Journal Article

Stokes tomography of radio pulsar magnetospheres – I. Linear polarization

C. T. Y. Chung and A. Melatos

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 411, issue 4, pages 2471-2529
Published in print March 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online March 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Stokes tomography of radio pulsar magnetospheres – I. Linear polarization

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Polarimetric studies of pulsar radio emission traditionally concentrate on how the Stokes vector (I, Q, U, V) varies with pulse longitude, with special emphasis on the polarization angle (PA) swing of the linearly polarized component. The interpretation of the PA swing in terms of the rotating vector model is limited by the assumption of an axisymmetric magnetic field and the degeneracy of the output with respect to the orientation and magnetic geometry of the pulsar; different combinations of the latter two properties can produce similar PA swings. This paper introduces Stokes phase portraits as a supplementary diagnostic tool with which the orientation and magnetic geometry can be inferred more accurately. The Stokes phase portraits feature unique patterns in the IQ, IU and QU planes, whose shapes depend sensitively on the magnetic geometry, inclination angle, beam and polarization patterns, and emission altitude. We construct look-up tables of Stokes phase portraits and PA swings for pure and current-modified dipole fields, filled core and hollow cone beams, and two empirical linear polarization models, L/I= cos θ0 and L/I= sin θ0, where θ0 is the colatitude of the emission point. We compare our look-up tables to the measured phase portraits of 24 pulsars in the European Pulsar Network online data base. We find evidence in 60 per cent of the objects that the radio emission region may depart significantly from low altitudes, even when the PA swing is S-shaped and/or the pulse-width–period relation is well satisfied. On the other hand, the data are explained adequately if the emission altitude exceeds ∼10 per cent of the light cylinder radius. We conclude that Stokes phase portraits should be analysed concurrently with the PA swing and pulse profiles in future when interpreting radio pulsar polarization data.

Keywords: magnetic fields; polarization; pulsars: general

Journal Article.  14435 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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