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Gamma-ray binaries and related systems

  • Guillaume Dubus
REVIEW ARTICLE

Abstract

After initial claims and a long hiatus, it is now established that several binary stars emit high- (0.1–100 GeV) and very high-energy (>100 GeV) gamma rays. A new class has emerged called “gamma-ray binaries”, since most of their radiated power is emitted beyond 1 MeV. Accreting X-ray binaries, novae and a colliding wind binary (η Car) have also been detected—“related systems” that confirm the ubiquity of particle acceleration in astrophysical sources. Do these systems have anything in common? What drives their high-energy emission? How do the processes involved compare to those in other sources of gamma rays: pulsars, active galactic nuclei, supernova remnants? I review the wealth of observational and theoretical work that have followed these detections, with an emphasis on gamma-ray binaries. I present the current evidence that gamma-ray binaries are driven by rotation-powered pulsars. Binaries are laboratories giving access to different vantage points or physical conditions on a regular timescale as the components revolve on their orbit. I explain the basic ingredients that models of gamma-ray binaries use, the challenges that they currently face, and how they can bring insights into the physics of pulsars. I discuss how gamma-ray emission from microquasars provides a window into the connection between accretion–ejection and acceleration, while η Car and novae raise new questions on the physics of these objects—or on the theory of diffusive shock acceleration. Indeed, explaining the gamma-ray emission from binaries strains our theories of high-energy astrophysical processes, by testing them on scales and in environments that were generally not foreseen, and this is how these detections are most valuable.

Keywords

Acceleration of particles Radiation mechanisms: non-thermal Stars: massive Novae Pulsars: general ISM: jets and outflows Gamma rays: stars X-rays: binaries 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank B. Cerutti, S. Corbel, R. Dubois, S. Fromang, B. Giebels, G. Henri, A. Hill, J. Kirk, A. Lamberts, P. Martin, M. de Naurois, J. Pétri, K. Reitberger, A. Szostek, M. Yamaguchi, and A. Zdziarski for many enlightening discussions on the topic of gamma-ray emission from binaries. I would also like to express gratitude to my HESS and Fermi/LAT colleagues who, together with scientists involved with other gamma-ray observatories, have brought the field forward and made this work possible. I acknowledge support by the European Research Council under the European Community’s 7th framework programme (contract ERC-StG-200911), and by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG) UMR 5274UJF-Grenoble 1/CNRS-INSUGrenobleFrance

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