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Title: Polarization Signatures of Kink Instabilities in the Blazar Emission Region from Relativistic Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations

Abstract

Kink instabilities are likely to occur in the current-carrying magnetized plasma jets. Recent observations of the blazar radiation and polarization signatures suggest that the blazar emission region may be considerably magnetized. While the kink instability has been studied with first-principle magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations, the corresponding time-dependent radiation and polarization signatures have not been investigated. Here, in this paper, we perform comprehensive polarization-dependent radiation modeling of the kink instability in the blazar emission region based on relativistic MHD (RMHD) simulations. We find that the kink instability may give rise to strong flares with polarization angle (PA) swings or weak flares with polarization fluctuations, depending on the initial magnetic topology and magnetization. These findings are consistent with observations. In addition, compared with the shock model, the kink model generates polarization signatures that are in better agreement with the general polarization observations. Therefore, we suggest that kink instabilities may widely exist in the jet environment and provide an efficient way to convert the magnetic energy and produce multiwavelength flares and polarization variations.

Authors:
 [1]; ORCiD logo [2]; ORCiD logo [2]; ORCiD logo [3]
  1. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM (United States); Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  2. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  3. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) (SC-24)
OSTI Identifier:
1356137
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-16-27859
Journal ID: ISSN 1538-4357
Grant/Contract Number:
AC52-06NA25396
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal (Online)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: The Astrophysical Journal (Online); Journal Volume: 835; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 1538-4357
Publisher:
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS; galaxies: active; galaxies: jets; gamma rays: galaxies; radiation mechanisms: non-thermal; relativistic processes

Citation Formats

Zhang, Haocheng, Li, Hui, Guo, Fan, and Taylor, Greg. Polarization Signatures of Kink Instabilities in the Blazar Emission Region from Relativistic Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/835/2/125.
Zhang, Haocheng, Li, Hui, Guo, Fan, & Taylor, Greg. Polarization Signatures of Kink Instabilities in the Blazar Emission Region from Relativistic Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations. United States. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/835/2/125.
Zhang, Haocheng, Li, Hui, Guo, Fan, and Taylor, Greg. Mon . "Polarization Signatures of Kink Instabilities in the Blazar Emission Region from Relativistic Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations". United States. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/835/2/125. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1356137.
@article{osti_1356137,
title = {Polarization Signatures of Kink Instabilities in the Blazar Emission Region from Relativistic Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations},
author = {Zhang, Haocheng and Li, Hui and Guo, Fan and Taylor, Greg},
abstractNote = {Kink instabilities are likely to occur in the current-carrying magnetized plasma jets. Recent observations of the blazar radiation and polarization signatures suggest that the blazar emission region may be considerably magnetized. While the kink instability has been studied with first-principle magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations, the corresponding time-dependent radiation and polarization signatures have not been investigated. Here, in this paper, we perform comprehensive polarization-dependent radiation modeling of the kink instability in the blazar emission region based on relativistic MHD (RMHD) simulations. We find that the kink instability may give rise to strong flares with polarization angle (PA) swings or weak flares with polarization fluctuations, depending on the initial magnetic topology and magnetization. These findings are consistent with observations. In addition, compared with the shock model, the kink model generates polarization signatures that are in better agreement with the general polarization observations. Therefore, we suggest that kink instabilities may widely exist in the jet environment and provide an efficient way to convert the magnetic energy and produce multiwavelength flares and polarization variations.},
doi = {10.3847/1538-4357/835/2/125},
journal = {The Astrophysical Journal (Online)},
number = 2,
volume = 835,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Jan 23 00:00:00 EST 2017},
month = {Mon Jan 23 00:00:00 EST 2017}
}

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  • Kink instabilities are likely to occur in the current-carrying magnetized plasma jets. Recent observations of the blazar radiation and polarization signatures suggest that the blazar emission region may be considerably magnetized. While the kink instability has been studied with first-principle magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations, the corresponding time-dependent radiation and polarization signatures have not been investigated. In this paper, we perform comprehensive polarization-dependent radiation modeling of the kink instability in the blazar emission region based on relativistic MHD (RMHD) simulations. We find that the kink instability may give rise to strong flares with polarization angle (PA) swings or weak flares with polarizationmore » fluctuations, depending on the initial magnetic topology and magnetization. These findings are consistent with observations. Compared with the shock model, the kink model generates polarization signatures that are in better agreement with the general polarization observations. Therefore, we suggest that kink instabilities may widely exist in the jet environment and provide an efficient way to convert the magnetic energy and produce multiwavelength flares and polarization variations.« less
  • 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 inmore » 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. All these features are consistent with observations. Future observations of the radiation and polarization signatures will further constrain the flaring mechanism and the blazar emission environment.« less
  • 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 inmore » 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 and polarization signatures will further constrain the flaring mechanism and the blazar emission environment.« less
  • We present a newly developed time-dependent three-dimensional multizone hadronic blazar emission model. By coupling a Fokker–Planck-based lepto-hadronic particle evolution code, 3DHad, with a polarization-dependent radiation transfer code, 3DPol, we are able to study the time-dependent radiation and polarization signatures of a hadronic blazar model for the first time. Our current code is limited to parameter regimes in which the hadronic γ-ray output is dominated by proton synchrotron emission, neglecting pion production. Our results demonstrate that the time-dependent flux and polarization signatures are generally dominated by the relation between the synchrotron cooling and the light-crossing timescale, which is largely independent ofmore » the exact model parameters. We find that unlike the low-energy polarization signatures, which can vary rapidly in time, the high-energy polarization signatures appear stable. Lastly, future high-energy polarimeters may be able to distinguish such signatures from the lower and more rapidly variable polarization signatures expected in leptonic models.« less
  • We revisit the concept of a blazar sequence that relates the synchrotron peak frequency ({nu}{sub peak}) in blazars with synchrotron peak luminosity (L{sub peak}, in {nu}L{sub {nu}}) using a large sample of radio-loud active galactic nuclei. We present observational evidence that the blazar sequence is formed from two populations in the synchrotron {nu}{sub peak}-L{sub peak} plane, each forming an upper edge to an envelope of progressively misaligned blazars, and connecting to an adjacent group of radio galaxies having jets viewed at much larger angles to the line of sight. When binned by jet kinetic power (L{sub kin}; as measured throughmore » a scaling relationship with extended radio power), we find that radio core dominance decreases with decreasing synchrotron L{sub peak}, revealing that sources in the envelope are generally more misaligned. We find population-based evidence of velocity gradients in jets at low kinetic powers ({approx}10{sup 42}-10{sup 44.5} erg s{sup -1}), corresponding to Fanaroff-Riley (FR) I radio galaxies and most BL Lac objects. These low jet power 'weak-jet' sources, thought to exhibit radiatively inefficient accretion, are distinguished from the population of non-decelerating, low synchrotron-peaking (LSP) blazars and FR II radio galaxies ('strong' jets) which are thought to exhibit radiatively efficient accretion. The two-population interpretation explains the apparent contradiction of the existence of highly core-dominated, low-power blazars at both low and high synchrotron peak frequencies, and further implies that most intermediate synchrotron peak sources are not intermediate in intrinsic jet power between LSP and high synchrotron-peaking (HSP) sources, but are more misaligned versions of HSP sources with similar jet powers.« less