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Synchrotron Radiation

Synchrotron radiation

Synchrotron Radiation

SR is short for Synchrotron radiation. It's emitted when a charged particle encounters a strong magnetic field. The particle then accelerates along a spiral path following the magnetic field and emitting radio waves in the process. The result is a distinct radio signature revealing the strength of the magnetic field.

SR is produced by the spiraling electrons along Birkeland currents. Non-relativistic moving particles produce radiation called cyclotron emission. Relativistic moving particles produce synchrotron emission.

The radiation is generated by astronomical objects, around which relativistic electrons spiral (and hence change velocity) through magnetic fields. The radiation produced has a characteristic polarization, and the frequencies generated can range over the entire electromagnetic spectrum, which is then called continuum radiation.

M87 jet emitting synchrotron radiation

Messier 87's jet, HST image. The blue light from the jet emerging from the bright active galactic nucleus towards the lower right, is due to SR.

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