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Published August 18, 2023 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Discovery of X-ray polarization angle rotation in the jet from blazar Mrk 421

Di Gesu, Laura ORCID icon
Marshall, Herman L. ORCID icon
Ehlert, Steven R. ORCID icon
Kim, Dawoon E. ORCID icon
Donnarumma, Immacolata ORCID icon
Tavecchio, Fabrizio ORCID icon
Liodakis, Ioannis ORCID icon
Kiehlmann, Sebastian ORCID icon
Agudo, Iván ORCID icon
Jorstad, Svetlana G. ORCID icon
Muleri, Fabio ORCID icon
Marscher, Alan P. ORCID icon
Puccetti, Simonetta ORCID icon
Middei, Riccardo ORCID icon
Perri, Matteo ORCID icon
Pacciani, Luigi ORCID icon
Negro, Michela ORCID icon
Romani, Roger W. ORCID icon
Di Marco, Alessandro ORCID icon
Blinov, Dmitry ORCID icon
Bourbah, Ioakeim G. ORCID icon
Kontopodis, Evangelos ORCID icon
Mandarakas, Nikos ORCID icon
Romanopoulos, Stylianos ORCID icon
Skalidis, Raphael ORCID icon
Vervelaki, Anna ORCID icon
Casadio, Carolina ORCID icon
Escudero, Juan ORCID icon
Myserlis, Ioannis ORCID icon
Gurwell, Mark A. ORCID icon
Rao, Ramprasad ORCID icon
Keating, Garrett K. ORCID icon
Kouch, Pouya M. ORCID icon
Lindfors, Elina ORCID icon
Aceituno, Francisco José ORCID icon
Bernardos, Maria I. ORCID icon
Bonnoli, Giacomo ORCID icon
Casanova, Víctor
García-Comas, Maya ORCID icon
Agís-González, Beatriz ORCID icon
Husillos, César ORCID icon
Marchini, Alessandro ORCID icon
Sota, Alfredo ORCID icon
Imazawa, Ryo ORCID icon
Sasada, Mahito ORCID icon
Fukazawa, Yasushi ORCID icon
Kawabata, Koji S. ORCID icon
Uemura, Makoto ORCID icon
Mizuno, Tsunefumi ORCID icon
Nakaoka, Tatsuya
Akitaya, Hiroshi ORCID icon
Savchenko, Sergey S. ORCID icon
Vasilyev, Andrey A. ORCID icon
Gómez, José L. ORCID icon
Antonelli, Lucio A. ORCID icon
Barnouin, Thibault ORCID icon
Bonino, Raffaella ORCID icon
Cavazzuti, Elisabetta ORCID icon
Costamante, Luigi ORCID icon
Chen, Chien-Ting ORCID icon
Cibrario, Nicolò ORCID icon
De Rosa, Alessandra ORCID icon
Di Pierro, Federico ORCID icon
Errando, Manel ORCID icon
Kaaret, Philip ORCID icon
Karas, Vladimir ORCID icon
Krawczynski, Henric ORCID icon
Lisalda, Lindsey ORCID icon
Madejski, Grzegorz
Malacaria, Christian ORCID icon
Marin, Frédéric ORCID icon
Marinucci, Andrea ORCID icon
Massaro, Francesco ORCID icon
Matt, Giorgio ORCID icon
Mitsuishi, Ikuyuki
O'Dell, Stephen L. ORCID icon
Paggi, Alessandro ORCID icon
Peirson, Abel L. ORCID icon
Petrucci, Pierre-Olivier ORCID icon
Ramsey, Brian D. ORCID icon
Tennant, Allyn F. ORCID icon
Wu, Kinwah ORCID icon
Bachetti, Matteo ORCID icon
Baldini, Luca ORCID icon
Baumgartner, Wayne H. ORCID icon
Bellazzini, Ronaldo ORCID icon
Bianchi, Stefano ORCID icon
Bongiorno, Stephen D. ORCID icon
Brez, Alessandro ORCID icon
Bucciantini, Niccolò ORCID icon
Capitanio, Fiamma ORCID icon
Castellano, Simone ORCID icon
Ciprini, Stefano ORCID icon
Costa, Enrico ORCID icon
Del Monte, Ettore ORCID icon
Di Lalla, Niccolò ORCID icon
Doroshenko, Victor ORCID icon
Dovčiak, Michal ORCID icon
Enoto, Teruaki ORCID icon
Evangelista, Yuri ORCID icon
Fabiani, Sergio ORCID icon
Ferrazzoli, Riccardo ORCID icon
Garcia, Javier A. ORCID icon
Gunji, Shuichi ORCID icon
Hayashida, Kiyoshi ORCID icon
Heyl, Jeremy ORCID icon
Iwakiri, Wataru ORCID icon
Kislat, Fabian ORCID icon
Kitaguchi, Takao
Kolodziejczak, Jeffery J. ORCID icon
La Monaca, Fabio ORCID icon
Latronico, Luca ORCID icon
Maldera, Simone ORCID icon
Manfreda, Alberto ORCID icon
Ng, C.-Y. ORCID icon
Omodei, Nicola ORCID icon
Oppedisano, Chiara ORCID icon
Papitto, Alessandro ORCID icon
Pavlov, George G. ORCID icon
Pesce-Rollins, Melissa ORCID icon
Pilia, Maura ORCID icon
Possenti, Andrea ORCID icon
Poutanen, Juri ORCID icon
Rankin, John ORCID icon
Ratheesh, Ajay ORCID icon
Roberts, Oliver J. ORCID icon
Sgrò, Carmelo ORCID icon
Slane, Patrick ORCID icon
Soffitta, Paolo ORCID icon
Spandre, Gloria ORCID icon
Swartz, Douglas A. ORCID icon
Tamagawa, Toru ORCID icon
Taverna, Roberto ORCID icon
Tawara, Yuzuru
Thomas, Nicholas E. ORCID icon
Tombesi, Francesco ORCID icon
Trois, Alessio ORCID icon
Tsygankov, Sergey S. ORCID icon
Turolla, Roberto ORCID icon
Vink, Jacco ORCID icon
Weisskopf, Martin C. ORCID icon
Xie, Fei ORCID icon
Zane, Silvia ORCID icon


