Galactic cosmic-ray scattering due to intermittent structures

Iryna S. Butsky, Philip F. Hopkins, Philipp Kempski, Sam B. Ponnada, Eliot Quataert, Jonathan Squire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Cosmic rays (CRs) with energies ≪ TeV comprise a significant component of the interstellar medium (ISM). Major uncertainties in CR behaviour on observable scales (much larger than CR gyroradii) stem from how magnetic fluctuations scatter CRs in pitch angle. Traditional first-principles models, which assume these magnetic fluctuations are weak and uniformly scatter CRs in a homogeneous ISM, struggle to reproduce basic observables such as the dependence of CR residence times and scattering rates on rigidity. We therefore explore a new category of ‘patchy’ CR scattering models, wherein CRs are pre-dominantly scattered by intermittent strong scattering structures with small volume-filling factors. These models produce the observed rigidity dependence with a simple size distribution constraint, such that larger scattering structures are rarer but can scatter a wider range of CR energies. To reproduce the empirically inferred CR scattering rates, the mean free path between scattering structures must be ℓmfp ∼ 10 pc at GeV energies. We derive constraints on the sizes, internal properties, mass/volume-filling factors, and the number density any such structures would need to be both physically and observationally consistent. We consider a range of candidate structures, both large scale (e.g. H II regions) and small scale (e.g. intermittent turbulent structures, perhaps even associated with radio plasma scattering) and show that while many macroscopic candidates can be immediately ruled out as the primary CR scattering sites, many smaller structures remain viable and merit further theoretical study. We discuss future observational constraints that could test these models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4245-4254
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume528
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • ISM: structure
  • cosmic rays
  • galaxies: evolution
  • plasmas
  • turbulence

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