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Constraining the Intergalactic Magnetic Field Through its Imprint on Gamma Ray Data from Distant Sources.


Gamma ray photons, with energies >TeV propagating cosmological distances will be attenuated by pair production with diffuse extragalactic background photon fields-both the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation and the UV - far-IR extragalactic background light (EBL). The produced electron/positron pairs will subsequently inverse Compton scatter background photons up to GeV - TeV energies, and some of these upscattered photons may also initiate pair production in the formation of an electromagnetic cascade. If an intergalactic magnetic field (IGMF) exists on cosmological length scales of relevance to the cascade, it will deflect the electrons and positrons and will leave an imprint on the resulting spectral, angular, and temporal properties of the cascade radiation. The primary goal of this study was to constrain the properties of the IGMF using data from known sources of TeV gamma-rays.

This thesis describes the construction of a high precision, 3-dimensional, particle-tracking Monte Carlo simulation code to model the intergalactic electromagnetic cascade, and uses it to systematically explore the effects of the IGMF on the cascades in multiple observational domains. We then compare the simulations with gamma-ray data from current generation ground-based gamma-ray instruments such as VERITAS, HESS, and MAGIC, sensitive to TeV-scale energies, as well as the Fermi satellite, sensitive to the GeV-scale.

This novel technique of constraining the IGMF has rapidly emerged over the last decade as gamma-ray instruments have become more sensitive and as theoretical understanding of the cascade process has progressed. This emerging field has proven to be richly complex and we find that the data from current generation gamma-ray instruments do not allow for an unambiguous upper or lower limit to be placed on the IGMF at present. We do find it likely that the next generation ground based gamma-ray observatory, the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) will be able to detect unambiguous signatures of gamma-ray cascading if the IGMF magnitude is within a certain range, and thus provide a robust constraint on IGMF properties.

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