Volume 625, May 2019
|Number of page(s)||6|
|Published online||10 May 2019|
Polarization of changing-look quasars⋆
Institut d’Astrophysique et de Géophysique, Université de Liège, Allée du 6 Août 19c, 4000 Liège, Belgium
2 Instituut voor Sterrenkunde, KU Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200D, Bus 2401, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
3 Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg, UMR 7550, 67000 Strasbourg, France
4 Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Calle Via Lactea, 38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
5 Departamento de Astrofisica, Universidad de La Laguna, 38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Accepted: 22 March 2019
If the disappearance of the broad emission lines observed in changing-look quasars originates from the obscuration of the quasar core by dusty clouds moving in the torus, high linear optical polarization would be expected in those objects. We then measured the rest-frame UV-blue linear polarization of a sample of 13 changing-look quasars, 7 of them being in a type 1.9-2 state. For all quasars but one the polarization degree is lower than 1%. This suggests that the disappearance of the broad emission lines cannot be attributed to dust obscuration, and supports the scenario in which changes of look are caused by a change in the rate of accretion onto the supermassive black hole. Such low polarization degrees also indicate that these quasars are seen under inclinations close to the system axis. One type 1.9-2 quasar in our sample shows a high polarization degree of 6.8%. While this polarization could be ascribed to obscuration by a moving dusty cloud, we argue that this is unlikely given the very long time needed for a cloud from the torus to eclipse the broad emission line region of that object. We propose that the high polarization is due to the echo of a past bright phase seen in polar-scattered light. This interpretation raises the possibility that broad emission lines observed in the polarized light of some type 2 active galactic nuclei can be echoes of past type 1 phases and not evidence of hidden broad emission line regions.
Key words: quasars: general / quasars: emission lines
Based on observations made with the William Herschel telescope operated on the island of La Palma by the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and observations made with ESO Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory under program ID 101.B-0209.
© ESO 2019
Current usage metrics show cumulative count of Article Views (full-text article views including HTML views, PDF and ePub downloads, according to the available data) and Abstracts Views on Vision4Press platform.
Data correspond to usage on the plateform after 2015. The current usage metrics is available 48-96 hours after online publication and is updated daily on week days.
Initial download of the metrics may take a while.