the current heating itself. ... [A]s in any electric arc, very high temperatures are generated, and the locally evaporated materials ... are ... turned into gas hot enough to expand at a speed of 1 km/s."[26]

Colors[edit | edit source]

Color emitted by a black body on a linear scale from 800 kelvins to 12200 kelvins, given by Planck's Law, assuming a monitor properly calibrated to sRGB color space - D65 white point - 2.2 gamma. Credit: Bhutajata.{{free media}}

Notation: WN5 is a component of V444 Cygni, with its Wolf-Rayet (W) spectrum dominated by NitrogenIII-V and HeliumI-II lines and WN2 to WN5 considered hotter or "early".

"The color temperature of the central part of the WN5 disk for λ < 7512 Å, where the main source of opacity is electron scattering, is Tc = 80,000-100,000 K. This high temperature represents the electron temperature slightly below the surface of the WN5 core--the level at which the star becomes optically thick in electron scattering."[27]

Minerals[edit | edit source]

Fluorescing fluorite is from Boltsburn Mine Weardale, North Pennines, County Durham, England, UK. Credit: Didier Descouens.{{free media}}

"Many samples of fluorite exhibit fluorescence under ultraviolet light, a property that takes its name from fluorite.[28] Many minerals, as well as other substances, fluoresce. Fluorescence involves the elevation of electron energy levels by quanta of ultraviolet light, followed by the progressive falling back of the electrons into their previous energy state, releasing quanta of visible light in the process. In fluorite, the visible light emitted is most commonly blue, but red, purple, yellow, green and white also occur. The fluorescence of fluorite may be due to mineral impurities such as yttrium, ytterbium, or organic matter in the crystal lattice. In particular, the blue fluorescence seen in fluorites from certain parts of Great Britain responsible for the naming of the phenomenon of fluorescence itself, has been attributed to the presence of inclusions of divalent europium in the crystal.[29]

Theoretical electron astronomy[edit | edit source]

"We now assume that the γ-rays are produced [from 3C 279] by relativistic electrons via Compton scattering of synchrotron photons (SSC). In any such model, the fact that the γ-ray luminosity, produced via Compton scattering, is higher than that emitted at lower frequencies (1014 - 1016 Hz), supposedly via the synchrotron process, implies a radiation energy density, Ur, higher than the magnetic energy density, UB. From the observed power ratio we derive that Ur must be one order of magnitude greater than UB, which may be a lower limit if Klein-Nishina effects reduce the efficiency of the self-Compton emission. This result is independent of the degree of beaming, which, for a homogeneous source, affects both the synchrotron and the self-Compton fluxes in the same way. This source is therefore the first observed case of the result of a Compton catastrophe (Hoyle, Burbidge, & Sargent 1966)."[30]

Here's a theoretical definition:

Def. an observational astronomy that primarily detects electron fluxes to study their production and sources is called an electron astronomy.

Sources[edit | edit source]

In this diagram, the higher harmonics of the first frequency at the top are shown. Credit: Y Landman, derivative work by W axell.{{free media}}

The process of ionization removes one or more electrons from a neutral atom to yield a variety of ions depending on the chemical element species and incidence of sufficient energy to remove the electrons.

The preflare solar material is observed "to be an elevated cloud of prominence-like material which is suddenly lit up by the onslaught of hard electrons accelerated in the flare; the acceleration may be inside or outside the cloud, and brightening is seen in other areas of the solar surface on the same magnetic field lines."[31]

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is an ejected plasma consisting primarily of electrons and protons.

"The suprathermal electrons in the solar wind and in solar particle events have excellent properties for this application: they move rapidly, they remain tightly bound to their field lines, and they may arrive "scatter-free" even at low energies, and from deep in the solar atmosphere (Lin 1985)."[2]

As of December 5, 2011, "Voyager 1 is about ... 18 billion kilometers ... from the [S]un [but] the direction of the magnetic field lines has not changed, indicating Voyager is still within the heliosphere ... the outward speed of the solar wind had diminished to zero in April 2010 ... inward pressure from interstellar space is compacting [the magnetic field] ... Voyager has detected a 100-fold increase in the intensity of high-energy electrons from elsewhere in the galaxy diffusing into our solar system from outside ... [while] the [solar] wind even blows back at us."[7]

"[W]hen the medium [behaves] like an amplifier to the incident radiation" it is "possible for negative absorption to arise at radio wavelengths".[32]

The necessary and sufficient conditions for negative absorption to occur at radio wavelengths are

  1. "the kinetic energy distribution F(η) of the radiating electrons [is] markedly non-thermal with an appreciable excess of high energy electrons such that ∂F/∂η is positive over a finite range of the kinetic energy η" and
  2. "the stimulated transition probability [has] a maximum at some finite value of the kinetic energy, the most favorable case occurring when this maximum is a sharp one at the value of η at which ∂F/∂η has a positive maximum."[32]

"These conditions can both be met in principle for the cases in which the dominant radiation process is due [to]

  1. [the] Cerenkov effect,
  2. gyro radiation by non-relativistic electrons, [and]
  3. synchrotron-type radiation by highly relativistic electrons".[32]

Def. "radiation at the fundamental or at the first few harmonics of the gyro frequency by weakly relativistic electrons rotating in a magnetic field" is called gyro radiation.[32]

Def. "radiation by strongly relativistic electrons at high harmonics of the gyro frequency" is called synchrotron radiation.[32]

Strong forces[edit | edit source]

An example shows simulated data modeled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Credit: Lucas Taylor / CERN.{{free media}}

Here, following a collision of two protons, a Higgs boson is produced which decays into two jets of hadrons and two electrons. The lines represent the possible paths of particles produced by the proton-proton collision in the detector while the energy these particles deposit is shown in blue.

