The role of resonant plasma instabilities in the evolution of blazar-induced pair beams

Roy Perry, Yury Lyubarsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The fate of relativistic pair beams produced in the intergalactic medium by very high energy emission from blazars remains controversial in the literature. The possible role of resonance beam plasma instability has been studied both analytically and numerically but no consensus has been reached. In this paper, we thoroughly analyse the development of this type of instability. This analysis takes into account that a highly relativistic beam loses energy only due to interactions with the plasma waves propagating within the opening angle of the beam (we call them parallel waves), whereas excitation of oblique waves results merely in an angular spreading of the beam, which reduces the instability growth rate. For parallel waves, the growth rate is a few times larger than for oblique ones, so they grow faster than oblique waves and drain energy from the beam before it expands. However, the specific property of extragalactic beams is that they are extraordinarily narrow; the opening angle is only ∆θ ∼ 10−6 to 10−5. In this case, the width of the resonance for parallel waves, ∝∆θ2, is too small for them to grow in realistic conditions. We perform both analytical estimates and numerical simulations in the quasi-linear regime. These show that for extragalactic beams, the growth of the waves is incapable of taking a significant portion of the beam's energy. This type of instability could at best lead to an expansion of the beam by some factor but the beam's energy remains nearly intact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2215-2228
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2021


  • Galaxies: jets
  • Instabilities
  • Intergalactic medium
  • Plasmas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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