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Astron. Astrophys. 354, L53-L56 (2000)

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Letter to the Editor

The angular function for the Compton scattering in mildly and ultra relativistic astrophysical plasmas

S.Y. Sazonov 1,2 and R.A. Sunyaev 1,2

1 MPI für Astrophysik, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 1, 86740 Garching bei München, Germany
2 Space Research Institute (IKI), Profsoyuznaya 84/32, 117810 Moscow, Russia

Received 10 December 1999 / Accepted 21 December 1999


Compton scattering of low-frequency radiation by an isotropic distribution of (i) mildly and (ii) ultra relativistic electrons is considered. It is shown that the ensemble-averaged differential cross-section in this case is noticeably different from the Rayleigh phase function. The scattering by an ensemble of ultra-relativistic electrons obeys the law [FORMULA], where [FORMULA] is the scattering angle; hence photons are preferentially scattered backwards . This contrasts the forward scattering behaviour in the Klein-Nishina regime. Analytical formulae describing first-order Klein-Nishina and finite-electron-energy corrections to the simple relation above are given for various energy distributions of electrons: monoenergetic, relativistic-Maxwellian, and power-law. A similar formula is also given for the mildly relativistic (with respect to the photon energy and electron temperature) corrections to the Rayleigh angular function. One of the manifestations of the phenomenon under consideration is that hot plasma is more reflective with respect to external low-frequency radiation than cold one, which is important, in particular, for the photon exchange between cold accretion disks and hot atmospheres (coronae or ADAF flows) in the vicinity of relativistic compact objects; and for compact radiosources.

Key words: scattering – radiation mechanisms: non-thermal – plasmas – accretion, accretion disks

Send offprint requests to: S.Y. Sazonov

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: January 31, 2000