We obtained optical imaging polarimetry with the ACS/HRC aboard the HST of the 9 closest radiogalaxies in the 3C catalogue with an FR I morphology. The nuclear sources seen in direct HST images in these galaxies are found to be highly polarized with levels in the range 2 - 11 % with a median value of 7 %.We discuss the different mechanisms that produce polarized emission and conclude that the only viable interpretation is a synchrotron origin for the optical nuclei. This idea is strengthened by the analogy with the polarization properties of BL Lac objects, providing also further support to the FR I/BL Lac unified model. This confirms previous suggestions that the dominant emission mechanism in low luminosity radio-loud AGN is related to non-thermal radiation produced by the base of their jets. In addition to the nuclear polarization (and to the large scale optical jets), polarization is detected co-spatially with the dusty circumnuclear disks, likely due to dichroic transmission; the polarization vectors are tangential to the disks as expected when the magnetic field responsible for the grains alignment is stretched by differential rotation. We explored the possibility to detect the polarimetric signature of a misaligned radiation beam in FR I, expected in our sources in the frame of the FR I/ BL Lac unification. We did not find this effect in any of the galaxies, but our the results are not conclusive on whether a misaligned beam is indeed present in FR I.

Publication Date



THis is the pre-print of an article published by EDP Sciences. The final, published version is availble here: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20077370

Reproduced with permission from Astronomy & Astrophysics, © 2007 ESO

Also archived in: arXiv:0706.1944 v1 Jun 13 2007

Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


RIT – Main Campus