Polarization and structure of relativistic parsec-scale AGN jets
Pariev, V. I.
Oxford University Press
We consider the polarization properties of optically thin synchrotron radiation emitted by relativistically moving electron-positron jets carrying large-scale helical magnetic fields. In our model, the jet is cylindrical and the emitting plasma moves parallel to the jet axis with a characteristic Lorentz factor Gamma. We draw attention to the strong influence that the bulk relativistic motion of the emitting relativistic particles has on the observed polarization. Our computations predict and explain the following behaviour. (i) For jets unresolved in the direction perpendicular to their direction of propagation, the position angle of the electric vector of the linear polarization has a bimodal distribution, being oriented either parallel or perpendicular to the jet. (ii) If an ultra-relativistic jet with Gamma >> 1 whose axis makes a small angle to the line of sight, theta similar to 1/Gamma, experiences a relatively small change in the direction of propagation, velocity or pitch angle of the magnetic fields, the polarization is likely to remain parallel or perpendicular; on the other hand, in some cases, the degree of polarization can exhibit large variations and the polarization position angle can experience abrupt 90 degrees. changes. This change is more likely to occur in jets with flatter spectra. (iii) In order for the jet polarization to be oriented along the jet axis, the intrinsic toroidal magnetic field ( in the frame of the jet) should be of the order of or stronger than the intrinsic poloidal field; in this case, the highly relativistic motion of the jet implies that, in the observer's frame, the jet is strongly dominated by the toroidal magnetic field B(phi)/B(z) >= Gamma. (iv) The emission-weighted average pitch angle of the intrinsic helical field in the jet must not be too small to produce polarization along the jet axis. In force-free jets with a smooth distribution of emissivities, the emission should be generated in a limited range of radii not too close to the jet core. ( v) For mildly relativistic jets, when a counter-jet can be seen, the polarization of the counter-jet is preferentially orthogonal to the axis, unless the jet is strongly dominated by the toroidal magnetic field in its rest frame. ( vi) For resolved jets, the polarization pattern is not symmetric with respect to jet axis. Under certain conditions, this can be used to deduce the direction of the spin of the central object ( black hole or disc), whether it is aligned or anti-aligned with the jet axis. (vii) In resolved 'cylindrical shell' type jets, the central parts of the jet are polarized along the axis, while the outer parts are polarized orthogonal to it, in accordance with observations. We conclude that large-scale magnetic fields can explain the salient polarization properties of parsec-scale AGN jets. Since the typical degrees of polarization are <= 15 per cent, the emitting parts of the jets must have comparable rest-frame toroidal and poloidal fields. In this case, most relativistic jets are strongly dominated by the toroidal magnetic field component in the observer's frame, B(phi)/B(z) >= Gamma. We also discuss the possibility that relativistic AGN jets may be electromagnetically (Poynting flux) dominated. In this case, dissipation of the toroidal magnetic field (and not fluid shocks) may be responsible for particle acceleration.
MHD , Radiation mechanisms , Non-thermal , Galaxies , Active , Jets , Nuclei
Lyutikov, M., Pariev, V. I. and Gabuzda, D. C. (2005) 'Polarization and structure of relativistic parsec-scale AGN jets', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 360(3), pp. 869-891. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2005.08954.x
© 2005, Royal Astronomical Society