The synchrotron continuum of the highly polarized quasar PKS 1546+027

Paul S. Smith, Gary D. Schmidt, Buell T. Jannuzi, Richard Elston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The wavelength dependence of optical linear polarization of the highly polarized quasar (HPQ) PKS 1546+027 is investigated for the first time. Both spectropolarimeiry and broad-band filter polarimetry are presented for a period when the object was undergoing a strong outburst in flux and polarization. The rapid polarization variations observed argues that an optically thin synchrotron-emitting region, similar in polarization properties to BL Lacertae objects and optically violent variable (OVV) quasars, is the major source of polarized flux from this object. The continuum polarization increases dramatically with wavelength and is about twice as high at 8000 Å than at 4000 Å. Spectropolarimetry reveals that the emission-line flux from PKS 1546+027 dilutes the continuum polarization and is probably unpolarized. There is no evidence for any variation in polarization position angle with wavelength. The polarized flux spectrum is well-represented by a steep power law with a spectral index of -2.2, supporting the view that the polarized flux has a nonthermal origin. The observed polarization properties of PKS 1546+027 are consistent with a model that has been proposed to explain the optical to ultraviolet continua of several OVVs. In this model the optical to near-UV spectral flux distribution is a combination of light from a polarized synchrotron component plus an unpolarized component with spectral properties typical of low-polarization quasars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-541
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 1994


  • Polarization
  • Radiation mechanisms: nonthermal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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