Detection of non-thermal X-ray emission in the lobes and jets of Cygnus A

M. N. de Vries, M. W. Wise, D. Huppenkothen, P. E. J. Nulsen, B. Snios, M. J. Hardcastle, M. Birkinshaw, D. M. Worrall, R. T. Duffy, B. R. McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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We present a spectral analysis of the lobes and X-ray jets of Cygnus A, using more than 2 Ms of Chandra observations. The X-ray jets are misaligned with the radio jets and significantly wider. We detect non-thermal emission components in both lobes and jets. For the eastern lobe and jet, we find 1 keV flux densities of 71+10−10 nJy and 24+4−4 nJy, and photon indices of 1.72+0.03−0.03 and 1.64+0.04−0.04 respectively. For the western lobe and jet, we find flux densities of 50+12−13 nJy and 13+5−5 nJy, and photon indices of 1.97+0.23−0.10 and 1.86+0.18−0.12 respectively. Using these results, we modeled the electron energy distributions of the lobes as broken power laws with age breaks. We find that a significant population of non-radiating particles is required to account for the total pressure of the eastern lobe. In the western lobe, no such population is required and the low energy cutoff to the electron distribution there needs to be raised to obtain pressures consistent with observations. This discrepancy is a consequence of the differing X-ray photon indices, which may indicate that the turnover in the inverse-Compton spectrum of the western lobe is at lower energies than in the eastern lobe. We modeled the emission from both jets as inverse-Compton emission. There is a narrow region of parameter space for which the X-ray jet can be a relic of an earlier active phase, although lack of knowledge about the jet's electron distribution and particle content makes the modelling uncertain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4010-4029
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2018


  • X-rays:galaxies
  • galaxies:individual:Cygnus A
  • galaxies:jets


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