Journal Article

Polarized infrared emission from X-ray binary jets*

David M. Russell and Rob P. Fender

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 387, issue 2, pages 713-723
Published in print June 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online May 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Polarized infrared emission from X-ray binary jets*

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Near-infrared (NIR) and optical polarimetric observations of a selection of X-ray binaries are presented. The targets were observed using the Very Large Telescope and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope. We detect a significant level (3σ) of linear polarization in four sources. The polarization is found to be intrinsic (at the >3σ level) in two sources; GRO J1655−40 (∼4–7 per cent in the H and Ks bands during an outburst) and Sco X–1 (∼0.1–0.9 per cent in the H and K bands), which is stronger at lower frequencies. This is likely to be the signature of optically thin synchrotron emission from the collimated jets in these systems, whose presence indicates that a partially ordered magnetic field is present at the inner regions of the jets. In Sco X−1, the intrinsic polarization is variable (and sometimes absent) in the H and K bands. In the J band (i.e. at higher frequencies), the polarization is not significantly variable and is consistent with an interstellar origin. The optical light from GX 339–4 is also polarized, but at a level and position angle consistent with scattering by interstellar dust. The other polarized source is SS 433, which has a low level (0.5–0.8 per cent) of J-band polarization, likely due to local scattering. The NIR counterparts of GRO J0422+32, XTE J1118+480, 4U 0614+09 and Aql X–1 (which were all in or near quiescence) have a linear polarization level of <16 per cent (3σ upper limit, some are <6 per cent). We discuss how such observations may be used to constrain the ordering of the magnetic field close to the base of the jet in such systems.

Keywords: accretion, accretion discs; black hole physics; ISM: jets and outflows; X-rays: binaries

Journal Article.  9625 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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