The magnetic-field conditions in astrophysical relativistic jets can be probed by multiwavelength polarimetry, which has been recently extended to X-rays. For example, one can track how the magnetic field changes in the flow of the radiating particles by observing rotations of the electric vector position angle Ψ. Here we report the discovery of a Ψ_X rotation in the X-ray band in the blazar Markarian 421 at an average flux state. Across the 5 days of Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer observations on 4–6 and 7–9 June 2022, Ψ_X rotated in total by ≥360°. Over the two respective date ranges, we find constant, within uncertainties, rotation rates (80 ± 9° per day and 91 ± 8° per day) and polarization degrees (Π_X = 10% ± 1%). Simulations of a random walk of the polarization vector indicate that it is unlikely that such rotation(s) are produced by a stochastic process. The X-ray-emitting site does not completely overlap the radio, infrared and optical emission sites, as no similar rotation of Ψ was observed in quasi-simultaneous data at longer wavelengths. We propose that the observed rotation was caused by a helical magnetic structure in the jet, illuminated in the X-rays by a localized shock propagating along this helix. The optically emitting region probably lies in a sheath surrounding an inner spine where the X-ray radiation is released.

Additional Information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2023. The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) is a joint US and Italian mission. The US contribution is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and led and managed by its Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), with industry partner Ball Aerospace (contract NNM15AA18C). The Italian contribution is supported by the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, ASI) through contract ASI-OHBI-2017-12-I.0, agreements ASI-INAF-2017-12-H0 and ASI-INFN-2017.13-H0, and its Space Science Data Center (SSDC), and by the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) and the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy. This research used data products provided by the IXPE Team (MSFC, SSDC, INAF and INFN) and distributed with additional software tools by the High-Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). The IAA-CSIC group acknowledges financial support from the grant CEX2021-001131-S funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía-CSIC and through grant PID2019-107847RB-C44. The POLAMI observations were carried out at the IRAM 30 m Telescope. IRAM is supported by INSU/CNRS (France), MPG (Germany) and IGN (Spain). The Submillimetre Array is a joint project between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is funded by the Smithsonian Institution and the Academia Sinica. Mauna Kea, the location of the SMA, is a culturally important site for the indigenous Hawaiian people; we are privileged to study the cosmos from its summit. Some of the data reported here are based on observations made with the Nordic Optical Telescope, owned in collaboration with the University of Turku and Aarhus University, and operated jointly by Aarhus University, the University of Turku and the University of Oslo, representing Denmark, Finland and Norway, the University of Iceland and Stockholm University at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, Spain, of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias. E.L. was supported by Academy of Finland projects 317636 and 320045. The data presented here were obtained (in part) with ALFOSC, which is provided by the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia (IAA) under a joint agreement with the University of Copenhagen and NOT. We are grateful to V. Braga, M. Monelli and M. Sänchez Benavente for performing the observations at the Nordic Optical Telescope. Part of the French contributions is supported by the Scientific Research National Center (CNRS) and the French spatial agency (CNES). The research at Boston University was supported in part by National Science Foundation grant AST-2108622, NASA Fermi Guest Investigator grants 80NSSC21K1917 and 80NSSC22K1571, and NASA Swift Guest Investigator grant 80NSSC22K0537. This research was conducted in part using the Mimir instrument, jointly developed at Boston University and Lowell Observatory and supported by NASA, NSF and the W.M. Keck Foundation. We thank D. Clemens for guidance in the analysis of the Mimir data. This work was supported by JST, the establishment of university fellowships towards the creation of science and technology innovation, grant number JPMJFS2129. This work was supported by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI grant number JP21H01137. This