Constraining radiatively inefficient accretion flows with polarization

D. R. Ballantyne, Feryal Özel, Dimitrios Psaltis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The low-luminosity black hole Sgr A* provides a test bed for models of radiatively inefficient accretion flows (RIAFs). Recent submillimeter linear polarization measurements of Sgr A* have provided evidence that the electrons in the accretion flow are relativistic over a large range of radii. Here we show that these high temperatures result in elliptical plasma normal modes. Thus, polarized millimeter and submillimeter radiation emitted within RIAFs will undergo generalized Faraday rotation, a cyclic conversion between linear and circular polarization. This effect will not depolarize the radiation even if the rotation measure is extremely high. Rather, the beam will take on the linear and circular polarization properties of the plasma normal modes. As a result, polarization measurements of Sgr A* in this frequency regime will constrain the temperature, density, and magnetic profiles of RIAF models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L17-L20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 II
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxy: Center
  • Radiation mechanisms: nonthermal
  • Radiation mechanisms: thermal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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