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Spectral and Polarization Signatures of Relativistic Shocks in Blazars

1
Centre for Space Research, North-West University, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa
2
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, USA
Academic Editors: Jose L. Gómez, Alan P. Marscher and Svetlana G. Jorstad
Galaxies 2016, 4(3), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/galaxies4030022
Received: 7 July 2016 / Revised: 29 August 2016 / Accepted: 30 August 2016 / Published: 2 September 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Blazars through Sharp Multi-wavelength Eyes)
Relativistic shocks are one of the most plausible sites of the emission of strongly variable, polarized multi-wavelength emission from relativistic jet sources such as blazars, via the diffusive shock acceleration (DSA) of relativistic particles. This paper summarizes recent results on a self-consistent coupling of diffusive shock acceleration and radiation transfer in blazar jets. We demonstrate that the observed spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of blazars strongly constrain the nature of hydromagnetic turbulence responsible for pitch-angle scattering by requiring a strongly energy-dependent pitch-angle mean free path. The prominent soft X-ray excess (“Big Blue Bump”) in the SED of the BL Lac object AO 0235+164 can be modelled as the signature of bulk Compton scattering of external radiation fields by the thermal electron population, which places additional constraints on the level of hydromagnetic turbulence. It has further been demonstrated that internal shocks propagating in a jet pervaded by a helical magnetic field naturally produce polarization-angle swings by 180 , in tandem with multi-wavelength flaring activity, without requiring any helical motion paths or other asymmetric jet structures. The specific application of this model to 3C279 presents the first consistent simultaneous modeling of snap-shot SEDs, multi-wavelength light curves, and time-dependent polarization signatures of a blazar during a polarization-angle (PA) rotation. This model has recently been generalized to a lepto-hadronic model, in which the high-energy emission is dominated by proton synchrotron radiation. It is shown that in this case, the high-energy (X-ray and γ-ray) polarization signatures are expected to be significantly more stable (not showing PA rotations) than the low-energy (electron-synchrotron) signatures. View Full-Text
Keywords: active galaxies: BL Lac objects; jets and bursts; radiation mechsnisms: polarization active galaxies: BL Lac objects; jets and bursts; radiation mechsnisms: polarization
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Böttcher, M. Spectral and Polarization Signatures of Relativistic Shocks in Blazars. Galaxies 2016, 4, 22.

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