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Exploring the faint source population at 15.7 GHz



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Whittam, Imogen Helen 


A sample of 296 faint (> 0:5 mJy) radio sources is selected from an area of the Tenth Cambridge (10C) survey at 15.7 GHz in the Lockman Hole. The 10C survey is complete to 0.5 mJy at 15.7 GHz and has a resolution of 30 arcsec. By matching this catalogue to several lower frequency surveys (e.g. including a deep GMRT survey at 610 MHz, a WSRT survey at 1.4 GHz, NVSS, FIRST and WENSS) I have investigated the radio spectral properties of the sources in this sample; all but 30 of the 10C sources are matched to a source in one or more of these surveys. I have found a significant increase in the proportion of flat spectrum sources at flux densities below $\approx$1 mJy – the median spectral index between 15.7 GHz and 610 MHz changes from 0.75 for flux densities greater than 1.5 mJy to 0.08 for flux densities less than 0.8 mJy. Thus a population of faint, flat spectrum sources is emerging at flux densities 1 mJy.

The spectral index distribution of this sample of sources selected at 15.7 GHz is compared to those of two samples selected at 1.4 GHz from FIRST and NVSS. I find that there is a significant flat spectrum population present in the 10C sample which is missing from the samples selected at 1.4 GHz. The 10C sample is compared to a sample of sources selected from the SKADS Simulated Sky by Wilman et al.; this simulation fails to reproduce the observed spectral index distribution and significantly under predicts the number of sources in the faintest flux density bin. I conclude that it is likely that the observed faint, flat spectrum sources are a result of the cores of FRI sources becoming dominant at high frequencies, rather than the emergence of a new population of starforming galaxies.

I have used recent Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) observations by Middleberg et al. with a resolution of 10 mas to investigate the properties of these faint 10C sources in the Lockman Hole and find that 33 out of the 51 10C sources in the VLBI field (65 percent) are detected by the VLBI observations. The high brightness temperature of these VLBI-detected sources rules out the possibility that this faint, high frequency population is dominated by starbursting or starforming sources and indicates that they must be Active Galactic Nuclei.

The sources in the Lockman Hole 10C sample are matched to optical, infrared and Xray data available in the field. A complete sample of 96 sources with high-resolution radio information available is defined; multi-wavelength counterparts are identified for 80 out of the 96 sources in this sample, for which is it possible to derive photometric redshifts. The radio-to- optical ratios of these sources show that the 10C sample is almost completely dominated by radio galaxies. 59/80 sources have luminosities greater than the FRI/FRII dividing luminosity.

The nature of these radio galaxies is investigated, using the multi-wavelength data to split the sources into high-excitation and low-excitation radio galaxies (HERGs and LERGs respectively). This shows that 34 sources are probably HERGs and 33 are probably LERGs, with 29 which could not be classified at this stage. The properties of these HERGs and LERGs are compared and I find that the HERGs tend to be found at higher redshifts, have flatter spectra, higher flux densities and smaller linear sizes.

This study is extended to lower flux densities using new, very deep, observations made with the Arcminute Microkelvin Imager in two fields. I use these observations to extend the 15.7-GHz source count down to 0.1 mJy, a factor of five deeper than the 10C count. These new deeper counts are consistent with the extrapolation of the fit to the 10C count, and do not show any evidence for an upturn. There is therefore no evidence for a new population (e.g. of starforming sources) contributing to the 15.7 GHz source count above 0.1 mJy, and suggesting that the faint, high-frequency population continues to be dominated by radio galaxies. Recent models of the high-frequency source counts under-predict the number of sources observed by a factor of two, consistent with the fact that these models fail to include the dominance of the cores and the faintness of the extended structures of these sources.





Radio astronomy, Galaxy evolution


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge