skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Large-amplitude Blazar Polarization Angle Swing as a Signature of Magnetic Reconnection

Abstract

We report that relativistic magnetic reconnection events may exist in magnetized plasmas in astrophysical systems. During this process, oppositely directed magnetic field lines reconnect and release magnetic energy, efficiently accelerating nonthermal particles. However, so far there is little clear observational signatures of relativistic magnetic reconnection events in astrophysical systems. Blazars are relativistic magnetized plasma outflows from supermassive black holes. Their multi-wavelength flares may be powered by relativistic magnetic reconnection. The highly variable radiation and polarization signatures are well covered by multi-wavelength observation campaigns, making them ideal targets to examine the magnetic reconnection model. Recent observations have found that several blazar flares are accompanied by optical polarization angle swings that may have an amplitude as large as >180°, challenging existing theoretical models. In this Letter, we present integrated particle-in-cell and polarized radiation transfer simulations of magnetic reconnection events. We find that plasmoid coalescences in the reconnection layer can give rise to highly variable light curves, low and fluctuating polarization degree, and rotating polarization angle. Lastly, in particular, large-amplitude polarization angle swings, similar to those observed during blazar flares, can be a unique signature of relativistic magnetic reconnection events.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [2]; ORCiD logo [2];  [1]
  1. Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN (United States)
  2. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program
OSTI Identifier:
1484652
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-18-24854
Journal ID: ISSN 2041-8213
Grant/Contract Number:  
89233218CNA000001
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal. Letters
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 862; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 2041-8213
Publisher:
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS; 70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY

Citation Formats

Zhang, Haocheng, Li, Xiaocan, Guo, Fan, and Giannios, Dimitrios. Large-amplitude Blazar Polarization Angle Swing as a Signature of Magnetic Reconnection. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aad54f.
Zhang, Haocheng, Li, Xiaocan, Guo, Fan, & Giannios, Dimitrios. Large-amplitude Blazar Polarization Angle Swing as a Signature of Magnetic Reconnection. United States. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aad54f
Zhang, Haocheng, Li, Xiaocan, Guo, Fan, and Giannios, Dimitrios. Wed . "Large-amplitude Blazar Polarization Angle Swing as a Signature of Magnetic Reconnection". United States. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aad54f. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1484652.
@article{osti_1484652,
title = {Large-amplitude Blazar Polarization Angle Swing as a Signature of Magnetic Reconnection},
author = {Zhang, Haocheng and Li, Xiaocan and Guo, Fan and Giannios, Dimitrios},
abstractNote = {We report that relativistic magnetic reconnection events may exist in magnetized plasmas in astrophysical systems. During this process, oppositely directed magnetic field lines reconnect and release magnetic energy, efficiently accelerating nonthermal particles. However, so far there is little clear observational signatures of relativistic magnetic reconnection events in astrophysical systems. Blazars are relativistic magnetized plasma outflows from supermassive black holes. Their multi-wavelength flares may be powered by relativistic magnetic reconnection. The highly variable radiation and polarization signatures are well covered by multi-wavelength observation campaigns, making them ideal targets to examine the magnetic reconnection model. Recent observations have found that several blazar flares are accompanied by optical polarization angle swings that may have an amplitude as large as >180°, challenging existing theoretical models. In this Letter, we present integrated particle-in-cell and polarized radiation transfer simulations of magnetic reconnection events. We find that plasmoid coalescences in the reconnection layer can give rise to highly variable light curves, low and fluctuating polarization degree, and rotating polarization angle. Lastly, in particular, large-amplitude polarization angle swings, similar to those observed during blazar flares, can be a unique signature of relativistic magnetic reconnection events.},
doi = {10.3847/2041-8213/aad54f},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1484652}, journal = {The Astrophysical Journal. Letters},
issn = {2041-8213},
number = 2,
volume = 862,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {8}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 4 works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Save / Share:

Works referenced in this record:

Relativistic Reconnection: an Efficient Source of Non-Thermal Particles
journal, February 2014


Imaging and Spectroscopic Observations of Magnetic Reconnection and Chromospheric Evaporation in a Solar Flare
journal, December 2014


RoboPol: connection between optical polarization plane rotations and gamma-ray flares in blazars
journal, October 2017


