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Origin of low energy cosmic ray positrons at energies ≳2 MeV

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Abstract

It is shown that an appreciable flux of positrons below ∼a few MeV in the cosmic radiation could arise from the decay of cobalt nuclei in the decay chain56Ni→56Co→56Fe, which occurs in the silicon burning shells of supernovae just after their ejection at relativistic velocities. The equilibrium spectrum of positrons in the interstellar space has been calculated on the assumption that the observed abundance of iron nuclei in the cosmic radiation is the result of the above process. It is found that the observation below about 10 MeV can be well explained with a moderate acceleration of the positrons in the expanding envelope of supernovae prior to their propagation in the interstellar space. The total56Ni content in the shells of supernova necessary to account for the observed positrons is in agreement with that required to explain the peak luminosity during the supernova outburst. Since this model deals with positrons created at the time of injection of cosmic rays into the interstellar space, it becomes possible to study the shape of the injection spectrum of cosmic rays.

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On leave from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, India.

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Burger, J.J., Stephens, S.A. & Swanenburg, B.N. Origin of low energy cosmic ray positrons at energies ≳2 MeV. Astrophys Space Sci 8, 20–28 (1970). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00651651

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Keywords

  • Burning
  • Cobalt
  • Relativistic Velocity
  • Cosmic Radiation
  • Iron Nucleus