Abstract Scattering of anisotropic radiation by atoms, ions or molecules is sufficient to generate linear polarization observable in stars’ and planets’ atmospheres, circumstellar environments, and in particular in the Sun’s atmosphere. This kind of polarization is called scattering polarization (SP) or second solar spectrum (SSS) if it is formed near the limb of the solar photosphere. Generation of linear SP can typically be reached more easily than circular SP. Interestingly, the latter is often absent in observations and theories. Intrigued by this, we propose to demonstrate how circular SP can be created by anisotropic collisions if a magnetic field is present. We also demonstrate how anisotropic collisions can result in the creation of circular SP if the radiation field is anisotropic. We show that under certain conditions, linear SP creation is accompanied by the emergence of circular SP which can be useful for diagnostics of solar and astrophysical plasmas. We treat an example and calculate the density matrix elements of tensorial order k = 1 which are directly associated with the presence of circular SP. This work should encourage theoretical and observational research to be increasingly oriented towards circular SP profiles in addition to linear SP in order to improve our analysis tools of astrophysical and solar observations.
Keywords Scattering processes — Line: formation - Polarization — Sun: magnetic fields
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