GZK photons as ultra-high-energy cosmic rays
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We calculate the flux of “GZK photons,” namely, the flux of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (UHECRs) consisting of photons produced by extragalactic nucleons through the resonant photoproduction of pions, the so-called GZK effect. We show that for primary nucleons, the GZK-photon fraction of the total UHECR flux is between 10−4 and 10–2 above 1019 eV and up to the order of 0.1 above 1020 eV. The GZK-photon flux depends on the assumed UHECR spectrum, the slope of the nucleon flux at the source, and the distribution of sources and intervening backgrounds. Detection of this photon flux would open the way for UHECR gamma-ray astronomy. Detection of a larger photon flux would imply the emission of photons at the source or new physics. We compare the photon fractions expected for GZK photons and the minimal fractions predicted by top-down models. We find that the photon fraction above 1019 eV is a crucial test for top-down models.