Consider the affine space $\mathbb{A}^n$ (over some base scheme) with the usual $\mathrm{GL}_n$-action. What does the quotient stack $[\mathbb{A}^n / \mathrm{GL}_n]$ classify? If $n=1$, then we get $[\mathbb{A}^1 / \mathbb{G}_m]$, which classifies line bundles together with a global section, right? In general, $[\mathbb{A}^n / \mathrm{GL}_n]$ classifies vector bundles of rank $n$ together with some additional data - is it again just a global section?

I would also be happy if someone can add a geometric picture of $[\mathbb{A}^n / \mathrm{GL}_n]$, at least over some algebraically closed field. What are the points of this stack, and what are their stabilizers? What's your geometric intuition for $[\mathbb{A}^n / \mathrm{GL}_n]$?

PS: I am quite new to stack-land and hope that this question is not too trivial.

PPS: In the comments it is suggested to do the same as for $n=1$, so let me better explain what I've done for $n=1$. A $T$-point of $[\mathbb{A}^1/\mathbb{G}_m]$ is a $\mathbb{G}_m$-bundle $P \to T$ with a $\mathbb{G}_m$-map $P \to \mathbb{A}^1$. Then $P$ corresponds to an invertible sheaf $\mathcal{L}$ on $T$ via $P = \mathrm{Spec}_T(\bigoplus_{z \in \mathbb{Z}} \mathcal{L}^{\otimes z})$. Assuming that $T$ is affine, the $\mathbb{G}_m$-map therefore corresponds to a section of $\bigoplus_{z \in \mathbb{Z}} \mathcal{L}^{\otimes z}$, say $\sum_z a_z$, which is compatible with the $\mathcal{O}(\mathbb{G}_m)$-coaction, which comes down to $\sum_z a_z u^z = \sum_z a_z u$, i.e. $a_z=0$ for $z \neq 1$. We end up with a section $a_1$ of $\mathcal{L}$. For $n >1$, I have tried the same, but the quasi-coherent algebra induced by some locally free sheaf of rank $n$, whose spectrum is the corresponding $\mathrm{GL}_n$-bundle, is quite complicated, at least globally. Locally, we just have $P = \mathrm{GL}_n \times T$, and the $\mathrm{GL}_n$-map $P \to \mathbb{A}^n$ corresponds to a map $T \to \mathbb{A}^n$, i.e. $n$ global sections of $T$, which is one section of the free sheaf $\mathcal{O}_T^n$ of rank $n$. But a) I am not sure if this glues properly, and b) I would prefer a global argument as for $n=1$.

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    $\begingroup$ This stack classifies vector bundles of rank $n$ together with $n$ global sections. You see it just like you see that $A^1/G_m$ classifies line bundles with a global section. $\endgroup$ Oct 12 '14 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ This stack classifies vector bundles of rank $n$ together with $1$ global section. You see it just like you see that $A^1/G_m$ classifies line bundles with a global section. $\endgroup$ Oct 12 '14 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Matthieu. Hmmm... I don't think so. The stack that classifies vector bundles of rank $n$ together with $n$ global sections is $[Mat_{n\times n}/GL_n]$. $\endgroup$ Oct 12 '14 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ The comment with the most upvotes will be the correct one? ;) Anyway, this kind of disagreement shows that my question is perhaps not so silly, and that it requires a detailed answer ... $\endgroup$ Oct 12 '14 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ Their comments were tied, so I upvoted yours to make it a 3-way tie. $\endgroup$ Oct 13 '14 at 0:13

The category of maps from a test object $T$ to a quotient stack $[X/G]$ has the following general form. Objects are pairs $(P, f)$, where $P$ is a $G$-torsor over $T$, and $f: P \to X$ is a $G$-equivariant map. Morphisms $(P,f) \to (P',f')$ are torsor isomorphisms $g: P \to P'$ satisfying $f = f' g$. Here, $X$ is the vector representation $\mathbf{O}^n$, and $G = GL_n$.

However, the vector representation of $GL_n$ is faithful, so you may replace the $GL_n$-torsor with the associated bundle $P \times^{GL_n} \mathbf{O}^n$ to get an equivalent stack. Here, objects are pairs $(V, f)$, where $V$ is a rank $n$ vector bundle over $T$, and $f: V \to X$ is a $GL_n$-equivariant map to the vector representation, or more usefully, an equivariant sheaf map to the trivial rank $n$ bundle. Morphisms $(V,f) \to (V',f')$ are given by vector bundle isomorphisms $g$ satisfying $f = f' g$.

