skip to main content


This content will become publicly available on January 20, 2017

Title: Polarization signatures of relativistic magnetohydrodynamic shocks in the blazar emission region. I. Force-free helical magnetic fields

The optical radiation and polarization signatures in blazars are known to be highly variable during flaring activities. It is frequently argued that shocks are the main driver of the flaring events. However, the spectral variability modelings generally lack detailed considerations of the self-consistent magnetic field evolution modeling; thus, so far the associated optical polarization signatures are poorly understood. We present the first simultaneous modeling of the optical radiation and polarization signatures based on 3D magnetohydrodynamic simulations of relativistic shocks in the blazar emission environment, with the simplest physical assumptions. By comparing the results with observations, we find that shocks in a weakly magnetized environment will largely lead to significant changes in the optical polarization signatures, which are seldom seen in observations. Hence an emission region with relatively strong magnetization is preferred. In such an environment, slow shocks may produce minor flares with either erratic polarization fluctuations or considerable polarization variations, depending on the parameters; fast shocks can produce major flares with smooth polarization angle rotations. In addition, the magnetic fields in both cases are observed to actively revert to the original topology after the shocks. In addition, all these features are consistent with observations. Future observations of the radiation andmore » polarization signatures will further constrain the flaring mechanism and the blazar emission environment.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4]
  1. Ohio Univ., Athens, OH (United States); Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  2. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States); Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV (United States)
  3. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  4. North-West Univ., Potchefstroom (South Africa)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 1538-4357
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal (Online)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: The Astrophysical Journal (Online); Journal Volume: 817; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 1538-4357
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Research Org:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS astronomy and astrophysics; galaxies: active; galaxies: jets; gamma rays: galaxies; polarization; radiation mechanisms: non-thermal; relativistic processes