Constraints on the optical polarization source in the luminous non-blazar quasar 3C 323.1 (PG 1545+210) from the photometric and polarimetric variability
We examine the optical photometric and polarimetric variability of the luminous type 1 non-blazar quasar 3C 323.1 (PG 1545+210). Two optical spectro-polarimetric measurements taken during the periods 1996-98 and 2003 combined with a V-band imaging polarimetric measurement taken in 2002 reveal that (1) as noted in the literature, the polarization of 3C 323.1 is confined only to the continuum emission, that is, the emission from the broad line region is unpolarized; (2) the polarized flux spectra show evidence of a time-variable broad absorption feature in the wavelength range of the Balmer continuum and other recombination lines; (3) weak variability in the polarization position angle (PA) of ~4 deg over a time-scale of 4-6 years is observed; and (4) the V-band total flux and the polarized flux show highly correlated variability over a time-scale of one year. Taking the above-mentioned photometric and polarimetric variability properties and the results from previous studies into consideration, we propose a geometrical model for the polarization source in 3C 323.1, in which an equatorial absorbing region and an axi-asymmetric equatorial electron-scattering region are assumed to be located between the accretion disc and the broad line region. The scattering/absorbing regions can perhaps be attributed to the accretion disc wind or flared disc surface, but further polarimetric monitoring observations for 3C 323.1 and other quasars with continuum-confined polarization are needed to probe the true physical origins of these regions.