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Title: The Maximum Energy of Shock-accelerated Cosmic Rays

Identifying the accelerators of Galactic cosmic ray (CR) protons with energies up to a few PeV (1015eV) remains a theoretical and observational challenge. Supernova remnants (SNRs) represent strong candidates because they provide sufficient energetics to reproduce the CR flux observed at Earth. However, it remains unclear whether they can accelerate particles to PeV energies, particularly after the very early stages of their evolution. This uncertainty has prompted searches for other source classes and necessitates comprehensive theoretical modeling of the maximum proton energy,Emax, accelerated by an arbitrary shock. While analytic estimates ofEmaxhave been put forward in the literature, they do not fully account for the complex interplay between particle acceleration, magnetic field amplification, and shock evolution. This paper uses a multizone, semianalytic model of particle acceleration based on kinetic simulations to place constraints onEmaxfor a wide range of astrophysical shocks. In particular, we develop relationships betweenEmax, shock velocity, size, and ambient medium. We find that SNRs can only accelerate PeV particles under a select set of circumstances, namely, if the shock velocity exceeds ∼104km s−1and escaping particles drive magnetic field amplification. However, older and slower SNRs may still produce observational signatures of PeV particles due to populations accelerated when the shock was younger. Our results serve as a reference for modelers seeking to quickly produce a self-consistent estimate of the maximum energy accelerated by an arbitrary astrophysical shock.1

Presented as a thesis to the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, The University of Chicago, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph.D. degree.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
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Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 3
["Article No. 3"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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