Rapid variations of polarization in low-mass X-ray Binaries

David M. Russell, Piergiorgio Casella, Rob Fender, Paolo Soleri, Magaretha L. Pretorius, Fraser Lewis, Michiel Van Der Klis

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Time-resolved optical and infrared polarimetric observations of black hole and neutron star lowmass X-ray binaries are presented. Data were acquired with the VLT, UKIRT and HIPPO on the SAAO 1.9-m. We find that for some sources in outburst, a rapidly variable component of polarization is evident that is stronger in the redder wavebands. We attribute this to the polarimetric signature of synchrotron emission from jets in these systems, the emission of which is known to dominate these redder bands. Such synchrotron emission from jets launched close to black holes and neutron stars can be highly linearly polarized, depending on the configuration of the magnetic field. The variability of the polarization is suggestive of a tangled and turbulent magnetic field at the location of the compact jet. For some sources the position angle of polarization is consistent with a magnetic field that is parallel to the observed radio jet. These are some of the first observational constraints of the geometry and magnetic structure at the inner regions of the outflow. We also present the first ever simultaneous optical polarization and X-ray campaign of an X-ray binary, using data taken simultaneously with HIPPO and RXTE with sub-second time resolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of Science
StatePublished - 2010
Event4th High Time Resolution Astrophysics - The Era of Extremely Large Telescopes, HTRA 2010 - Crete, Greece
Duration: May 5 2010May 7 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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