Solar Physics

, Volume 85, Issue 1, pp 3–31 | Cite as

Polarization in spectral lines

I: A unifying theoretical approach
  • E. Landi Degl'Innocenti


A unifying theoretical approach is presented to derive from the general principles of Quantum Electrodynamics both the radiative transfer equations for polarized radiation and the statistical equilibrium equations for an atomic system interacting with a polarized radiation field. The radiation field is described by means of Stokes parameters while the atomic system is described in terms of its density-matrix operator. The non-diagonal terms of the density matrix are fully accounted for so that this formalism can be suitably employed to describe a wide variety of physical phenomena like resonance scattering, the Hanle effect and the Zeeman effect, either in optically thin or optically thick atmospheres, together with all the possible intermediate situations.

The general formulae derived in the first sections of the paper are subsequently particularized introducing the dipole approximation in the relevant matrix elements describing the interaction between the atomic system and the radiation field. The final equations assume a quite compact expression by the introduction of suitable spherical tensors connected with the components of the polarization unit vectors associated with each direction of the radiation field. The general expressions and the main properties of these tensors are discussed in the Appendix.


Radiation Field Atomic System Dipole Approximation Stokes Parameter Radiative Transfer Equation 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Co 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Landi Degl'Innocenti
    • 1
  1. 1.Astrophysical Observatory of ArcetriFirenze

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