Polarization measurements provide strong constraints on models for emission from rotation-powered pulsars. We present multiwavelength polarization predictions showing that measurements over a range of frequencies can be particularly important for constraining the emission location, radiation mechanisms and system geometry. The results assume a generic model for emission from the outer magnetosphere and current sheet in which optical to hard X-ray emission is produced by synchrotron radiation from electron-positron pairs and gamma-ray emission is produced by curvature radiation or synchrotron radiation from accelerating primary electrons. The magnetic field structure of a force-free magnetosphere is assumed and the phase-resolved and phase-averaged polarization is calculated in the frame of an inertial observer. We find that large position angle swings and deep depolarization dips occur during the light curve peaks in all energy bands. For synchrotron emission, the polarization characteristics are strongly dependent on photon emission radius with larger, nearly $180^\circ$, position angle swings for emission outside the light cylinder as the line-of-sight crosses the current sheet. The phase-averaged polarization degree for synchrotron radiation is less that 10% and around 20% for emission starting inside and outside the light cylinder respectively, while the polarization degree for curvature radiation is much larger, up to 40% – 60%. Observing a sharp increase in polarization degree and a change in position angle at the transition between X-ray and gamma-ray spectral components would indicate that curvature radiation is the gamma-ray emission mechanism.
A. Harding and C. Kalapotharakos
Fri, 21 Apr 17
Comments: 23 pages, 7 figures, accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal