The 511 keV line from positron annihilation in the Galaxy was the first γ-ray line detected to originate from outside our solar system. Going into the fifth decade since the discovery, the source of positrons is still unconfirmed and remains one of the enduring mysteries in γ-ray astronomy. With a large flux of ∼10−3 γ/cm2/s, after 15 years in operation INTEGRAL/SPI has detected the 511 keV line at >50σ and has performed high-resolution spectral studies which conclude that Galactic positrons predominantly annihilate at low energies in warm phases of the interstellar medium. The results from imaging are less certain, but show a spatial distribution with a strong concentration in the center of the Galaxy. The observed emission from the Galactic disk has low surface brightness and the scale height is poorly constrained, therefore, the shear number of annihilating positrons in our Galaxy is still not well know. Positrons produced in β+-decay of nucleosynthesis products, such as 26Al, can account for some of the annihilation emission in the disk, but the observed spatial distribution, in particular the excess in the Galactic bulge, remains difficult to explain. Additionally, one of the largest uncertainties in these studies is the unknown distance that positrons propagate before annihilation. In this paper, we will summarize the current knowledge base of Galactic positrons, and discuss how next-generation instruments could finally provide the answers.
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 13 Mar 2019|
- Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena