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  1. Mechanisms such as shock acceleration, magnetic reconnection in a kink unstable jet, and extreme turbulence in the jet flow are all expected to produce a distinctive time variability pattern of the X-ray polarization properties of high synchrotron peak blazars (HSP). To determine whether the recently launched Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) can follow the polarization variations induced by different particle acceleration mechanisms in blazar jets, we simulated observations of an HSP blazar variable in terms of the polarization degree and angle according to theoretical predictions. We used the Monte Carlo tool ixpeobssim to create realistic IXPE data products for each model and for three values of flux (i.e., 1, 5, and 10 × 10 −10 erg s −1 cm −2 ). We generated simulated light curves of the polarization degree and angle by time-slicing the simulated data into arbitrary short time bins. We used an χ 2 test to assess the performance of the observations in detecting the time variability of the polarization properties. In all cases, even when the light curves are diluted in an individual time bin, some degree of polarization is still measurable with IXPE. A series of ~10 ks long observations permits IXPE to follow the time variability of the polarization degree in the case of the shock acceleration model. In the case of the magnetic reconnection model, the nominal injected model provides the best fit of the simulated IXPE data for time bins of ~5–10 ks, depending on the tested flux level. For the TEMZ model, shorter time slices of ~0.5 ks are needed for obtaining a formally good fit of the simulated IXPE data with the injected model. On the other hand, we find that a fit with a constant model provides a χ 2 lower than the fit with the nominal injected model when using time slices of ~20 ks, ~60/70 ks, and ~5 ks for the case of the shock acceleration, magnetic reconnection, and TEMZ model, respectively. In conclusion, provided that the statistics of the observation allows for the slicing of the data in adequately short time bins, IXPE observations of an HSP blazar at a typical flux level can detect the time variability predicted by popular models for particle acceleration in jets. IXPE observations of HSP blazars are a useful tool for addressing the issue of particle acceleration in blazar jets. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Polarimetric measurements, especially if extended at high energy, are expected to provide important insights into the mechanisms underlying the acceleration of relativistic particles in jets. In a previous work, we have shown that the polarization of the synchrotron X-ray emission produced by highly energetic electrons accelerated by a mildly relativistic shock carries essential imprints of the geometry and the structure of the magnetic fields in the downstream region. Here, we present the extension of our analysis to the non-stationary case, especially suitable to model the highly variable emission of high-energy emitting BL Lacs. We anticipate a large ($\Pi \approx 40{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$), almost time-independent degree of polarization in the hard/medium X-ray band, a prediction soon testable with the upcoming mission IXPE. The situation in other bands, in particular in the optical, is more complex. A monotonic decrease of the optical degree of polarization is observed during the development of a flare. At later stages, Π reaches zero and then it starts to increase, recovering large values at late times. The instant at which Π = 0 is marked by a rotation of the polarization angle by 90°. However, at optical frequencies, it is likely that more than one region contribute to the observed emission, potentially making it difficult to detect the predicted behaviour. 
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  3. We report on a comprehensive analysis of simultaneous X-ray polarimetric and spectral data of the bright atoll source GX 9+9 with the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) and NuSTAR . The source is significantly polarized in the 4–8 keV band, with a degree of 2.2%  ±  0.5% (uncertainty at the 68% confidence level). The NuSTAR broad-band spectrum clearly shows an iron line, and is well described by a model including thermal disc emission, a Comptonized component, and reflection. From a spectro-polarimetric fit, we obtain an upper limit to the polarization degree of the disc of 4% (at the 99% confidence level), while the contribution of Comptonized and reflected radiation cannot be conclusively separated. However, the polarization is consistent with resulting from a combination of Comptonization in a boundary or spreading layer, plus reflection off the disc, which significantly contributes in any realistic scenario. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  4. ABSTRACT X Persei is a persistent low-luminosity X-ray pulsar of period of ≈ 835 s in a Be binary system. The field strength at the neutron star surface is not known precisely, but indirect signs indicate a magnetic field above 1013 G, which makes the object one of the most magnetized known X-ray pulsars. Here we present the results of observations X Persei performed with the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE). The X-ray polarization signal was found to be strongly dependent on the spin phase of the pulsar. The energy-averaged polarization degree in 3–8 keV band varied from several to ∼20 per cent over the pulse with a phase dependence resembling the pulse profile. The polarization angle shows significant variation and makes two complete revolutions during the pulse period, resulting in nearly nil pulse-phase averaged polarization. Applying the rotating vector model to the IXPE data we obtain the estimates for the rotation axis inclination and its position angle on the sky, as well as for the magnetic obliquity. The derived inclination is close to the orbital inclination, reported earlier for X Persei. The polarimetric data imply a large angle between the rotation and magnetic dipole axes, which is similar to the result reported recently for the X-ray pulsar GRO J1008−57. After eliminating the effect of polarization angle rotation over the pulsar phase using the best-fitting rotating vector model, the strong dependence of the polarization degree with energy was discovered, with its value increasing from 0 at ∼2 keV to 30per cent at 8 keV. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 12, 2024