work was also partially supported by the Optical and Near-Infrared Astronomy Inter-University Cooperation Program from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan. We are grateful to the observation and operating members of the Kanata Telescope. Some of the data are based on observations collected at the Observatorio de Sierra Nevada, owned and operated by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC). Further data are based on observations collected at the Centro Astronómico Hispano en Andalucía (CAHA), operated jointly by Junta de Andalucía and Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IAA-CSIC). This research has made use of data from the RoboPol programme, a collaboration between Caltech, the University of Crete, IA-FORTH, IUCAA, the MPIfR and the Nicolaus Copernicus University, which was conducted at Skinakas Observatory in Crete, Greece. D.B., S.K., R.S. and N.M., acknowledge support from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Unions Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement no. 771282. C.C. acknowledges support from the European Research Council (ERC) under the HORIZON ERC Grants 2021 programme under grant agreement no. 101040021. The research at Boston University was supported in part by National Science Foundation grant AST-2108622, NASA Fermi Guest Investigator grant 80NSSC21K1917 and 80NSSC22K1571, and NASA Swift Guest Investigator grant 80NSSC22K0537. This work was supported by NSF grant AST-2109127. We acknowledge the use of public data from the Swift data archive. Data from the Steward Observatory spectropolarimetric monitoring project were used. This programme is supported by Fermi Guest Investigator grants NNX08AW56G, NNX09AU10G, NNX12AO93G and NNX15AU81G. We acknowledge funding to support our NOT observations from the Finnish Centre for Astronomy with ESO (FINCA), University of Turku, Finland (Academy of Finland grant no 306531). This work has made use of data from the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) project. The Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) project is primarily funded to search for near-Earth asteroids through NASA grants NN12AR55G, 80NSSC18K0284 and 80NSSC18K1575; by-products of the NEO search include images and catalogues from the survey area. This work was partially funded by Kepler/K2 grant J1944/80NSSC19K0112 and HST GO-15889, and STFC grants ST/T000198/1 and ST/S006109/1. The ATLAS science products have been made possible through the contributions of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, the Queen's University Belfast, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the South African Astronomical Observatory and The Millennium Institute of Astrophysics (MAS), Chile. The Very Long Baseline Array is an instrument of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under a cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. Contributions. L.D.G. performed the analysis and led the writing of the paper. H.L.M., S.R.E., D.E.K., F. Muleri and A.D.M. contributed to the IXPE data analysis. I.D., F. Tavecchio, R.W.R., A.P.M. and S.G.J. contributed to the discussion and other parts of the paper, and the latter two provided the VLBA images. I.L. coordinated the multiwavelength observations. I.L. and S.K. contributed the random walk simulations. I.A., C.C., J.E., M.A.G., I. Myserlis, R.R and G.K.K. contributed the radio observations. S.G.J. contributed the infrared observations. S.S.S. performed modelling of the host galaxy in the H band. B.A.-G., F.J.A., I.A., H.A., M.I.B., D.B., G.B., I.G.B., V.C., Y.F., M.G.-C., C.H., R.I., K.S.K., S.K., E.K., P.M.K., E.L., N.M., A. Marchini, T. Mizuno, T.N., S.R., M.S., R.S., A.S., M.U. and A.V. contributed the optical observations. A.A.V. contributed to the paper discussion. R.M., M.P. and S.P. contributed to the Swift data analysis. L.P. and M.N. contributed the Fermi data. The remaining authors are part of the IXPE team whose significant contribution made the X-ray polarization observations possible. Data availability. The data that support the findings of this study are either publicly available at the HEASARC database or available from the corresponding author upon request. Code availability. The ixpeobssim software and documentation can be downloaded at https://github.com/lucabaldini/ixpeobssim. The authors declare no competing interests.

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August 22, 2023
October 20, 2023