By taking dual vector bundles, we get an equivalent stack, whose objects are pairs $(V,h)$, where $V$ is a vector bundle, and $h$ is a $GL_n$-equivariant map from the trivial rank $n$ bundle to $V$. Since $GL_n$ acts transitively on the nonzero vectors in the vector representation (and its dual), any map $h$ is uniquely determined by the image of a fixed nonzero vector in the dual vector representation, i.e., a distinguished section of the vector bundle. Then we have a stack whose objects are vector bundles with sections, and morphisms are vector bundle isomorphisms that take sections to sections.

Edit: Here is a picture of the stack: $- \cdot$

The dash is an open dense copy of $B(Aff_{n-1})$ (since the stabilizer of a nonzero vector is the affine group $Aff_{n-1}$) and the dot is a closed copy of $BGL_n$.


I'll use the definition of stack as a (weak) functor from the category of schemes to that of groupoids (as opposed to the definition as a fibered category over the category of schemes).

The prestack associated to the action of $GL_n$ on $\mathbb A_n$ is, by definition, given by $$ X \mapsto \left\{\begin{matrix}\text{Objects: maps $s:X \to \mathbb A^n$}\\ Hom(s_1,s_2): \text{maps $f:X\to GL_n$ such that $f\cdot s_1 = s_2$} \end{matrix}\right\} $$ That prestack is easily seen to be equivalent to $$ X \mapsto \left\{\begin{matrix}\text{Objects: Sections $s:X\to \mathbb A^n\times X$ of the trivial vector bundle $\mathbb A^n\times X\to X$}\\ \text{$Hom(s_1,s_2)$: Vector bundle isos $f:\mathbb A^n\times X\to \mathbb A^n\times X$ s.t. $s_2=f\circ s_1$}\end{matrix}\right\} $$ The associated stack is then given by $$ X \mapsto \left\{\begin{matrix}\text{Objects: Vector bundles $V \to X$, together with a section $s:X\to V$}\\ \text{$Hom((V_1,s_1),(V_2,s_2))$: Vector bundle iso $f:V_1 \to V_2$ such that $s_2=f\circ s_1$}\end{matrix}\right\} $$

Indeed, any vector bundle with section is locally of the form trivial vector bundle with section. Moreover, any vector bundle with section $(V,s)$ over $X$ can be described by an open cover of $X$, on each open of the cover the data of a trivial vector bundle with section, and gluing isomorphisms subject to the obvious cocycle condition. That's exactly what does the associated stack to the prestack of tivial vector bundles with section.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, this is a nice way of seeing it. I was using the definition of $[X/G]$ as $[X/G](T) =$ groupoid of $G$-bundles on $T$ with a $G$-map to $X$. You use the atlas of this algebraic stack. $\endgroup$ Oct 12 '14 at 22:33

Let $\text{G}$ be a group. Then maps $$S\ \longrightarrow \ \text{BG}$$ from a test scheme $S$ is the same thing as a $\text{G}$-bundle $P\to S$ (or rather the groupoid of such).

Now let $X$ be another scheme with an action of $\text{G}$. Then to any $\text{G}$ bundle we can build its associated $X$ bundle: $$(P\to S)\ \rightsquigarrow \ (P\times_\text{G}X\to S).$$ This $X$ bundle has another description, as the pullback $\require{AMScd}$ \begin{CD} P\times_\text{G}X @>>> X/\text{G}\\ @V V V @VV V\\ S @> P> > \text{BG} \end{CD} Answer: Choosing a lift of the map $P$ to $$S\ \longrightarrow \ X/\text{G}$$ is thus the same as choosing a section of the $X$-bundle $P\times_\text{G}X$ associated to $P$.


  1. $\mathbf{A}^1/\mathbf{G}_m$ classifies $\mathbf{G}_m$ bundles (a.k.a. line bundles) along with a section of the associated line bundle.
  2. $\mathbf{A}^n/\text{GL}_n$ classifies $\text{GL}_n$ bundles with a section of its associated vector bundle.
  3. $\mathbf{P}^1=(\mathbf{A}^2\setminus 0)/\mathbf{G}_m$ classifies line bundles together with two sections which do not vanish simultaneously.
  4. Similarly for $\mathbf{P}^n$.
  5. A variation on 1. If instead $\mathbf{G}_m$ acts on $\mathbf{A}^1$ with weight $n$, then $\mathbf{A}^1/\mathbf{G}_m$ classifies line bundles with a section of its $n$th tensor power. Similarly for e.g. weighted projective spaces.
  6. More generally, if $\text{P}$ is a parabolic subgroup of the reductive group $\text{G}$, then the generalised flag variety $\text{G}/\text{P}$ classifies $\text{P}$ bundles with a trivialisation of the associated $\text{G}$ bundle. This gives the functor of points for e.g. Grassmannians $\text{Gr}(k,n)$.

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