A novel approach in constraining electron spectra in blazar jets: The case of markarian 421

Masayoshi Ushio*, Łukasz Stawarz, Tadayuki Takahashi, David Paneque, Grzegorz Madejski, Masaaki Hayashida, Jun Kataoka, Yasuyuki T. Tanaka, Takaaki Tanaka, Michałl Ostrowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


We report results from the observations of the well-studied TeV blazar Mrk 421 with the Swift and the Suzaku satellites in 2008 December. During the observation, Mrk 421 was found in a relatively low activity state, with the corresponding 2-10 keV flux of 3 × 10-10 erg s-1 cm-2. For the purpose of robustly constraining the UV-to-X-ray emission continuum we selected only the data corresponding to truly simultaneous time intervals between Swift and Suzaku, allowing us to obtain a good-quality, broadband spectrum despite a modest length (0.6 ks) exposure. We analyzed the spectrum with the parametric forward-fitting SYNCHROTRON model implemented in XSPEC assuming two different representations of the underlying electron energy distribution, both well motivated by the current particle acceleration models: a power-law distribution above the minimum energy γmin with an exponential cutoff at the maximum energy γmax, and a modified ultra-relativistic Maxwellian with an equilibrium energy γeq. We found that the latter implies unlikely physical conditions within the blazar zone of Mrk 421. On the other hand, the exponentially moderated power-law electron distribution gives two possible sets of the model parameters: (1) flat spectrum dN'e/dγ α γ-1.91 with low minimum electron energy γmin × 103, and (2) steep spectrum α γ-2.77 with high minimum electron energy γmin ∼2× 104. We discuss different interpretations of both possibilities in the context of a diffusive acceleration of electrons at relativistic, sub-or superluminal shocks. We also comment on exactly how the γ-ray data can be used to discriminate between the different proposed scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1509-1516
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Dec 1


  • Acceleration of particles
  • BL lacertae objects
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: jets
  • Individual (markarian 421)
  • Radiation mechanisms: non-thermal
  • X-rays: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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