Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 386, 1044-1054 (2002/5-2)
The Crab Nebula at 1.3 mm. Evidence for a new synchrotron component.
BANDIERA R., NERI R. and CESARONI R.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present the results of 1.3mm observations of the Crab Nebula, performed with the MPIfR bolometer arrays at the IRAM 30-m telescope. The maps obtained, of unprecedented quality at these wavelengths, allow a direct comparison with high-resolution radio maps. Although the spatial structure of the Crab Nebula does not change much from radio to millimetre wavelengths, we have detected significant spatial variations of the spectral index between 20cm and 1.3mm. The main effect is a spectral flattening in the inner region, which can be hardly explained just in terms of the evolution of a single population of synchrotron emitting electrons. We propose instead that this is the result of the emergence of a second synchrotron component, that we have tried to extract from the data. Shape and size of this component resemble those of the Crab Nebula in X-rays. However, while the more compact structure of the Crab Nebula in X-rays is commonly regarded as an effect of synchrotron downgrading, it cannot be explained why a similar structure is present also at millimetre wavelengths, where the electron lifetimes far exceed the nebular age. Our data, combined with published upper limits on spatial variations of the radio spectral index, also imply a low-energy cutoff for the distribution of electrons responsible for this additional synchrotron component. Although no model has been developed so far to explain the details of this component, one may verify that the total number of the electrons responsible for it is in agreement with what predicted by the classical pulsar-wind models, which otherwise are known to fail in accounting for the number of radio emitting electrons. This numerical coincidence can give indications about the origin of this component. We have also detected a spectral steepening at millimetre wavelengths in some elongated regions, whose positions match those of radio synchrotron filaments. The steepening is taken as the indication that magnetic fields in synchrotron filaments are stronger than the average nebular field.
ISM: individual objects: Crab Nebula - ISM: supernova remnants - radiation mechanisms: non-thermal - radio continuum: ISM