A formalism for covariant polarized radiative transport by ray tracing

Charles F. Gammie, Po Kin Leung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We write down a covariant formalism for polarized radiative transfer appropriate for ray tracing through a turbulent plasma. The polarized radiation field is represented by the polarization tensor (coherency matrix) N αβ ≡ 〈a α k a*β k〉, where ak is a Fourier coefficient for the vector potential. Using Maxwell's equations, the Liouville-Vlasov equation, and the WKB approximation, we show that the transport equation in vacuo is k μμ N αβ = 0. We show that this is equivalent to Broderick & Blandford's formalism based on invariant Stokes parameters and a rotation coefficient, and suggest a modification that may reduce truncation error in some situations. Finally, we write down several alternative approaches to integrating the transfer equation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number123
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 20 2012


  • black hole physics
  • plasmas
  • polarization
  • radiative transfer
  • relativistic processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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