MULTI-WAVELENGTH STUDY OF FLARING ACTIVITY IN BL Lac OBJECT S5 0716+714 DURING THE 2015 OUTBURST
journal, August 2015


Polarization swings in blazars
journal, February 2017


Geospace Environmental Modeling (GEM) Magnetic Reconnection Challenge
journal, March 2001


Extended magnetic reconnection at the Earth's magnetopause from detection of bi-directional jets
journal, April 2000


Direct evidence for magnetic reconnection in the solar wind near 1 AU
journal, January 2005


Optical EVPA rotations in blazars: testing a stochastic variability model with RoboPol data
journal, August 2017


The Extent of Power-Law Energy Spectra in Collisionless Relativistic Magnetic Reconnection in pair Plasmas
journal, December 2015


Electromagnetic extraction of energy from Kerr black holes
journal, July 1977


Coalescence of magnetic flux ropes in the ion diffusion region of magnetic reconnection
journal, December 2015


Blazar flares powered by plasmoids in relativistic reconnection
journal, July 2016


Ultrahigh performance three-dimensional electromagnetic relativistic kinetic plasma simulation
journal, May 2008


Probing the Inner jet of the Quasar pks 1510–089 with Multi-Waveband Monitoring During Strong Gamma-Ray Activity
journal, February 2010


Beaming and Rapid Variability of High-Energy Radiation from Relativistic pair Plasma Reconnection
journal, July 2012


Fast TeV variability in blazars: jets in a jet
journal, May 2009


RoboPol: optical polarization-plane rotations and flaring activity in blazars
journal, February 2016


Polarization Swings Reveal Magnetic Energy Dissipation in Blazars
text, January 2015


Formation of Hard Power Laws in the Energetic Particle Spectra Resulting from Relativistic Magnetic Reconnection
journal, October 2014


Reconnection-Powered Linear Accelerator and Gamma-Ray Flares in the crab Nebula
journal, August 2011


RoboPol: the optical polarization of gamma-ray-loud and gamma-ray-quiet blazars
journal, September 2016


Particle Acceleration and Plasma Dynamics During Magnetic Reconnection in the Magnetically Dominated Regime
journal, June 2015


The inner jet of an active galactic nucleus as revealed by a radio-to-γ-ray outburst
journal, April 2008


LEPTONIC AND HADRONIC MODELING OF FERMI -DETECTED BLAZARS
journal, April 2013


Geospace Environmental Modeling (GEM) Magnetic Reconnection Challenge
journal, March 2001


LEPTONIC AND HADRONIC MODELING OF FERMI -DETECTED BLAZARS
journal, April 2013


Beaming and Rapid Variability of High-Energy Radiation from Relativistic pair Plasma Reconnection
journal, July 2012


MULTI-WAVELENGTH STUDY OF FLARING ACTIVITY IN BL Lac OBJECT S5 0716+714 DURING THE 2015 OUTBURST
journal, August 2015


Direct evidence for magnetic reconnection in the solar wind near 1 AU
journal, January 2005


Formation of Hard Power Laws in the Energetic Particle Spectra Resulting from Relativistic Magnetic Reconnection
journal, October 2014


Particle Acceleration and Plasma Dynamics During Magnetic Reconnection in the Magnetically Dominated Regime
journal, June 2015


Probing the Inner jet of the Quasar pks 1510–089 with Multi-Waveband Monitoring During Strong Gamma-Ray Activity
journal, February 2010


Relativistic Reconnection: an Efficient Source of Non-Thermal Particles
journal, February 2014


Imaging and Spectroscopic Observations of Magnetic Reconnection and Chromospheric Evaporation in a Solar Flare
journal, December 2014


Reconnection-Powered Linear Accelerator and Gamma-Ray Flares in the crab Nebula
journal, August 2011


The Extent of Power-Law Energy Spectra in Collisionless Relativistic Magnetic Reconnection in pair Plasmas
journal, December 2015


Polarization Swings Reveal Magnetic Energy Dissipation in Blazars
journal, April 2015


    Works referencing / citing this record:

    Blazar jet evolution revealed by multi-epoch broad-band radio polarimetry
    journal, February 2019


    Determining the Dominant Acceleration Mechanism during Relativistic Magnetic Reconnection in Large-scale Systems
    journal, July 2019


    Constraining the photon coupling of ultra-light dark-matter axion-like particles by polarization variations of parsec-scale jets in active galaxies
    journal, February 2019


    Relativistic Sweet–Parker Current Sheet and Its Macroscopic Evolution
    journal, September 2019