Synchronous optical and radio polarization variability in the blazar OJ287

Francesca D. D'Arcangelo, Alan P. Marscher, Svetlana G. Jorstad, Paul S. Smith, Valeri M. Larionov, Vladimir A. Hagen-Thorn, G. Grant Williams, Walter K. Gear, Dan P. Clemens, Domenic Sarcia, Alex Grabau, Eric V. Tollestrup, Marc W. Buie, Brian Taylor, Edward Dunham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


We explore the variability and cross-frequency correlation of the flux density and polarization of the blazar OJ287, using imaging at 43 GHz with the Very Long Baseline Array, as well as optical and near-infrared (near-IR) polarimetry. The polarization and flux density in both the optical waveband and the 43 GHz compact core increased by a small amount in late 2005, and increased significantly along with the near-IR polarization and flux density over the course of 10 days in early 2006. Furthermore, the values of the electric vector position angle (EVPA) at the three wavebands are similar. At 43 GHz, the EVPA of the blazar core is perpendicular to the flow of the jet, while the EVPAs of emerging superluminal knots are aligned parallel to the jet axis. The core polarization is that expected if shear aligns the magnetic field at the boundary between flows of disparate velocities within the jet. Using variations in flux density, percentage polarization, and EVPA, we model the inner jet as a spine-sheath system. The model jet contains a turbulent spine of half-width 12 and maximum Lorentz factor of 16.5, a turbulent sheath with Lorentz factor of 5, and a boundary region of sheared field between the spine and sheath. Transverse shocks propagating along the fast, turbulent spine can explain the superluminal knots. The observed flux density and polarization variations are then compatible with changes in the direction of the inner jet caused by a temporary change in the position of the core if the spine contains wiggles owing to an instability. In addition, we can explain a stable offset of optical and near-IR percentage polarization by a steepening of spectral index with frequency, as supported by the data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)985-995
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Polarization
  • Quasars: general
  • Quasars: individual (OJ287)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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