ChJAA Vol 3, No 1 (2003) / Qian

Polarization Position Angle Swings caused by Relativistic Effects

Shan-Jie Qian, Xi-Zhen Zhang


Polarization position angle swings of ~180° observed in extragalactic radio sources are a regular behavior of variability in polarization. They should be due to some kind of physically regular process. We consider relativistic shocks which propagate through and `illuminate' regular configurations of magnetic field, producing polarization angle swing events. Two magnetic field configurations (force-free field and homogeneous helical field) are considered to demonstrate the results. It is shown that the properties of polarization angle swings and the relationship between the swings and variations in total and polarized flux density are critically dependent on the configuration of magnetic field and the dynamical behavior of the shock. In particular, we find that in some cases polarization angle swings can occur when the total and polarized flux densities only vary by a very small amount. These results may be useful for understanding the polarization variability with both long and short timescales observed in extragalactic radio sources.


radio continuum: galaxies --- polarization --- galaxies: magnetic fields

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