  5. ABSTRACT We present an X-ray spectropolarimetric analysis of the bright Seyfert galaxy NGC 4151. The source has been observed with the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) for 700 ks, complemented with simultaneous XMM–Newton (50 ks) and NuSTAR (100 ks) pointings. A polarization degree Π = 4.9 ± 1.1 per cent and angle Ψ = 86° ± 7° east of north (68 per cent confidence level) are measured in the 2–8 keV energy range. The spectropolarimetric analysis shows that the polarization could be entirely due to reflection. Given the low reflection flux in the IXPE band, this requires, however, a reflection with a very large (>38 per cent) polarization degree. Assuming more reasonable values, a polarization degree of the hot corona ranging from ∼4 to ∼8 per cent is found. The observed polarization degree excludes a ‘spherical’ lamppost geometry for the corona, suggesting instead a slab-like geometry, possibly a wedge, as determined via Monte Carlo simulations. This is further confirmed by the X-ray polarization angle, which coincides with the direction of the extended radio emission in this source, supposed to match the disc axis. NGC 4151 is the first active galactic nucleus with an X-ray polarization measure for the corona, illustrating the capabilities of X-ray polarimetry and IXPE in unveiling its geometry. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 8, 2024
  6. ABSTRACT We report spectro-polarimetric results of an observational campaign of the bright neutron star low-mass X-ray binary Cyg X-2 simultaneously observed by IXPE, NICER, and INTEGRAL. Consistently with previous results, the broad-band spectrum is characterized by a lower-energy component, attributed to the accretion disc with kTin ≈ 1 keV, plus unsaturated Comptonization in thermal plasma with temperature kTe = 3 keV and optical depth τ ≈ 4, assuming a slab geometry. We measure the polarization degree in the 2–8 keV band P = 1.8 ± 0.3 per cent and polarization angle ϕ = 140° ± 4°, consistent with the previous X-ray polarimetric measurements by OSO-8 as well as with the direction of the radio jet which was earlier observed from the source. While polarization of the disc spectral component is poorly constrained with the IXPE data, the Comptonized emission has a polarization degree P = 4.0 ± 0.7 per cent and a polarization angle aligned with the radio jet. Our results strongly favour a spreading layer at the neutron star surface as the main source of the polarization signal. However, we cannot exclude a significant contribution from reflection off the accretion disc, as indicated by the presence of the iron fluorescence line. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 9, 2024
  7. ABSTRACT We report on the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) observation of the closest and X-ray brightest Compton-thick active galactic nucleus (AGN), the Circinus galaxy. We find the source to be significantly polarized in the 2–6 keV band. From previous studies, the X-ray spectrum is known to be dominated by reflection components, both neutral (torus) and ionized (ionization cones). Our analysis indicates that the polarization degree is 28 ± 7 per cent (at 68 per cent confidence level) for the neutral reflector, with a polarization angle of 18° ± 5°, roughly perpendicular to the radio jet. The polarization of the ionized reflection is unconstrained. A comparison with Monte Carlo simulations of the polarization expected from the torus shows that the neutral reflector is consistent with being an equatorial torus with a half-opening angle of 45°–55°. This is the first X-ray polarization detection in a Seyfert galaxy, demonstrating the power of X-ray polarimetry in probing the geometry of the circumnuclear regions of AGNs, and confirming the basic predictions of standard Unification Models. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 16, 2023
  8. ABSTRACT We report on the first observation of a radio-quiet active galactic nucleus (AGN) in polarized X-rays: the Seyfert 1.9 galaxy MCG-05-23-16. This source was pointed at with the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) starting on 2022 May 14 for a net observing time of 486 ks, simultaneously with XMM-Newton (58 ks) and NuSTAR (83 ks). A polarization degree Π smaller than 4.7 per cent (at the 99 per cent confidence level) is derived in the 2–8 keV energy range, where emission is dominated by the primary component ascribed to the hot corona. The broad-band spectrum, inferred from a simultaneous fit to the IXPE, NuSTAR, and XMM-Newton data, is well reproduced by a power law with photon index Γ = 1.85 ± 0.01 and a high-energy cutoff EC = 120 ± 15 keV. A comparison with Monte Carlo simulations shows that a lamp-post and a conical geometry of the corona are consistent with the observed upper limit, a slab geometry is allowed only if the inclination angle of the system is less than 50°. 
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