Temporal evolution of prompt GRB polarization

Ramandeep Gill, Jonathan Granot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dominant radiation mechanism that produces the prompt emission in gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) remains a major open question. Spectral information alone has proven insufficient in elucidating its nature. Time-resolved linear polarization has the potential to distinguish between popular emission mechanisms, e.g. synchrotron radiation from electrons with a power-law energy distribution or inverse Compton scattering of soft seed thermal photons, which can yield the typical GRB spectrum but produce different levels of polarization. Furthermore, it can be used to learn about the outflow's composition (i.e. whether it is kinetic-energy-dominated or Poynting-flux-dominated) and angular structure. For synchrotron emission, it is a powerful probe of the magnetic field geometry. Here, we consider synchrotron emission from a thin ultrarelativistic outflow, with bulk Lorentz factor Γ(R) = Γ0(R/R0)-m/2 ≫ 1, that radiates a Band-function spectrum in a single (multiple) pulse(s) over a range of radii, R0 ≤ R ≤ R0 + ΔR. Pulse profiles and polarization evolution at a given energy are presented for a coasting (m = 0) and accelerating (m = -2/3) thin spherical shell and for different viewing angles for a top-hat jet with sharp as well as smooth edges in emissivity. Four different magnetic field configurations are considered, such as a locally ordered field coherent over angular scales θB a 1/Γ, a tangled field (Ba) in the plane transverse to the radial direction, an ordered field (Ba) aligned in the radial direction, and a globally ordered toroidal field (Btor). All field configurations produce distinct polarization evolution with single (for Ba and Ba) and double (for Btor) 90a - changes in the polarization position angle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1939-1958
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society.


  • gamma-ray burst: general
  • magnetic fields
  • polarization
  • radiation mechanisms: non-thermal
  • relativistic processes


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