A "boosted fireball" model for structured relativistic jets

Paul C. Duffell, Andrew I. Macfadyen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We present a model for relativistic jets which generates a particular angular distribution of Lorentz factor and energy per solid angle. We consider a fireball with specific internal energy E/M launched with bulk Lorentz factor γB. In its center-of-momentum frame the fireball expands isotropically, converting its internal energy into radially expanding flow with asymptotic Lorentz factor η0 ∼ E/M. In the lab frame the flow is beamed, expanding with Lorentz factor Γ = 2η0γ B in the direction of its initial bulk motion and with characteristic opening angle θ0 ∼ 1/γB . The flow is jet-like with Γθ0 ∼ 2η0 such that jets with Γ > 1/θ0 are naturally produced. The choice η0 ∼ γB ∼ 10 yields a jet with Γ ∼ 200 on-axis and angular structure characterized by opening angle θ0 ∼ 0.1 of relevance for cosmological gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), while γ B ≳ 1 may be relevant for low-luminosity GRBs. The model produces a family of outflows, of relevance for different relativistic phenomena with structures completely determined by η0 and γB . We calculate the energy per unit solid angle for the model and use it to compute light curves for comparison with the widely used top-hat model. The jet break in the boosted fireball light curve is greatly subdued when compared to the top-hat model because the edge of the jet is smoother than for a top-hat. This may explain missing jet breaks in afterglow light curves.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberL9
    JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Oct 10 2013


    • gamma-ray burst: general
    • hydrodynamics
    • relativistic processes
    • shock waves

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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