Transrelativistic synchrotron emissivity, cross section, and polarization

Brandon Wolfe, Fulvio Melia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The spectrum and polarization produced by particles spiraling in a magnetic field undergo dramatic changes as the emitters transition from nonrelativistic to relativistic energies. However, none of the currently available methods for calculating the characteristics of this radiation field are adequate for the purpose of sustaining accuracy and speed of computation in the intensity, and none even attempt to provide a means of determining the polarization fraction other than in the cyclotron or synchrotron limits. But the transrelativistic regime, which we here find to lie between 5 × 107 and 5 × 109 K for a thermal plasma, is becoming increasingly important in high-energy astrophysical environments, such as in the intracluster medium, and in the accretion flows of supermassive black holes. In this paper, we present simple, yet highly accurate fitting formulae for the magnetobremsstrahlung (also known as cyclosynchrotron) emissivity, its polarization fraction (and content), and the absorption cross section. We demonstrate that both the harmonic and high-energy limiting behavior are well represented, incurring at most an error of ∼5% throughout the transition region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-321
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jan 20 2006


  • Acceleration of particles
  • Magnetic fields
  • Plasmas
  • Radiation mechanisms: thermal
  • Radiation mechanisms:nonthermal
  • Relativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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