"The idea behind baryon matter is that a macroscopic state may exist in which a smaller effective baryon mass inside some region makes the state energetically favored over free particles. [...] This state will appear in the limit of large baryon number as an electrically neutral coherent bound state of neutrons, protons, and electrons in β-decay equilibrium."[33]

Continua[edit | edit source]

This is a typical supercontinuum spectrum. Credit: Burlyc.{{free media}}
Spectrum of light emitted by a deuterium lamp, shows a discrete part (tall sharp peaks) and a continuous part (smoothly varying between the peaks). Credit: Deglr6328.{{free media}}

The X-ray continuum can arise from bremsstrahlung, black-body radiation, synchrotron radiation, or what is called inverse Compton scattering of lower-energy photons by relativistic electrons, knock-on collisions of fast protons with atomic electrons, and atomic recombination, with or without additional electron transitions.[34]

Cosmic rays[edit | edit source]

The decay scheme of Aluminum-26 and metastable Aluminum-26m goes to Mg26 and its excited states. Credit: Pulu.{{free media}}

Aluminium-26, 26Al, is a radioactive isotope of the chemical element aluminium, decaying by either of the modes beta-plus or electron capture, both resulting in the stable nuclide magnesium-26. The half-life of 26Al is 7.17×105 years. This is far too short for the isotope to survive to the present, but a small amount of the nuclide is produced by collisions of argon atoms with cosmic ray protons.

Beta particles[edit | edit source]

This graph is a chart of the nuclides for carbon to fluorine. Decay modes:

  proton emission
  positron emission or electron capture
  stable isotope
  neutron emission
Credit: original: National Nuclear Data Center, stitched: Neokortex, cropped: Limulus.{{free media}}

Beta particles are high-energy, high-speed electrons or positrons emitted by certain types of radioactive nuclei such as potassium-40. The beta particles emitted are a form of ionizing radiation also known as beta rays. The production of beta particles is termed beta decay. They are designated by the Greek letter beta (β).

At right is a graph or block diagram that shows the boundaries for nuclear particle stability. The boundaries are conceptualized as drip lines. The nuclear landscape is understood by plotting boxes, each of which represents a unique nuclear species, on a graph with the number of neutrons increasing on the abscissa and number of protons increasing along the ordinate, which is commonly referred to as the table of nuclides, being to nuclear physics what the more commonly known periodic table of the elements is to chemistry. However, an arbitrary combination of protons and neutrons does not necessarily yield a stable nucleus, and ultimately when continuing to add more of the same type of nucleons to a given nucleus, the newly formed nucleus will essentially undergo immediate decay where a nucleon of the same isospin quantum number (proton or neutron) is emitted; colloquially the nucleon has 'leaked' or 'dripped' out of the target nucleus, hence giving rise to the term "drip line". The nucleons drip out of such unstable nuclei for the same reason that water drips from a leaking faucet: the droplet, or nucleon in this case, sees a lower potential which is great enough to overcome surface tension in the case of water droplets, and the strong nuclear force in the case of proton emission or alpha decay. As nucleons are quantized, then only integer values are plotted on the table of isotopes, indicating that the drip line is not linear but instead looks like a step function up close.

Beta particles (electrons) are more penetrating [than alpha particles], but still can be absorbed by a few millimeters of aluminum. However, in cases where high energy beta particles are emitted shielding must be accomplished with low density materials, e.g. plastic, wood, water or acrylic glass (Plexiglas, Lucite). This is to reduce generation of Bremsstrahlung X-rays. In the case of beta+ radiation (positrons), the gamma radiation from the electron-positron annihilation reaction poses additional concern.

Muons[edit | edit source]

Distribution of the particle identification (PID) parameter used to classify Cherenkov rings as electron-like and muon-like. Credit: T2K Collaboration.{{free media}}

"TeV muons from γ ray primaries ... are rare because they are only produced by higher energy γ rays whose flux is suppressed by the decreasing flux at the source and by absorption on interstellar light."[35]

Muon decay produces three particles, an electron plus two neutrinos of different types.

Gamma rays[edit | edit source]

Gamma rays are emitted during radioactive decay processes such as those occurring in nuclear explosions. Credit: National Nuclear Security Administration, USA.{{free media}}
The image shows the gamma-ray detection of a young radio galaxy, PKS 1718-649, belonging to the class of Compact Symmetric Objects (CSOs), with the Large Area Telescope (LAT) on board the Fermi satellite. Credit: G. Migliori, A. Siemiginowska, M. Sobolewska, et. al.{{fairuse}}

Most astronomical gamma-rays may be produced from the same type of accelerations of electrons, and electron-photon interactions, that produce X-rays in astronomy (but occurring at a higher energy in the production of gamma-rays).

A number of different processes occurring in the universe may result in gamma-ray emission. These processes include the interactions of energetic electrons with magnetic fields.

The correlations of the high energy electrons energized during a solar flare and the gamma rays produced are mostly caused by nuclear combinations of high energy protons and other heavier ions.

X-rays[edit | edit source]

This is a composite image (X-ray - red, optical - blue & white) of the spiral galaxy M74 with an ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX) indicated inside the box. Image is 9 arcmin per side at RA 01h 36m 41.70s Dec +15° 46' 59.0" in Pisces. Observation dates: June 19, 2001; October 19, 2001. Aka: NGC 628, ULX: CXOU J013651.1+154547. Credit: X-ray; J. Liu (U.Mich.) et al., CXC, NASA - Optical; Todd Boroson/NOAO/AURA/NSF.{{fairuse}}
This visible-light image of the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) comes from the Digital Sky Survey and is overlaid with data from NASA's NuSTAR observatory (shown in blue and green). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.{{free media}}

X-rays remove electrons from atoms and ions, and those photoelectrons can provoke secondary ionizations. As the intensity is often low, this X-ray heating is only efficient in warm, less dense atomic medium (as the column density is small). For example in molecular clouds only hard x-rays can penetrate and x-ray heating can be ignored. This is assuming the region is not near an x-ray source such as a supernova remnant.

In an X-ray tube, electrons are accelerated in a vacuum by an electric field and shot into a piece of metal called the "target". X-rays are emitted as the electrons slow down (decelerate) in the metal. The output spectrum consists of a continuous spectrum of X-rays, with additional sharp peaks at certain energies characteristic of the elements of the target.

