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Foundations of High-Energy Astrophysics

Written by one of today’s most highly respected astrophysicists, Foundations of High-Energy Astrophysics is an introduction to the mathematical and physical techniques used in the study of high-energy astrophysics. Here, Mario Vietri approaches the basics of high-energy astrophysics with an emphasis on underlying physical processes as opposed to a more mathematical approach. Alongside more traditional topics, Vietri presents new subjects increasingly considered crucial to understanding high-energy astrophysical sources, including the electrodynamics of cosmic sources, new developments in the theory of standard accretion disks, and the physics of coronae, thick disks, and accretion onto magnetized objects.

The most thorough and engaging survey of high-energy astrophysics available today, Foundations of High-Energy Astrophysics introduces the main physical processes relevant to the field in a rigorous yet accessible way, while paying careful attention to observational issues. Vietri’s book will quickly become a classic text for students and active researchers in astronomy and astrophysics. Those in adjoining fields will also find it a valuable addition to their personal libraries.

568 pages | 49 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Theoretical Astrophysics

Physical Sciences: Astronomy and Astrophysics, Experimental and Applied Physics, Theoretical Physics


“This book provides an elegant, self-contained introduction to fundamental aspects of the physics of high-energy cosmic sources. Great emphasis is placed on physical intuition. Subjects such as hydrodynamics, magnetohydrodynamics, and radiative processes are presented at the level required for applications to high-energy astrophysics. Rigorous derivations are often complemented with simple arguments that facilitate an immediate grasp of the relevant processes. The chapters dealing with nonthermal particles, accretion onto compact objects, and explosions guide the reader through the foundations of some of the most relevant recent developments in these fields. Topics that are rarely addressed in introductory monographs are also treated in this book in a very clear fashion; these include pair-dominated plasmas and the electrodynamics of neutron stars and black holes. This is an excellent book and an invaluable tool for advanced students and researchers in astrophysics.”—Luigi Stella, INAF, Astronomical Observatory of Rome

Luigi Stella, INAF, Astronomical Observatory of Rome

“Mario Vietri’s book provides an excellent pedagogical introduction to the basic elements of high-energy astrophysics. The authoritative text is well balanced to serve both beginning students and advanced researchers. The comprehensive description of hydrodynamic and radiative processes from first principles is applied to the extreme environments near compact objects or energetic shocks. This exceptional combination of basic physics and its applications, rarely found to this level of rigor in a single textbook, demonstrates how fundamental physical principles shape observable phenomena in one of the most exciting frontiers of present-day astrophysics.”

Abraham Loeb, Director, Institute for Theory and Computation and Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University

“Mario Vietri has written a lucid text, for both students and established researchers, that connects exciting research at the frontiers of high-energy astrophysics to basic physical processes.”

Roger Blanford, Director, Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University | Roger Blandford

This book will be a very useful addition to the library of every working theoretical astrophysicist, and a great reference for observers, students and scientists in general who are interested in the subject of high energy astrophysics. The emphasis on physical principles and basic processes, rather than on specific phenomena and observations, ensures that the material is relevant for a wide range of astrophysics applications, and will remain so for a long time.”

Peter Mészáros, Eberly Chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Professor of Physics, Pennsylvania State University

“A quite remarkable book, successful in explaining a wide range of high energy astrophysical phenomena in all their technical and mathematical details and in illustrating numerous physical implications of these phenomena. At the same time, concepts are discussed with such a fascinating style that the reader gets caught up in the learning process and feels able to look at any topic in a completely new way. Mario Vietri is a renowned scientist working in the field of high energy astrophysics. He has contributed seminal papers to different fields, such as galaxy formation, general relativity, gamma ray bursts and cosmic rays. The width and depth of his knowledge and his ability to charm the reader with science are effectively reflected in this book, which may easily become a new reference point for high energy astrophysicists as well as for graduate students willing to build solid foundations.”

Pasquale Blasi, National Institute for Astrophysics, Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory, Florence, Italy

