Fermi-LAT observations of the diffuse γ-ray emission: Implications for cosmic rays and the interstellar medium

M. Ackermann*, M. Ajello, W. B. Atwood, L. Baldini, J. Ballet, G. Barbiellini, D. Bastieri, K. Bechtol, R. Bellazzini, B. Berenji, R. D. Blandford, E. D. Bloom, E. Bonamente, A. W. Borgland, T. J. Brandt, J. Bregeon, M. Brigida, P. Bruel, R. Buehler, S. BusonG. A. Caliandro, R. A. Cameron, P. A. Caraveo, E. Cavazzuti, C. Cecchi, E. Charles, A. Chekhtman, J. Chiang, S. Ciprini, R. Claus, J. Cohen-Tanugi, J. Conrad, S. Cutini, A. De Angelis, F. De Palma, C. D. Dermer, S. W. Digel, E. Do Couto E Silva, P. S. Drell, A. Drlica-Wagner, L. Falletti, C. Favuzzi, S. J. Fegan, E. C. Ferrara, W. B. Focke, P. Fortin, Y. Fukazawa, S. Funk, P. Fusco, D. Gaggero, F. Gargano, S. Germani, N. Giglietto, F. Giordano, M. Giroletti, T. Glanzman, G. Godfrey, J. E. Grove, S. Guiriec, M. Gustafsson, D. Hadasch, Y. Hanabata, A. K. Harding, M. Hayashida, E. Hays, D. Horan, X. Hou, R. E. Hughes, G. Jóhannesson, A. S. Johnson, R. P. Johnson, T. Kamae, H. Katagiri, J. Kataoka, J. Knödlseder, M. Kuss, J. Lande, L. Latronico, S. H. Lee, M. Lemoine-Goumard, F. Longo, F. Loparco, B. Lott, M. N. Lovellette, P. Lubrano, M. N. Mazziotta, J. E. McEnery, P. F. Michelson, W. Mitthumsiri, T. Mizuno, C. Monte, M. E. Monzani, A. Morselli, I. V. Moskalenko, S. Murgia, M. Naumann-Godo, J. P. Norris, E. Nuss, T. Ohsugi, A. Okumura, N. Omodei, E. Orlando, J. F. Ormes, D. Paneque, J. H. Panetta, D. Parent, M. Pesce-Rollins, M. Pierbattista, F. Piron, G. Pivato, T. A. Porter, S. Rainò, R. Rando, M. Razzano, S. Razzaque, A. Reimer, O. Reimer, H. F.W. Sadrozinski, C. Sgrò, E. J. Siskind, G. Spandre, P. Spinelli, A. W. Strong, D. J. Suson, H. Takahashi, T. Tanaka, J. G. Thayer, J. B. Thayer, D. J. Thompson, L. Tibaldo, M. Tinivella, D. F. Torres, G. Tosti, E. Troja, T. L. Usher, J. Vandenbroucke, V. Vasileiou, G. Vianello, V. Vitale, A. P. Waite, P. Wang, B. L. Winer, K. S. Wood, M. Wood, Z. Yang, M. Ziegler, S. Zimmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

536 Citations (Scopus)


The γ-ray sky >100 MeV is dominated by the diffuse emissions from interactions of cosmic rays with the interstellar gas and radiation fields of the Milky Way. Observations of these diffuse emissions provide a tool to study cosmic-ray origin and propagation, and the interstellar medium. We present measurements from the first 21 months of the Fermi Large Area Telescope (Fermi-LAT) mission and compare with models of the diffuse γ-ray emission generated using the GALPROP code. The models are fitted to cosmic-ray data and incorporate astrophysical input for the distribution of cosmic-ray sources, interstellar gas, and radiation fields. To assess uncertainties associated with the astrophysical input, a grid of models is created by varying within observational limits the distribution of cosmic-ray sources, the size of the cosmic-ray confinement volume (halo), and the distribution of interstellar gas. An all-sky maximum-likelihood fit is used to determine the X CO factor, the ratio between integrated CO-line intensity and H2 column density, the fluxes and spectra of the γ-ray point sources from the first Fermi-LAT catalog, and the intensity and spectrum of the isotropic background including residual cosmic rays that were misclassified as γ-rays, all of which have some dependency on the assumed diffuse emission model. The models are compared on the basis of their maximum-likelihood ratios as well as spectra, longitude, and latitude profiles. We also provide residual maps for the data following subtraction of the diffuse emission models. The models are consistent with the data at high and intermediate latitudes but underpredict the data in the inner Galaxy for energies above a few GeV. Possible explanations for this discrepancy are discussed, including the contribution by undetected point-source populations and spectral variations of cosmic rays throughout the Galaxy. In the outer Galaxy, we find that the data prefer models with a flatter distribution of cosmic-ray sources, a larger cosmic-ray halo, or greater gas density than is usually assumed. Our results in the outer Galaxy are consistent with other Fermi-LAT studies of this region that used different analysis methods than employed in this paper.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 May 1


  • ISM: general
  • cosmic rays
  • dust, extinction
  • gamma rays: ISM
  • gamma rays: general
  • radiation mechanisms: non-thermal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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