Spectral analysis and interpretation of the Y-ray emission from the starburst galaxy NGC 253

13 November 2013

Very high energy (VHE; E ≥ 100 GeV) and high-energy (HE; 100 MeV ≤ E ≤ 100 GeV) data from γ-ray observations performed with the H.E.S.S. telescope array and the Fermi-LAT instrument, respectively, are analyzed in order to investigate the non-thermal processes in the starburst galaxy NGC 253. The VHE γ-ray data can be described by a power law in energy with differential photon index Γ = 2.14 ± 0.18stat ± 0.30sys and differential flux normalization at 1 TeV of F 0 = (9.6 ± 1.5stat(+ 5.7, –2.9)sys) × 10–14 TeV–1 cm–2 s–1. A power-law fit to the differential HE γ-ray spectrum reveals a photon index of Γ = 2.24 ± 0.14stat ± 0.03sys and an integral flux between 200 MeV and 200 GeV of F(0.2-200 GeV) = (4.9 ± 1.0stat ± 0.3sys) × 10–9 cm–2 s–1. No evidence for a spectral break or turnover is found over the dynamic range of both the LAT instrument and the H.E.S.S. experiment: a combined fit of a power law to the HE and VHE γ-ray data results in a differential photon index Γ = 2.34 ± 0.03 with a p-value of 30%. The γ-ray observations indicate that at least about 20% of the energy of the cosmic rays (CRs) capable of producing hadronic interactions is channeled into pion production. The smooth alignment between the spectra in the HE and VHE γ-ray domain suggests that the same transport processes dominate in the entire energy range. Advection is most likely responsible for charged particle removal from the starburst nucleus from GeV to multiple TeV energies. In a hadronic scenario for the γ-ray production, the single overall power-law spectrum observed would therefore correspond to the mean energy spectrum produced by the ensemble of CR sources in the starburst region.