Do relativistic electrons either gain or lose energy, outside of extragalactic nuclei?

Lawrence Rudnick, Debora M. Katz-Stone, Martha C. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


In the generally accepted models of high-luminosity extragalactic radio sources, the relativistic electron distribution evolves significantly outside of its source in the galactic nucleus; synchrotron losses occur throughout the source, and the harder (flatter) spectra seen in the hot spots are one indicator of relativistic particle acceleration. Our reanalysis and interpretation of the Carilli et al. (1991) data on Cygnus A, on the other hand, showed no evidence for evolution of the electron distribution function, and no evidence of the universally assumed injection power-law distribution. Having found a spectrum that describes an entire source, we have also introduced the technique of correcting synchrotron maps for frequency-dependent effects. In this way, a partial deconvolution of the underlying physical parameters is possible. In Cygnus A, this correction procedure led to the dominance of a hitherto unrecognized structure, an edge-brightened channel girdled by rings. We briefly discuss some implications of this work and our plans to continue this line of investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-958
Number of pages4
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1994


  • Acceleration of particles
  • Galaxies: individual (Cygnus A)
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Radiation mechanisms: nonthermal
  • Radio continuum: galaxies


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