Cooling Rates for Relativistic Electrons Undergoing Compton Scattering In Strong Magnetic Fields

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Astrophysical Journal

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Institute of Physics




For inner magnetospheric models of hard X-ray and gamma-ray emission in high-field pulsars and magnetars, resonant Compton upscattering is anticipated to be the most efficient process for generating continuum radiation. This is in part due to the proximity of a hot soft photon bath from the stellar surface to putative radiation dissipation regions in the inner magnetosphere. Moreover, because the scattering process becomes resonant at the cyclotron frequency, the effective cross section exceeds the classical Thomson value by over two orders of magnitude, thereby enhancing the efficiency of continuum production and the cooling of relativistic electrons. This paper presents computations of the electron cooling rates for this process, which are needed for resonant Compton models of non-thermal radiation from such highly magnetized pulsars. The computed rates extend previous calculations of magnetic Thomson cooling to the domain of relativistic quantum effects, sampled near and above the quantum critical magnetic field of 44.13 TG. This is the first exposition of fully relativistic, quantum magnetic Compton cooling rates for electrons, and it employs both the traditional Johnson & Lippmann cross section and a newer Sokolov & Ternov (ST) formulation of Compton scattering in strong magnetic fields. Such ST formalism is formally correct for treating spin-dependent effects that are important in the cyclotron resonance and has not been addressed before in the context of cooling by Compton scattering. The QED effects are observed to profoundly lower the rates below extrapolations of the familiar magnetic Thomson results, as expected, when recoil and Klein-Nishina reductions become important.