AbstractsAstronomy & Space Science

Pulsar wind nebulae at high energies

by Michael Mayer

Institution: Universität Potsdam
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Record ID: 1118365
Full text PDF: https://publishup.uni-potsdam.de/opus4-ubp/frontdoor/index/index/docId/7150


Pulsar wind nebulae (PWNe) are the most abundant TeV gamma-ray emitters in the Milky Way. The radiative emission of these objects is powered by fast-rotating pulsars, which donate parts of their rotational energy into winds of relativistic particles. This thesis presents an in-depth study of the detected population of PWNe at high energies. To outline general trends regarding their evolutionary behaviour, a time-dependent model is introduced and compared to the available data. In particular, this work presents two exceptional PWNe which protrude from the rest of the population, namely the Crab Nebula and N 157B. Both objects are driven by pulsars with extremely high rotational energy loss rates. Accordingly, they are often referred to as energetic twins. Modelling the non-thermal multi-wavelength emission of N157B gives access to specific properties of this object, like the magnetic field inside the nebula. Comparing the derived parameters to those of the Crab Nebula reveals large intrinsic differences between the two PWNe. Possible origins of these differences are discussed in context of the resembling pulsars. Compared to the TeV gamma-ray regime, the number of detected PWNe is much smaller in the MeV-GeV gamma-ray range. In the latter range, the Crab Nebula stands out by the recent detection of gamma-ray flares. In general, the measured flux enhancements on short time scales of days to weeks were not expected in the theoretical understanding of PWNe. In this thesis, the variability of the Crab Nebula is analysed using data from the Fermi Large Area Telescope (Fermi-LAT). For the presented analysis, a new gamma-ray reconstruction method is used, providing a higher sensitivity and a lower energy threshold compared to previous analyses. The derived gamma-ray light curve of the Crab Nebula is investigated for flares and periodicity. The detected flares are analysed regarding their energy spectra, and their variety and commonalities are discussed. In addition, a dedicated analysis of the flare which occurred in March 2013 is performed. The derived short-term variability time scale is roughly 6h, implying a small region inside the Crab Nebula to be responsible for the enigmatic flares. The most promising theories explaining the origins of the flux eruptions and gamma-ray variability are discussed in detail. In the technical part of this work, a new analysis framework is presented. The introduced software, called gammalib/ctools, is currently being developed for the future CTA observa- tory. The analysis framework is extensively tested using data from the H. E. S. S. experiment. To conduct proper data analysis in the likelihood framework of gammalib/ctools, a model describing the distribution of background events in H.E.S.S. data is presented. The software provides the infrastructure to combine data from several instruments in one analysis. To study the gamma-ray emitting PWN population, data from Fermi-LAT and H. E. S. S. are combined in the likelihood framework of gammalib/ctools. In particular, the spectral peak,…