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The Galactic Positron Annihilation Radiation and the Propagation of Positrons in the Interstellar Medium

Higdon, J. C. and Lingenfelter, R. E. and Rothschild, R. E. (2009) The Galactic Positron Annihilation Radiation and the Propagation of Positrons in the Interstellar Medium. Astrophysical Journal, 698 (1). pp. 350-379. ISSN 0004-637X.

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The ratio of the luminosity of diffuse 511 keV positron annihilation radiation, measured by INTEGRAL in its four years, from a Galactic "positron bulge" (<1.5 kpc) compared to that of the disk is ~1.4. This ratio is roughly 4 times larger than that expected simply from the stellar bulge-to-disk ratio of ~0.33 of the Galactic supernovae (SNe), which are thought to be the principal source of the annihilating positrons through the decay of radionuclei made by explosive nucleosynthesis in the SNe. This large discrepancy has prompted a search for new sources. Here, however, we show that the measured 511 keV luminosity ratio can be fully understood in the context of a Galactic SN origin when the differential propagation of these ~ MeV positrons in the various phases of the interstellar medium is taken into consideration, since these relativistic positrons must first slow down to energies ≤10 eV before they can annihilate. Moreover, without propagation, none of the proposed positron sources, new or old, can explain the two basic properties on the Galactic annihilation radiation: the fraction of the annihilation that occurs through positronium formation and the ratio of the broad/narrow components of the 511 keV line. In particular, we show that in the neutral phases of the interstellar medium, which fill most of the disk (>3.5 kpc), the cascade of the magnetic turbulence, which scatters the positrons, is damped by ion-neutral friction, allowing positrons to stream along magnetic flux tubes. We find that nearly 1/2 of the positrons produced in the disk escape from it into the halo. On the other hand, we show that within the extended, or interstellar, bulge (<3.5 kpc), essentially all of the positrons are born in the hot plasmas which fill that volume. We find that the diffusion mean free path is long enough that only a negligible fraction annihilate there and ~80% of them escape down into the H II and H I envelopes of molecular clouds that lie within 1.5 kpc before they slow down and annihilate, while the remaining ~20% escape out into the halo and the disk beyond. This propagation accounts for the low observed annihilation radiation luminosity of the disk compared to the bulge. In addition, we show that the primary annihilation sites of the propagating positrons in both the bulge and the disk are in the warm ionized phases of the interstellar medium. Such annihilation can also account for those two basic properties of the emission, the fraction (~93% ± 7%) of annihilation via positronium and the ratio (~0.5) of broad (~5.4 keV) to narrow (~1.3 keV) components of the bulge 511 keV line emission. Moreover, we expect that the bulk of this broad line emission comes from the tilted disk region (0.5 < R < 1.5 kpc) with a very large broad/narrow flux ratio of ~6, while much of the narrow line emission comes from the inner bulge (R < 0.5 kpc) with a negligible broad/narrow flux ratio. Separate spectral analyses of the 511 keV line emission from these two regions should be able to test this prediction, and further probe the structure of the interstellar medium. Lastly, we show that the asymmetry in the inner disk annihilation line flux, which has been suggested as added evidence for new sources, can also be fully understood from positron propagation and the asymmetry in the inner spiral arms as viewed from our solar perspective without any additional sources.

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Additional Information:© 2009 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2007 November 19; accepted 2009 March 25; published 2009 May 20. This work was supported by NASA’s International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory Science Program, grant NNG05GE70G.
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Subject Keywords:cosmic rays; elementary particles; gamma rays: theory; ISM: general; nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances; supernovae: general
Issue or Number:1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20090824-082922846
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Official Citation:The Galactic Positron Annihilation Radiation and the Propagation of Positrons in the Interstellar Medium J. C. Higdon, R. E. Lingenfelter, and R. E. Rothschild 2009 ApJ 698 350-379 doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/698/1/350.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:15258
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:26 Aug 2009 16:43
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 00:56

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