Polarized synchrotron emission in quiescent black hole X-ray transients

David M. Russell, Tariq Shahbaz, Fraser Lewis, Elena Gallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present near-infrared Polarimetrie observations of the black hole X-ray binaries Swift J1357.2-0933 and A0620-00. In both sources, recent studies have demonstrated the presence of variable infrared synchrotron emission in quiescence, most likely from weak compact jets. For Swift J1357.2-0933, we find that the synchrotron emission is polarized at a level of 8.0 ± 2.5 per cent (a 3.2σ detection of intrinsic polarization). The mean magnitude and rms variability of the flux (fractional rms of 19-24 per cent in KS band) agree with previous observations. These properties imply a continuously launched (stable on long time-scales), highly variable (on short time-scales) jet in the Swift J1357.2-0933 system in quiescence, which has a moderately tangled magnetic field close to the base of the jet. We find that for A0620-00, there are likely to be three components to the optical-infrared polarization; interstellar dust along the line of sight, scattering within the system, and an additional source that changes the polarization position angle in the reddest (H and Ks) wavebands. We interpret this as a stronger contribution of synchrotron emission, and by subtracting the line-of-sight polarization, we measure an excess of ~ 1.25 ± 0.28 per cent polarization and a position angle of the magnetic field vector that is consistent with being parallel with the axis of the resolved radio jet. These results imply that weak jets in low-luminosity accreting systems have magnetic fields which possess similarly tangled fields compared to the more luminous, hard state jets in X-ray binaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2680-2689
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 11 2016


  • Accretion, accretion discs
  • Black hole physics
  • ISM: jets and outflows
  • X-rays: binaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Polarized synchrotron emission in quiescent black hole X-ray transients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this