The origin of galactic cosmic rays
The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review
One century ago Viktor Hess carried out several balloon flights that led him to conclude that the penetrating radiation responsible for the discharge of electroscopes was of extraterrestrial origin. One century from the discovery of this phenomenon seems to be a good time to stop and think about what we have understood about Cosmic Rays. The aim of this review is to illustrate the ideas that have been and are being explored in order to account for the observable quantities related to cosmic
... and to summarize the numerous new pieces of observation that are becoming available. In fact, despite the possible impression that development in this field is somewhat slow, the rate of new discoveries in the last decade or so has been impressive, and mainly driven by beautiful pieces of observation. At the same time scientists in this field have been able to propose new, fascinating ways to investigate particle acceleration inside the sources, making use of multifrequency observations that range from the radio, to the optical, to X-rays and gamma rays. These ideas can now be confronted with data. I will mostly focus on supernova remnants as the most plausible sources of Galactic cosmic rays, and I will review the main aspects of the modern theory of diffusive particle acceleration at supernova remnant shocks, with special attention for the dynamical reaction of accelerated particles on the shock and the phenomenon of magnetic field amplification at the shock. Cosmic ray escape from the sources is discussed as a necessary step to determine the spectrum of cosmic rays at the Earth. In the end of this review I will also discuss the phenomenon of cosmic ray acceleration at shocks propagating in partially ionized media and the implications of this phenomenon in terms of width of the Balmer line emission.