Ultraviolets[edit | edit source]

This is the first laser spectrum from the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity rover, sent back from Mars on August 19, 2012. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP.{{free media}}

This is the first laser spectrum from the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity rover, sent back from Mars on August 19, 2012. The plot shows emission lines from different elements present in the target, a rock near the rover's landing site dubbed "Coronation" (see inset).

ChemCam's detectors observe light in the ultraviolet (UV), violet, visible and near-infrared ranges using three spectrometers, covering wavelengths from 240 to 850 nanometers. The light is produced when ChemCam's laser pulse strikes a target, generating ionized gases in the form of plasma, which is then analyzed by the spectrometers and their detectors for the presence of specific elements. The detectors can collect up to 16,000 counts produced by the light in any of its 6,144 channels for each laser shot.

The plot is a composite of spectra taken over 30 laser shots at a single 0.016-inch (0.4-millimeter) diameter spot on the target. An inset on the left shows detail for the minor elements titanium and manganese in the 398-to-404-nanometer range. An inset at the right shows the hydrogen and carbon peaks. The carbon peak was from the carbon dioxide in Mars' air. The hydrogen peak was only present on the first laser shot, indicating that the element was only on the very surface of the rock. Magnesium was also slightly enriched on the surface. The heights of the peaks do not directly indicate the relative abundances of the elements in the rock, as some emission lines are more easily excited than others.

A preliminarily analysis indicates the spectrum is consistent with basalt, a type of volcanic rock, which is known from previous missions to be abundant on Mars. Coronation is about three inches (7.6 centimeters) across, and located about 5 feet (1.5 meters) from the rover and about nine feet (2.7 meters) from ChemCam on the mast.

Carbon has several emission lines that occur in an electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) heated plasmas: 229.687 nm from C III, 227.089, 227.727, and 227.792 nm from C V, 207.025, 208.216, 313.864, and 343.366 nm from C VI.[36]

Argon has several emission lines that occur in an electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) heated plasmas: 333.613, 334.472, 335.211, 335.849, and 336.128 nm from Ar III.[36]

Visuals[edit | edit source]

Collection of various fluorescent minerals under ultraviolet UV-A, UV-B and UV-C light are shown. Credit: Hannes Grobe.{{free media}}

Chemicals in the rocks absorb the ultraviolet light and emit visible light of various colors, a process called fluorescence.

Fluorescence is the emission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation. It is a form of luminescence. In most cases, the emitted light has a longer wavelength, and therefore lower energy, than the absorbed radiation. However, when the absorbed electromagnetic radiation is intense, it is possible for one electron to absorb two photons; this two-photon absorption can lead to emission of radiation having a shorter wavelength than the absorbed radiation. The emitted radiation may also be of the same wavelength as the absorbed radiation, termed "resonance fluorescence".[37]

Violets[edit | edit source]

The spectrum shows the lines in the visible due to emission from elemental hydrogen. Credit:Teravolt.{{free media}}
The spectrum shows the lines in the visible due to emission from elemental oxygen. Credit:Teravolt.{{free media}}

Hydrogen has two emission lines that occur in an electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) heated plasmas at 397.007 nm of the Balmer series (Hε) and 434.05 nm Hγ.[36]

Oxygen has several emission lines that occur in an electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) heated plasmas: 406.963, 406.99, 407.22, 407.59, 407.89, 408.51, 435.12, 441.489, and 441.697 nm from O II, and 434.045 nm from O VIII.[36]

"Electron temperatures are generally derived from the ratio of auroral to nebular lines in [O III] or [N II]."[38] "[B]ecause of the proximity of strong night-sky lines at λ4358 and λλ5770, 5791, the auroral lines of [O III] λ4363 and [N II] λ5755 are often contaminated."[38]

Argon has several emission lines that occur in an electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) heated plasmas: 426.653, 428.29, 433.12, 434.8064, 437.075, 437.967, 442.60, and 443.019 nm from Ar II.[36]

Greens[edit | edit source]

This photo of yellow and green auroras shows convincingly that yellow is a distinctive result of the auroral process. Credit: Belinda Witzenhausen.{{fairuse}}

"On February 25th 2014 a violent X4.9-class solar flare erupted from a large sunspot group which had just rotated into view around the SE limb of the solar disk. The CME it unfurled was a massive full halo feature in the form of an expanding cloud of highly charged particles and plasma en route to the inner planets at a staggering velocity of over 2000km/sec. At this speed the CME would sweep across 93 million miles of space and impact planet Earth in only two days. However there was bad news as the source of this flare - and subsequent CME event - was located so close to the limb of the sun that the CME was very unlikely to impact Earth because it was located too far from the meridian and hence was not termed geoeffective which meant there was no chance of any Earth directed component at all. A few hours later a more detailed look by spaceweather scientists followed which offered some cautious optimism for in some of their forecasting models there was a slight chance that the CME could hit Earth a glancing blow with a possibility of minor geomagnetic storms on Feb 27th however the consensus was that the CME would probably miss entirely or if there was a hit then it wasn't expected to be significant."[39]

Yellows[edit | edit source]

This orange and yellow aurora occurred above Beaghmore Stone Circles. Credit: Martin McKenna.{{fairuse}}

"The temperature of yellow coronal regions is ... about 2.5 [x] 106 [K]. ... although some ions Ca XV will exist at lower, as well as higher temperatures."[40]

"The AS prominences [AS in Menzel-Evans' classification [4];] move with velocities exceeding by far the velocities of other types of prominences [7], [8]. As short-living phenomena, they are condensed quickly and the temperature of the coronal gases should rise in the early stages of their condensation. Indeed, the AS prominences use to be allied with yellow line emission (λ 5694)."[40]

"The yellow line is namely due to the ion Ca XV, according to Edlen's and Waldmeier's identification. ... the line λ 5694 is emitted by 3P1 - 3P0 transition of Ca XV."[40]

"The solar corona is not in thermodynamical equilibrium. In particular, the photo-recombination is compensated with electron impact ionization, while the reverse processes viz. the photoionization and recombination by impact with two electrons are there negligible."[40]

Reds[edit | edit source]

This is another aurora from Alaska containing yellow. Credit: Unknown.{{fairuse}}

The image on the right contains yellow aurora that is closer to true yellow with red next to it.

Infrareds[edit | edit source]

This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a dying star (center) surrounded by a cloud of glowing gas and dust. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Hora (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA).{{free media}}

In infrared astronomy, the cosmic infrared background (CIB) causes a significant attenuation for very high energy electrons through inverse Compton scattering, photopion and electron-positron pair production.

Submillimeters[edit | edit source]

Combined observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the newly completed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have revealed the throes of stellar birth, as never before, in the well-studied object known as HH 46/47. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ALMA.{{fairuse}}

Radio observations at 210 GHz taken by the Bernese Multibeam Radiometer for KOSMA (BEMRAK) of high-energy particle acceleration during the energetic solar flare of 2003 October 28 at submillimeter wavelengths reveal a gradual, long-lasting (>30 minutes) component with large apparent source sizes (~60"). Its spectrum below ~200 GHz is consistent with synchrotron emission from flare-accelerated electrons producing hard X-ray and γ-ray bremsstrahlung assuming a magnetic field strength of ≥200 G in the radio source and a confinement time of the radio-emitting electrons in the source of less than 30 s. There is a close correlation in time and space of radio emission with the production of pions".[41]

Superluminals[edit | edit source]

5-GHz radio image shows Cygnus A (3C405). Credit: Martin J. Hardcastle.{{free media}}

There is a cut-off frequency above which the equation cannot be satisfied. Since the refractive index is a function of frequency (and hence wavelength), the intensity does not continue increasing at ever shorter wavelengths even for ultra-relativistic particles (where v/c approaches 1). At X-ray frequencies, the refractive index becomes less than unity (note that in media the phase velocity may exceed c without violating relativity) and hence no X-ray emission (or shorter wavelength emissions such as gamma rays) would be observed. However, X-rays can be generated at special frequencies just below those corresponding to core electronic transitions in a material, as the index of refraction is often greater than 1 just below a resonance frequency (see Kramers-Kronig relation and anomalous dispersion).

"Throughout the shower development, the electrons and positrons which travel faster than the speed of light in the air emit Cherenkov radiation."[42]

"High energy processes such as Compton, Bhabha, and Moller scattering, along with positron annihilation rapidly lead to a ~20% negative charge asymmetry in the electron-photon part of a cascade ... initiated by a ... 100 PeV neutrino"[43].

"The tachyonic spectral densities generated by ultra-relativistic electrons in uniform motion are fitted to the high-energy spectra of Galactic supernova remnants, such as RX J0852.0−4622 and the pulsar wind nebulae in G0.9+0.1 and MSH 15-52. ... Tachyonic cascade spectra are quite capable of generating the spectral curvature seen ... Estimates on the electron/proton populations generating the tachyon flux are obtained from the spectral fits"[44]

Plasma objects[edit | edit source]

This is the first color image of a sprite. Credit: Eastview.{{free media}}

"Plasma is the fourth state of matter, consisting of electrons, ions and neutral atoms, usually at temperatures above 104 degrees Kelvin."[45]

Plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms (reduce or increase the number of electrons in them), thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions.[46]

For plasma to exist, ionization is necessary. The term "plasma density" by itself usually refers to the "electron density", that is, the number of free electrons per unit volume. The degree of ionization of a plasma is the proportion of atoms that have lost or gained electrons, and is controlled mostly by the temperature. Even a partially ionized gas in which as little as 1% of the particles are ionized can have the characteristics of a plasma (i.e., response to magnetic fields and high electrical conductivity). The degree of ionization, α is defined as α = ni/(ni + na) where ni is the number density of ions and na is the number density of neutral atoms. The electron density is related to this by the average charge state <Z> of the ions through ne = <Z> ni where ne is the number density of electrons.

Gaseous objects[edit | edit source]

Fragmentation has resulted in ~ 50 stars and brown dwarfs. Credit: Matthew Bate, University of Exeter.{{fairuse}}

Above the photosphere visible sunlight is free to propagate into space, and its energy escapes the Sun entirely. The change in opacity is due to the decreasing amount of H ions, which absorb visible light easily.[47] Conversely, the visible light we see is produced as electrons react with hydrogen atoms to produce H ions.[48][49] The photosphere has a particle density of ~1023 m−3 (this is about 0.37% of the particle number per volume of Earth's atmosphere at sea level; however, photosphere particles are electrons and protons, so the average particle in air is 58 times as heavy).

Materials[edit | edit source]

Synthetic diamonds of various colors grown by the high-pressure high-temperature technique. Credit: Materialscientist.{{free media}}

Def. an object, usually made of glass, that focuses or defocuses the light or an electron beam that passes through it is called a lens.

Coronal clouds[edit | edit source]

An abundance of helmet streamers is shown at solar maximum. Credit: NASA.{{free media}}
Helmet streamers are shown at solar minimum restricted to mid latitudes. Credit: NASA.{{free media}}

Helmet streamers are bright loop-like structures which develop over active regions on the sun. They are closed magnetic loops which connect regions of opposite magnetic polarity. Electrons are captured in these loops, and cause them to glow very brightly. The solar wind elongates these loops to pointy tips. They far extend above most prominences into the corona, and can be readily observed during a solar eclipse. Helmet streamers are usually confined to the "streamer belt" in the mid latitudes, and their distribution follows the movement of active regions during the solar cycle. Small blobs of plasma, or "plasmoids" are sometimes released from the tips of helmet streamers, and this is one source of the slow component of the solar wind. In contrast, formations with open magnetic field lines are called coronal holes, and these are darker and are a source of the fast solar wind. Helmet streamers can also create coronal mass ejections if a large volume of plasma becomes disconnected near the tip of the streamer.

In the corona thermal conduction occurs from the external hotter atmosphere towards the inner cooler layers. Responsible for the diffusion process of the heat are the electrons, which are much lighter than ions and move faster.

Solar winds[edit | edit source]

Illustration shows the Parker Solar Probe flying through a switchback in the solar wind. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez.{{free media}}

Particles such as electrons are used as tracers of cosmic magnetic fields.[2]

"From a plasma-physics point of view, the particles represent the correct way to identify magnetic field lines."[2] "The suprathermal electrons in the solar wind and in solar particle events have excellent properties for this application: they move rapidly, they remain tightly bound to their field lines, and they may arrive "scatter-free" even at low energies, and from deep in the solar atmosphere (Lin 1985)."[2]

"Energetic photons, ions and electrons from the solar wind, together with galactic and extragalactic cosmic rays, constantly bombard surfaces of planets, planetary satellites, dust particles, comets and asteroids."[50]

Mercury[edit | edit source]

Analysis of radio tracking data have enabled maps of the gravity field of Mercury to be derived. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.{{free media}}

Mariner 10 has aboard "one backward facing electron spectrometer (BESA). ... An electron spectrum [is] obtained every 6 s, ... within the energy range 13.4-690 eV. ... [B]y taking into account [the angular] distortion [caused by the solar wind passing the spacecraft] and the spacecraft sheath characteristics ... some of the solar wind plasma parameters such as ion bulk speed, electron temperature, and electron density [are derived]."[51] Mariner 10 had three encounters with Mercury on March 29, 1974, September 21, 1974, and on March 16, 1975.[52] The BESA measurements "show that the planet interacts with the solar wind to form a bow shock and a permanent magnetosphere. ... The magnetosphere of Mercury appears to be similar in shape to that of the earth but much smaller in relation to the size of the planet. The average distance from the center of Mercury to the subsolar point of the magnetopause is ∼ 1.4 planetary radii. Electron populations similar to those found in the earth’s magnetotail, within the plasma sheet and adjacent regions, were observed at Mercury; both their spatial location and the electron energy spectra within them bear qualitative and quantitative resemblance to corresponding observations at the earth."[53]

"[T]he Mercury encounter (M I) by Mariner 10 on 29 March 1974 occurred during the height of a Jovian electron increase in the interplanetary medium."[54]

Venus[edit | edit source]

This Chandra X-ray Observatory image is the first X-ray image ever made of Venus. Credit: NASA/MPE/K.Dennerl et al.{{free media}}

The first ever X-ray image of Venus is shown at right. The "half crescent is due to the relative orientation of the Sun, Earth and Venus. The X-rays from Venus are produced by fluorescent radiation from oxygen and other atoms in the atmosphere between 120 and 140 kilometers above the surface of the planet. In contrast, the optical light from Venus is caused by the reflection from clouds 50 to 70 kilometers above the surface. Solar X-rays bombard the atmosphere of Venus, knock electrons out of the inner parts of atoms, and excite the atoms to a higher energy level. The atoms almost immediately return to their lower energy state with the emission of a fluorescent X-ray. A similar process involving ultraviolet light produces the visible light from fluorescent lamps."[55]

Earth[edit | edit source]

This graph shows the relationship of the atmosphere and ionosphere to electron density. Credit: Bhamer.{{free media}}
Bright X-ray arcs of low energy (0.1 - 10 keV) are generated during auroral activity. Observation dates: 10 pointings between December 16, 2003 and April 13, 2004. Instrument: HRC. Credit: NASA/MSFC/CXC/A.Bhardwaj & R.Elsner, et al.; Earth model: NASA/GSFC/L.Perkins & G.Shirah.{{free media}}
This image is a composite of the first picture of the Earth in X-rays over a diagram of the Earth below. Credit: NASA, Ruth Netting.{{free media}}

"[L]ow-altitude regions of downward electric current on auroral magnetic field lines are sites of dramatic upward magnetic field-aligned electron acceleration that generates intense magnetic field-aligned electron beams within Earth’s equatorial middle magnetosphere."[56]

The ionosphere is a shell of electrons and electrically charged atoms and molecules that surrounds the Earth, stretching from a height of about 50 km to more than 1000 km. It owes its existence primarily to ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

The images are superimposed on a simulated image of the Earth. The color code represents brightness, maximum in red. Distance from the North pole to the black circle is 3,340 km (2,080 mi).

"Auroras are produced by solar storms that eject clouds of energetic charged particles. These particles are deflected when they encounter the Earth’s magnetic field, but in the process large electric voltages are created. Electrons trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field are accelerated by these voltages and spiral along the magnetic field into the polar regions. There they collide with atoms high in the atmosphere and emit X-rays".[57]

At left is a composite image which contains the first picture of the Earth in X-rays, taken in March, 1996, with the orbiting Polar satellite. The area of brightest X-ray emission is red.

Energetic charged particles from the Sun energize electrons in the Earth's magnetosphere. These electrons move along the Earth's magnetic field and eventually strike the ionosphere, causing the X-ray emission. Lightning strikes or bolts across the sky also emit X-rays.[58]

Van Allen radiation belts[edit | edit source]

A cutaway model of the radiation belts with the 2 RBSP satellites flying through them. Credit: NASA.{{free media}}

The Van Allen radiation belt is split into two distinct belts, with energetic electrons forming the outer belt and a combination of protons and electrons forming the inner belts. In addition, the radiation belts contain lesser amounts of other nuclei, such as alpha particles.

"The large outer radiation belt extends from an altitude of about three to ten Earth radii (RE) or 13,000 to 60,000 kilometres above the Earth's surface. Its greatest intensity is usually around 4–5 RE. The outer electron radiation belt is mostly produced by the inward radial diffusion[59][60] and local acceleration[61] due to transfer of energy from whistler mode plasma waves to radiation belt electrons. Radiation belt electrons are also constantly removed by collisions with atmospheric neutrals,[61] losses to magnetopause, and the outward radial diffusion. The outer belt consists mainly of high energy (0.1–10 MeV) electrons trapped by the Earth's magnetosphere. The gyroradii for energetic protons would be large enough to bring them into contact with the Earth's atmosphere. The electrons here have a high flux and at the outer edge (close to the magnetopause), where geomagnetic field lines open into the geomagnetic "tail", fluxes of energetic electrons can drop to the low interplanetary levels within about 100 km (a decrease by a factor of 1,000).

Moon[edit | edit source]

These two hemispheric Lambert azimuthal equal area projections show the total magnetic field strength at the surface of the Moon, derived from the Lunar Prospector electron reflectometer (ER) experiment. Credit: Mark A. Wieczorek.{{free media}}
In the shadows, the Moon charges negatively in the interplanetary medium. Credit: Mdf.{{free media}}

The Moon where a prediction of a lunar double layer[62] was confirmed in 2003.[63]

In the shadows, the Moon charges negatively in the interplanetary medium.[64]

The electron reflectometer (ER) [aboard the Lunar Prospector determines] the location and strength of magnetic fields from the energy spectrum and direction of electrons. The instrument [measures] the pitch angles of solar wind electrons reflected from the Moon by lunar magnetic fields. Stronger local magnetic fields can reflect electrons with larger pitch angles. Field strengths as small as 0.01 [nanotesla] nT could be measured with a spatial accuracy of about 3 km (1.9 mi) at the lunar surface.

"[T]he shadowed lunar surface charges negative."[65]

Jupiter[edit | edit source]

Jupiter rings are photographed by Voyager 2 (false color). Credit: NASA, Voyager 2.{{free media}}

"Field-aligned equatorial electron beams [have been] observed within Jupiter’s middle magnetosphere. ... the Jupiter equatorial electron beams are spatially and/or temporally structured (down to <20 km at auroral altitudes, or less than several minutes), with regions of intense beams intermixed with regions absent of such beams."[56]

"Jovian electrons, both at Jupiter and in the interplanetary medium near Earth, have a very hard spectrum that varies as a power law with energy (see, e.g., Mewaldt et al. 1976). This spectral character is sufficiently distinct from the much softer solar and magnetospheric electron spectra that it has been used as a spectral filter to separate Jovian electrons from other sources ... A second Jovian electron characteristic is that such electrons in the interplanetary medium tend to consist of flux increases of several days duration which recur with 27 day periodicities ... A third feature of Jovian electrons at 1 AU is that the flux increases exhibit a long-term modulation of 13 months which is the synodic period of Jupiter as viewed from Earth".[54]

Jovian electrons propagate "along the spiral magnetic field of the interplanetary medium [from Jupiter and its magnetosphere to the Sun]".[54]

Callisto[edit | edit source]

This image of Callisto from NASA's Galileo spacecraft, taken in May 2001, is the only complete global color image of Callisto obtained by Galileo. Credit: NASA/JPL/DLR(German Aerospace Center).{{free media}}

At right is a complete global color image of Callisto. Bright scars on a darker surface testify to a long history of impacts on Jupiter's moon Callisto. The picture, taken in May 2001, is the only complete global color image of Callisto obtained by Galileo, which has been orbiting Jupiter since December 1995. Of Jupiter's four largest moons, Callisto orbits farthest from the giant planet. Callisto's surface is uniformly cratered but is not uniform in color or brightness. Scientists believe the brighter areas are mainly ice and the darker areas are highly eroded, ice-poor material.

Callisto's ionosphere was first detected during Galileo flybys;[66] its high electron density of 7–17 x 104 cm−3 cannot be explained by the photoionization of the atmospheric carbon dioxide alone.

Saturn[edit | edit source]

Dragon Storm: photo was taken on September 15, 2004 by Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.{{free media}}

"[M]agnetospheric electron (bi-directional) beams connect to the expected locations of Saturn’s aurora".[67]

Powered by the Saturnian equivalent of (filamentary) Birkeland currents, streams of charged particles from the interplanetary medium interact with the planet's magnetic field and funnel down to the poles.[68] Double layers are associated with (filamentary) currents,[69][70] and their electric fields accelerate ions and electrons.[71]

Heliospheres[edit | edit source]

This artist's concept shows Voyager going interstellar. Credit: Jon Nelson, NASA/JPL.{{fairuse}}

These electrons "provide remote-sensing observations of distant targets in the heliosphere - the Sun, the Moon, Jupiter, and various heliospheric structures."[2]

Electron winds[edit | edit source]

This is a digital image of an ultra high vacuum electron beam furnace in cross section. Credit: R. E. Einziger, J. N. Mundy, and H. A. Hoff, Robert E. Einziger designed the furnace.{{fairuse}}

"The power into the Crab Nebula is apparently supplied by an outflow [wind] of ~1038 erg/s from the pulsar"[3] where there are "electrons (and positrons) in such a wind"[3]. These beta particles coming out of the pulsar are moving very close to light speed.

"An electron beam furnace (EB furnace) is a type of vacuum furnace employing a high-energy electron beam in vacuum as the mean for delivery of heat to the material being melted.

The source of heat that brings the coronal cloud near the Sun hot enough to emit X-rays may be an electron beam heating effect due to "high-energy electrons from elsewhere in the galaxy diffusing into our solar system from outside"[7].

Interstellar medium[edit | edit source]

This visual negative of the region around the astronomical object LW Cassiopeia Nebula (ISM) is centered on the ISM. Credit: Aladin at SIMBAD.{{free media}}

The "many other types of radio sources in our galaxy [...] include so-called radio stars, emission nebula, flare stars and pulsars. [...] Pulsars were first discovered in 1967 by Cambridge post-graduate student Jocelyn Bell as she processed charts associated with an unrelated project to study twinkling radio sources. She noticed recurrent signals when the antenna was pointed in a certain direction. Further study revealed a precise timing interval of about 1 second. It also was found that the pulses were dispersed such that the lower frequencies arrived later than the higher frequencies. This dispersion could be attributed to scattering of the radiation by interstellar electrons and, if so, could provide an indication of the pulsar distance."[72]

"A particular subject of interest is the cluster ion series (NH3)nNH4+, since it is the dominant group of ions over the whole investigated temperature range."[73] For astrochemisty, "[t]hese studies are expected to throw light on the sputtering from planetary and interstellar ices and the possible formation of new organic molecules in CO--NH3–H2O ice by megaelectronvolt ion bombardment."[73]

"lnterstellar scintillation (ISS), fluctuations in the amplitude and phase of radio waves caused by scattering in the interstellar medium, is important as a diagnostic of interstellar plasma turbulence. ISS is also of interest because it is noise for other radio astronomical observations. [As a remote, sensing tool, ISS is used to diagnose the plasma turbulence in the interstellar medium (lSM). However, where ISS acts as a noise source in other observations, the plasma physics of the medium is only of secondary interest.] The unifying concern is the power spectrum of the interstellar electron density."[74]

