The Nonthermal Energy Content and Gamma Ray Emission of Starburst Galaxies and Clusters of Galaxies

  • H. J. Völk
  • F. A. Aharonian
  • D. Breitschwerdt


The nonthermal particle production in contemporary starburst galaxies and in galaxy clusters is estimated from the Supernova rate, the iron content, and an evaluation of the dynamical processes which characterize these objects. The primary energy derives from SN explosions of massive stars. The nonthermal energy is transformed by various secondary processes, like acceleration of particles by Supernova Remnants as well as diffusion and/or convection in galactic winds. If convection dominates, the energy spectrum of nonthermal particles will remain hard. At greater distances from the galaxy almost the entire enthalpy of thermal gas and Cosmic Rays will be converted into wind kinetic energy, implying a fatal adiabatic energy loss for the nonthermal component. If this wind is strong enough then it will end in a strong termination shock, producing a new generation of nonthermal particles which are subsequently released without significant adiabatic losses into the external medium. In clusters of galaxies this should only be the case for early type galaxies, in agreement with observations. Clusters should also accumulate their nonthermal component over their entire history and energize it by gravitational contraction. The pion decay γ-ray fluxes of nearby contemporary starburst galaxies is quite small. However rich clusters should be extended sources of very high energy γ-rays, detectable by the next generation of systems of air Cherenkov telescopes. Such observations will provide an independent empirical method to investigate these objects and their cosmological history.


Star Formation Termination Shock Star Formation Rate Early Type Galaxy Starburst Galaxy 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. J. Völk
    • 1
  • F. A. Aharonian
    • 1
  • D. Breitschwerdt
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für KernphysikHeidelbergGermany

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