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Publication details

Observation of a sudden cessation of a very-high-energy gamma-ray flare in PKS 1510-089 with H.E.S.S. and MAGIC in May 2016

HESS collaboration, Abdalla et al.; MAGIC collaboration, Acciari et al.


Accepted for publication in Astron. Astrophys., 2020

External urlarXiv abstract

(Submitted on 18 Dec 2020, last revised 18 Dec 2020)


The flat spectrum radio quasar (FSRQ) PKS 1510-089 is known for its complex multiwavelength behavior, and is one of only a few FSRQs detected at very high energy (VHE, $E>100\,$GeV) $\gamma$-rays. VHE $\gamma$-ray observations with H.E.S.S. and MAGIC during late May and early June 2016 resulted in the detection of an unprecedented flare, which reveals for the first time VHE $\gamma$-ray intranight variability in this source. While a common variability timescale of $1.5\,$hr is found, there is a significant deviation near the end of the flare with a timescale of $\sim 20\,$min marking the cessation of the event. The peak flux is nearly two orders of magnitude above the low-level emission. For the first time, curvature is detected in the VHE $\gamma$-ray spectrum of PKS 1510-089, which is fully explained through absorption by the extragalactic background light. Optical R-band observations with ATOM reveal a counterpart of the $\gamma$-ray flare, even though the detailed flux evolution differs from the VHE ightcurve. Interestingly, a steep flux decrease is observed at the same time as the cessation of the VHE flare. In the high energy (HE, $E>100\,$MeV) $\gamma$-ray band only a moderate flux increase is observed with Fermi-LAT, while the HE $\gamma$-ray spectrum significantly hardens up to a photon index of 1.6. A search for broad-line region (BLR) absorption features in the $\gamma$-ray spectrum indicates that the emission region is located outside of the BLR. Radio VLBI observations reveal a fast moving knot interacting with a standing jet feature around the time of the flare. As the standing feature is located $\sim 50\,$pc from the black hole, the emission region of the flare may have been located at a significant distance from the black hole. If this correlation is indeed true, VHE $\gamma$ rays have been produced far down the jet where turbulent plasma crosses a standing shock.