Table of Contents

1 Hydrodynamics
1.1 The Mass Conservation Equation
1.2 The Momentum Conservation Equation
1.3 The Energy Conservation Equation
1.4 Bernoulli’s Theorem
1.5 The Equations of Hydrodynamics in Conservative Form   
1.6 Viscous Fluids
1.7 Small Perturbations 
1.8 Discontinuity
1.8.1 Surfaces of Discontinuity
1.8.2 ShockWaves
1.8.3 Physical Interpretation of Shock Waves
1.8.4 Collisional and Noncollisional Shocks
1.8.5 Formation of a Shock
1.9 Self-similar Solutions
1.9.1 Self-similar Solutions of the Second Kind
1.10 Relativistic Hydrodynamics
1.10.1 Shock Waves in Relativistic Hydrodynamics
1.10.2 The Strong Explosion
1.11 The De Laval Nozzle
1.12 Problems
2 Magnetohydrodynamics and MagneticFields
2.1 Equations of Motion
2.1.1 The Limit of Ideal Magnetohydrodynamics
2.1.2 Equations of Motion in a Conservative Form
2.2 The Force Exerted by the Magnetic Field
2.3 Magnetic Flux Freezing
2.4 Small Perturbations in a Homogeneous Medium
2.5 Stability of Tangential Discontinuities
2.6 Two-Temperature Fluids 
2.7 Magnetic Buoyancy and Reconnection
2.7.1 Magnetic Buoyancy
2.7.2 Reconnection
2.8 Shock Wave
2.9 Magnetic Fields in Astrophysics
2.9.1 Observations
2.9.2 Origin of Magnetic Fields
2.10 Problems
3 Radiative Processes
3.1 Radiative Transport 
3.1.1 Radiation Transport
3.2 Low-Temperature Thermal Emission
3.3 Bremsstrahlung
3.4 Synchrotron  
3.4.1 Power Radiated by a Single Particle
3.4.2 The Spectrum of a Single Particle
3.4.3 The Spectrum of a Group of Nonthermal Particles
3.4.4 Quantum Corrections
3.4.5 Self-absorption
3.4.6 Cyclotron Lines
3.4.7 Processes in an Intense Magnetic Field
3.4.8 The Razin-Tsytovich Effect
3.5 Compton Processes
3.5.1 Physical Mechanism of the Inverse Compton
3.5.2 The Spectrum of Inverse Compton Processes
3.5.3 About the Compton Parameter
3.5.4 Self-synchro-Compton and Compton Limit
3.5.5 Compton Broadening
3.6 Relativistic Effects
3.6.1 Superluminal Motions 
3.6.2 Emission Properties of Relativistic Sources
3.7 Pair Creation and Annihilation
3.8 Cosmological Attenuations
3.8.1 Protons
3.8.2 Photons
3.9 Problems
4 Nonthermal Particles
4.1 The Classic Theory of Acceleration
4.1.1 Acceleration
4.1.2 Injection
4.2 Constraints on the Maximum Energy
4.3 More Details in the Newtonian Limit
4.3.1 From the Vlasov Equation to the Convection-Scattering Equation
4.3.2 Scattering in the Angle of Motion in a Mediumat Rest
4.3.3 Scattering and Convection in a Mediumin Motion
4.4 General Discussion
4.4.1 An Equation for f
4.4.2 The Small Pitch Angle Scattering Limit
4.4.3 Distributions of Probability Pu and Pd
4.4.4 The Particles’ Spectrum
4.4.5 The Equations for Pu and Pd
4.4.6 Results
4.5 The Unipolar Inductor
4.6 Problems
5 Spherical Flows: Accretion and Explosion
5.1 Accretion from Cold Matter
5.2 Accretion from Hot Matter
5.2.1 The Critical Point
5.3 The Intermediate Case
5.4 Doubts about the Bondi Accretion Rate
5.5 The Eddington Luminosity
5.6 The Efficiency of Spherical Accretion
5.7 Explosive Motions
5.7.1 Supernovae
5.7.2 Gamma Ray Bursts
5.8 Problems
6 Disk Accretion I
6.1 Qualitative Introduction   
6.2 Fundamental Equations  
6.3 Special Relations
6.4 The α Prescription
6.5 Equations for the Structure of Disks
6.6 The Standard Solution
6.7 The Origin of Torque
6.8 Disk Stability
6.8.1 Time Scales
6.8.2 Instability
6.9 Lense-Thirring Precession
6.10 Problems
7 Disk Accretion II
7.1 Other Disk Models
7.1.1 The Origin of Particles
7.1.2 Dynamic Peculiarities of Pair Plasmas
7.1.3 The Pair Plasma without Input of External Photons
7.1.4 The Pair Plasma with Input of External Photons
7.2 Thick Accretion Disks
7.2.1 Some General Properties
7.2.2 The Inapplicability of the Eddington Limit
7.2.3 Polytropic Models
7.2.4 Properties of Thick Disks
7.3 Nondissipative Accretion Flows
7.4 Further Developments of the Theory
7.4.1 General-Relativistic Corrections
7.4.2 The Fate of Angular Momentum at Large Radii
7.5 Accretion Disks on Magnetized Objects
7.5.1 The Alfv´en Radius
7.5.2 Interaction between the Disk and the Magnetosphere
7.5.3 Accretion Columns
7.6 Boundary Layers
7.7 Problems
8 Electrodynamics of Compact Objects 419
8.1 The Gold-PaciniMechanism
8.2 The Magnetospheres Surrounding Pulsars
8.2.1 Quasi-Neutral or Charge-Separated Plasma?
8.2.2 The Goldreich and Julian Magnetosphere
8.2.3 The Pulsar Equation
8.2.4 The Solution
8.2.5 The Transport of Angular Momentum
8.2.6 Discussion
8.3 The Blandford-Znajek Model
8.3.1 The Magnetic Field of a Black Hole
8.3.2 The Black Hole Equation
8.3.3 The Transport of Energy and of Angular Momentum
8.3.4 A Qualitative Discussion
8.3.5 A Simplified Discussion of Total Energetics
8.4 The Generation of Charges
8.5 Disk-Jet Coupling
8.5.1 The Lovelace-Blandford Model
8.5.2 A Special Solution
8.5.3 Discussion
8.5.4 A Model Including Inertial Effects
8.5.5 A Special Solution
8.5.6 Results
8.5.7 A Brief Summary 
8.6 Problems
A Propagation of Electromagnetic Waves
B Orbits Around Black Holes
B.1 Problem
C Useful Formulae
C.1 Vector Identities
C.2 Cylindrical Coordinates
C.3 Spherical Coordinates

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