The Crab Nebula super-flare in 2011 april: Extremely fast particle acceleration and gamma-ray emission

E. Striani, M. Tavani, G. Piano, I. Donnarumma, G. Pucella, V. Vittorini, A. Bulgarelli, A. Trois, C. Pittori, F. Verrecchia, E. Costa, M. Weisskopf, A. Tennant, A. Argan, G. Barbiellini, P. Caraveo, M. Cardillo, P.W. Cattaneo, A.W. Chen, G. De ParisE. Del Monte, G. Di Cocco, Y. Evangelista, A. Ferrari, M. Feroci, F. Fuschino, M. Galli, F. Gianotti, A. Giuliani, C. Labanti, I. Lapshov, F. Lazzarotto, F. Longo, M. Marisaldi, S. Mereghetti, A. Morselli, L. Pacciani, A. Pellizzoni, F. Perotti, P. Picozza, M. Pilia, M. Rapisarda, A. Rappoldi, S. Sabatini, P. Soffitta, M. Trifoglio, S. Vercellone, F. Lucarelli, P. Santolamazza, P. Giommi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Citations (Scopus)


We report on the extremely intense and fast gamma-ray flare above 100MeV detected by AGILE from the Crab Nebula in mid-April 2011. This event is the fourth of a sequence of reported major gamma-ray flares produced by the Crab Nebula in the period 2007/mid-2011. These events are attributed to strong radiative and plasma instabilities in the inner Crab Nebula, and their properties are crucial for theoretical studies of fast and efficient particle acceleration up to 1015eV. Here we study the very rapid flux and spectral evolution of the event that on 2011 April 16 reached the record-high peak flux of F = (26 5) × 10-6photons cm-2s-1with a rise-time timescale that we determine to be in the range 6-10hr. The peak flaring gamma-ray spectrum reaches a distinct maximum near 500MeV with no substantial emission above 1 GeV. The very rapid rise time and overall evolution of the Crab Nebula flare strongly constrain the acceleration mechanisms and challenge MHD models. We briefly discuss the theoretical implications of our observations. © 2011. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL5
Pages (from-to)-
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Striani, E., Tavani, M., Piano, G., Donnarumma, I., Pucella, G., Vittorini, V., ... Giommi, P. (2011). The Crab Nebula super-flare in 2011 april: Extremely fast particle acceleration and gamma-ray emission. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 741(1), -. [L5].