Polarization of gamma-ray bursts by scattering off relativistically moving material: Compton sailing and high polarization Academic Article uri icon


  • The polarization of gamma-ray emission scattered off the baryon-rich material that collimates a gamma-ray burst (GRB) fireball and the coasting speed of the irradiated matter are calculated numerically for different geometries of the radiation source and the collimating wall. It is shown that when the scattering material is Compton sailing, the direction of maximum polarization is quite generally well within the beaming cone of scattered radiation. As a result, the probability for observing bright highly polarized GRBs increases considerably, provided the Lorentz factor of the coasting matter is not well below 30, and the scattered radiation is highly polarized even when the beam thickness is large compared to 1/Γ. It is suggested that a correlation between polarization and intensity could provide clues as to whether energy flows from matter to photons or the reverse.

publication date

  • January 1, 2004