Over half a century from the discovery of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the dominant radiation mechanism responsible for their bright and highly variable prompt emission remains poorly understood. Spectral information alone has proven insufficient for understanding the composition and main energy dissipation mechanism in GRB jets. High-sensitivity polarimetric observations from upcoming instruments in this decade may help answer such key questions in GRB physics. This article reviews the current status of prompt GRB polarization measurements and provides comprehensive predictions from theoretical models. A concise overview of the fundamental questions in prompt GRB physics is provided. Important developments in gamma-ray polarimetry including a critical overview of different past instruments are presented. Theoretical predictions for different radiation mechanisms and jet structures are confronted with time-integrated and time-resolved measurements. The current status and capabilities of upcoming instruments regarding the prompt emission are presented. The very complimentary information that can be obtained from polarimetry of X-ray flares as well as reverse-shock and early to late forward-shock (afterglow) emissions are highlighted. Finally, promising directions for overcoming the inherent difficulties in obtaining statistically significant prompt-GRB polarization measurements are discussed, along with prospects for improvements in the theoretical modeling, which may lead to significant advances in the field.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded in part by the ISF-NSFC joint research program under grant no. 3296/19 (R.G. and J.G.) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (M.K.).
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
- Gamma-ray bursts
- Instruments & methods
- Jet structure
- Radiation mechanisms