(6 votes from 5 institutions)
Relativistic reconnection has been invoked as a mechanism for particle acceleration in numerous astrophysical systems. According to idealised analytical models reconnection produces a bulk relativistic outflow emerging from the reconnection sites (X-points). The resulting radiation is therefore highly beamed. Using two-dimensional particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations, we investigate particle and radiation beaming, finding a very different picture. Instead of having a relativistic average bulk motion with isotropic electron velocity distribution in its rest frame, we find that the bulk motion of particles in X-points is similar to their Lorentz factor gamma, and the particles are beamed within about 5/gamma. On the way from the X-point to the magnetic islands, particles turn in the magnetic field, forming a fan confined to the current sheet. Once they reach the islands they isotropise after completing a full Larmor gyration and their radiation is not strongly beamed anymore. The radiation pattern at a given frequency depends on where the corresponding emitting electrons radiate their energy. Lower energy particles that cool slowly spend most of their time in the islands, and their radiation is not highly beamed. Only particles that quickly cool at the edge of the X-points generate a highly beamed fan-like radiation pattern. The radiation emerging from these fast cooling particles is above the burn-off limit (about 100 MeV in the overall rest frame of the reconnecting plasma.) This has significant implications for models of GRBs and AGNs that invoke beaming in that frame at much lower energies.