"From measurements of angular broadening of pulsars and extragalactic sources, decorrelation bandwidth of pulsars, refractive steering of features in pulsar dynamic spectra, dispersion measure fluctuations of pulsars, and refractive scintillation index measurements, [...] a composite structure function that is approximately power law over 2 x 106 m < scale < 1013 m [is constructed]. The data are consistent with the structure function having a logarithmic slope versus baseline Iess than 2; thus there is a meaningful connection between scales in the radiowave fluctuation field and the scales in the electron density field causing the scattering."[74]

A "composite electron density spectrum [is] approximately power law over at least the ≈ 5 decade wavenumber range 10-13 m-1 < wavenumber < 10-8 m-1 and that may extend to higher wavenumbers."[74]

Physics[edit | edit source]

The locus of the abrupt change in conductance that clearly moves away from the 1D parabola is the chargon. Credit: Y. Jompol, C. J. B. Ford, J. P. Griffiths, I. Farrer, G. A. C. Jones, D. Anderson, D. A. Ritchie, T. W. Silk and A. J. Schofield.{{fairuse}}

Def. "a quasiparticle produced as a result of electron spin-charge separation"[75] is called a chargon, or holon.

Def. a "quasiparticle [...] that electrons in solids are able to split into during the process of spin-charge separation, when extremely tightly confined at temperatures close to absolute zero,"[76] that carries away the spin is called a spinon.

Electron volts[edit | edit source]

Energy of photons is shown in the visible spectrum. Credit: Vojtěch Hála and Gringer.{{free media}}
This is a graph of eV versus nm. Credit: User:Mrdupont.{{free media}}

Def. a unit for measuring the energy of subatomic particles; the energy equal to that attained by an electron moving through a potential of one volt is called an electron volt.

The electron volt (eV) is the energy gained (or lost) by an electron in passing through a potential difference of one volt. Since the charge on an electron is 1.60218 x 10-19 Coulombs, an eV is 1.60218 x 10-19 J. A keV is 1000 eV and a MeV is 1000 keV.

A photon with an energy of 1 eV has a frequency of 1 eV/h = 2.41799 x 1014 Hz or about 242 THz and a wavelength of c*h/1 eV = 1.23984 x 10-6 m or about 1,240 nm or 12,400 Å. That would put the photon in the infrared range. In practice, photon energies are seldom stated for such long wavelengths.

Generally, the energy E, frequency ν, and wavelength λ of a photon are related by

where h is the Planck constant, c is the speed of light. This reduces to

Electron density[edit | edit source]

Electron density calculated for aniline, high density values indicate atom positions, intermediate density values emphasize bonding, low values provide information on a molecule's shape and size. Credit: Sean Ohlinger.{{free media}}

Def. a measure of the number of electrons per unit volume of space is called an electron density.

Electron density is the measure of the probability of an electron being present at a specific location. In molecules, regions of electron density are usually found around the atom, and its bonds.

In quantum chemical calculations, the electron density, ρ(r), is a function of the coordinates r, defined so ρ(r)dr is the number of electrons in a small volume dr. For closed-shell molecules, can be written in terms of a sum of products of basis functions, φ:

where P is the density matrix. Electron densities are often rendered in terms of an isosurface (an isodensity surface) with the size and shape of the surface determined by the value of the density chosen, or in terms of a percentage of total electrons enclosed.

Spin density[edit | edit source]

Electron Density is a function of altitude. Credit: Jugandi.{{free media}}

Spin density is electron density applied to free radicals. It is defined as the total electron density of electrons of one spin minus the total electron density of the electrons of the other spin. One of the ways to measure it experimentally is by electron spin resonance,[77] neutron diffraction allows direct mapping of the spin density in 3D-space.

Electron temperatures[edit | edit source]

Plot shows Maxwell-Juttner distribution (relativistic Maxwellian) for electron gas at different temperatures. Credit: Maitraz.{{free media}}

If the velocities of a group of electrons, e.g., in a plasma, follow a Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, then the electron temperature is well-defined as the temperature of that distribution. For other distributions, two-thirds of the average energy is often referred to as the temperature, since for a Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution with three degrees of freedom, . The International System of Units (SI) unit of temperature is the kelvin (K), but using the above relation the electron temperature is often expressed in terms of the energy unit electronvolt (eV). Each kelvin (1 K) corresponds to 8.617343(15) x 10-5 eV; this factor is the ratio of the Boltzmann constant to the elementary charge. The electron temperature of a plasma can be several orders of magnitude higher than the temperature of the neutral species or of the ions. This is a result of two facts. Firstly, many plasma sources heat the electrons more strongly than the ions. Secondly, atoms and ions are much heavier than electrons, and energy transfer in a two-body collision is much more efficient if the masses are similar.

Technology[edit | edit source]

Beam of electrons are moving in a circle in a magnetic field (cyclotron motion). Lighting is caused by excitation of atoms of gas in a bulb. Credit: Marcin Białek.{{free media}}

A cyclotron is a compact type of particle accelerator in which charged particles in a static magnetic field are travelling outwards from the center along a spiral path and get accelerated by radio frequency electromagnetic fields. Cyclotrons accelerate charged particle beams using a high frequency alternating voltage which is applied between two "D"-shaped electrodes (also called "dees"). An additional static magnetic field is applied in perpendicular direction to the electrode plane, enabling particles to re-encounter the accelerating voltage many times at the same phase. To achieve this, the voltage frequency must match the particle's cyclotron resonance frequency


with the relativistic mass m and its charge q. This frequency is given by equality of centripetal force and magnetic Lorentz force. The particles, injected near the center of the magnetic field, increase their kinetic energy only when recirculating through the gap between the electrodes; thus they travel outwards along a spiral path.

Cyclotron radiation is electromagnetic radiation emitted by moving charged particles deflected by a magnetic field. The Lorentz force on the particles acts perpendicular to both the magnetic field lines and the particles' motion through them, creating an acceleration of charged particles that causes them to emit radiation (and to spiral around the magnetic field lines). ... Cyclotron radiation is emitted by all charged particles travelling through magnetic fields, however, not just those in cyclotrons. Cyclotron radiation from plasma in the interstellar medium or around black holes and other astronomical phenomena is an important source of information about distant magnetic fields. The power (energy per unit time) of the emission of each electron can be calculated using:

where E is energy, t is time, is the Thomson cross section (total, not differential), B is the magnetic field strength, V is the velocity perpendicular to the magnetic field, c is the speed of light and is the permeability of free space.

"Electron beams can be generated by thermionic emission, field emission or the anodic arc method. The generated electron beam is accelerated to a high kinetic energy and focused towards the [target]. When the accelerating voltage is between 20 kV – 25 kV and the beam current is a few amperes, 85% of the kinetic energy of the electrons is converted into thermal energy as the beam bombards the surface of the [target]. The surface temperature of the [target] increases resulting in the formation of a liquid melt. Although some of incident electron energy is lost in the excitation of X-rays and secondary emission, the [target] material evaporates under vacuum."[78]

Scintillation detectors[edit | edit source]

This is an animation of a radiation scintillation counter. Credit: KieranMaher.{{free media}}

A scintillator is a material, which exhibits scintillation—the property of luminescence[79] when excited by ionizing radiation. Luminescent materials, when struck by an incoming particle, absorb its energy and scintillate, i.e., reemit the absorbed energy in the form of light. Here, "particle" refers to "ionizing radiation" and can refer either to charged particulate radiation, such as electrons and heavy charged particles, or to uncharged radiation, such as photons and neutrons, provided that they have enough energy to induce ionization.

A scintillation detector or scintillation counter is obtained when a scintillator is coupled to an electronic light sensor such as a photomultiplier tube (PMT) or a photodiode. PMTs absorb the light emitted by the scintillator and reemit it in the form of electrons via the photoelectric effect. The subsequent multiplication of those electrons (sometimes called photo-electrons) results in an electrical pulse which can then be analyzed and yield meaningful information about the particle that originally struck the scintillator.

Galileo Orbiter[edit | edit source]

This is an image of the Energetic Particles Detector (EPD) aboard the Galileo Orbiter. Credit: NASA.{{free media}}

The Energetic Particles Detector (EPD) aboard the Galileo Orbiter is designed to measure the numbers and energies of electrons whose energies exceed about 20 keV. The EPD can also measure the direction of travel of electrons. The EPD uses silicon solid state detectors and a time-of-flight detector system to measure changes in the energetic electron population at Jupiter as a function of position and time.

"[The] two bi-directional, solid-state detector telescopes [are] mounted on a platform which [is] rotated by a stepper motor into one of eight positions. This rotation of the platform, combined with the spinning of the orbiter in a plane perpendicular to the platform rotation, [permits] a 4-pi [or 4π] steradian coverage of incoming [electrons]. The forward (0 degree) ends of the two telescopes [have] an unobstructed view over the [4π] sphere or [can] be positioned behind a shield which not only [prevents] the entrance of incoming radiation, but [contains] a source, thus allowing background corrections and in-flight calibrations to be made. ... The 0 degree end of the [Low-Energy Magnetospheric Measurements System] LEMMS [uses] magnetic deflection to separate incoming electrons and ions. The 180 degree end [uses] absorbers in combination with the detectors to provide measurements of higher-energy electrons ... The LEMMS [provides] measurements of electrons from 15 keV to greater than 11 MeV ... in 32 rate channels."[80]

Lunar Prospector[edit | edit source]

Lunar Prospector instrument is the Electron Reflectometer (ER). Credit: NASA.{{free media}}

The electron reflectometer (ER) [aboard the Lunar Prospector determines] the location and strength of magnetic fields from the energy spectrum and direction of electrons. The instrument measures the pitch angles of solar wind electrons reflected from the Moon by lunar magnetic fields. Stronger local magnetic fields can reflect electrons with larger pitch angles. Field strengths as small as 0.01 nanotesla nT could be measured with a spatial accuracy of about {3 km (1.9 mi) at the lunar surface. The ER is located at the end of one of the three radial science booms on the Lunar Prospector.

Imaging Compton Telescope[edit | edit source]

This is a schematic of the various experiments aboard the Gamma-ray Observatory. Credit: NASA/JPL.{{free media}}
The Imaging Compton Telescope (COMPTEL) utilizes the Compton Effect and two layers of gamma-ray detectors. Credit: NASA.{{free media}}

For cosmic gamma-ray events, the experiment required two nearly simultaneous interactions, in a set of front and rear scintillators. Gamma rays would Compton scatter in a forward detector module, where the interaction energy E1, given to the recoil electron was measured, while the Compton scattered photon would then be caught in one of a second layer of scintillators to the rear, where its total energy, E2, would be measured. From these two energies, E1 and E2, the Compton scattering angle, angle θ, can be determined, along with the total energy, E1 + E2, of the incident photon. The positions of the interactions, in both the front and rear scintillators, was also measured. The vector, V, connecting the two interaction points determined a direction to the sky, and the angle θ about this direction, defined a cone about V on which the source of the photon must lie, and a corresponding "event circle" on the sky.

"COMPTEL's upper layer of detectors are filled with a liquid scintillator which scatters an incoming gamma-ray photon according to the Compton Effect. This photon is then absorbed by NaI crystals in the lower detectors. The instrument records the time, location, and energy of the events in each layer of detectors which makes it possible to determine the direction and energy of the original gamma-ray photon and reconstruct an image and energy spectrum of the source."[81]

Hypotheses[edit | edit source]

  1. Superluminal electrons exist.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • H. S. Hudson; A. B. Galvin (September 1997). A. Wilson. ed. Correlated Studies at Activity Maximum: the Sun and the Solar Wind, In: Correlated Phenomena at the Sun, in the Heliosphere and in Geospace. Noordwijk, The Netherlands: European Space Agency. pp. 275-82. ISBN 92-9092-660-0. 

External links[edit | edit source]

{{Radiation astronomy resources}}