Extragalactic circuits, transmission lines, and CR particle acceleration
1 University of Toronto, Department of Physics, 60 St George Street, Toronto M5S 1A7, Canada
2 Cornell University, Department of Astronomy, Ithaca NY 14853, USA
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Published online: 4 August 2015
A non-negligible fraction of a Supermassive Black Hole's (SMBH) rest mass energy gets transported into extragalactic space by a remarkable process in jets which are incompletely understood. What are the physical processes which transport this energy? It is likely that the energy flows electromagnetically, rather than via a particle beam flux. The deduced electromagnetic fields may produce particles of energy as high as ∼ 1020 eV. The energetics of SMBH accretion disk models and the electromagnetic energy transfer imply that a SMBH should generate a 1018 − 1019 Ampères current close to the black hole and its accretion disk. We describe the so far best observation-based estimate of the magnitude of the current flow along the axis of the jet extending from the nucleus of the active galaxy in 3C303. The current is measured to be I ∼ 1018 Ampères at ∼ 40 kpc away from the AGN. This indicates that organised current flow remains intact over multi-kpc distances. The electric current I transports electromagnetic power into free space, P = I2Z, where Z ∼ 30 Ohms is related to the impedance of free space, and this points to the existence of cosmic electric circuit. The associated electric potential drop, V = IZ, is of the order of that required to generate Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECR). We also explore further implications, including disruption/deflection of the power flow and also why such measurements, exemplified by those on 3C303, are currently very difficult to make and to unambiguously interpret. This naturally leads to the topic of how such measurements can be extended and improved in the future. We describe the analogy of electromagnetically dominated jets with transmission lines. High powered jets in vacuo can be understood by approximate analogy with a waveguide. The importance of inductance, impedance, and other laboratory electrical concepts are discussed in this context.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2015
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