Publications by Katherine Blundell


Multiwavelength study of Cygnus A IV. Proper motion and location of the nucleus

ArXiv (0)

KC Steenbrugge, KM Blundell, S Pyrzas

Context. Cygnus A, as the nearest powerful FR II radio galaxy, plays an important role in understanding jets and their impact on the surrounding intracluster medium. Aims. To explain why the nucleus is observed superposed onto the eastern lobe rather than in between the two lobes, and why the jet and counterjet are non-colinear. Methods. We made a comparative study of the radio images at different frequencies of Cygnus A, in combination with the published results on the radial velocities in the Cygnus A cluster. Results. From the morphology of the inner lobes we conclude that the lobes are not interacting with one another, but are well separated, even at low radio frequencies. We explain the location of the nucleus as the result of the proper motion of the galaxy through the cluster. The required proper motion is of the same order of magnitude as the radial velocity offset of Cygnus A with the sub-cluster it belongs to. The proper motion of the galaxy through the cluster likely also explains the non-co-linearity of the jet and counterjet.


The X-ray and radio-emitting plasma lobes of 4C23.56: further evidence of recurrent jet activity and high acceleration energies

ArXiv (0)

K Blundell, A Fabian

New Chandra observations of the giant (0.5 Mpc) radio galaxy 4C23.56 at z = 2.5 show X-rays in a linear structure aligned with its radio emission, but anti-correlated with the detailed radio structure. Consistent with the powerful, high-z giant radio galaxies we have studied previously, X-rays seem to be invariably found where the lobe plasma is oldest even where the radio emission has long since faded. The hotspot complexes seem to show structures resembling the double shock structure exhibited by the largest radio quasar 4C74.26, with the X-ray shock again being offset closer to the nucleus than the radio synchrotron shock. In the current paper, the offsets between these shocks are even larger at 35kpc. Unusually for a classical double (FRII) radio source, there is smooth low surface-brightness radio emission associated with the regions beyond the hotspots (further away from the nucleus than the hotspots themselves), which seems to be symmetric for the ends of both jets. We consider possible explanations for this phenomenon, and conclude that it arises from high-energy electrons, recently accelerated in the nearby radio hotspots that are leaking into a pre-existing weakly-magnetized plasma that are symmetric relic lobes fed from a previous episode of jet activity. This contrasts with other manifestations of previous epochs of jet ejection in various examples of classical double radio sources namely (1) double-double radio galaxies by e.g. Schoenmakers et al, (2) the double-double X-ray/radio galaxies by Laskar et al and (3) the presence of a relic X-ray counter-jet in the prototypical classical double radio galaxy, Cygnus A by Steenbrugge et al. The occurrence of multi-episodic jet activity in powerful radio galaxies and quasars indicates that they may have a longer lasting influence on the on-going structure formation processes in their environs than previously presumed.


SS433's accretion disc, wind and jets: before, during and after a major flare

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K Blundell, L Schmidtobreick, S Trushkin

The Galactic microquasar SS433 occasionally exhibits a major flare when the intensity of its emission increases significantly and rapidly. We present an analysis of high-resolution, almost-nightly optical spectra obtained before, during and after a major flare, whose complex emission lines are deconstructed into single gaussians and demonstrate the different modes of mass loss in the SS433 system. During our monitoring, an initial period of quiescence was followed by increased activity which culminated in a radio flare. In the transition period the accretion disc of SS433 became visible in H-alpha and HeI emission lines and remained so until the observations were terminated; the line-of-sight velocity of the centre of the disc lines during this time behaved as though the binary orbit has significant eccentricity rather than being circular, consistent with three recent lines of evidence. After the accretion disc appeared its rotation speed increased steadily from 500 to 700 km/s. The launch speed of the jets first decreased then suddenly increased. At the same time as the jet launch speed increased, the wind from the accretion disc doubled in speed. Two days afterwards, the radio flux exhibited a flare. These data suggest that a massive ejection of material from the companion star loaded the accretion disc and the system responded with mass loss via different modes that together comprise the flare phenomena. We find that archival data reveal similar behaviour, in that when the measured jet launch speed exceeds 0.29c this is invariably simultaneous with, or a few days before, a radio flare. Thus we surmise that a major flare consists of the overloading of the accretion disc, resulting in the speeding up of the H-alpha rotation disc lines, followed by enhanced mass loss not just via its famous jets at higher-than-usual speeds but also directly from its accretion disc's wind.


Inverse-Compton ghosts and double-lobed radio sources in the X-ray sky

ArXiv (0)

P Mocz, AC Fabian, KM Blundell

In this study we predict the total distributions of powerful (FR II) active double-lobed radio galaxies and ghost sources, and their observable distribution in the X-ray sky. We develop an analytic model for the evolution of the lobe emission at radio and X-ray energies. During jet activity, a double radio source emits synchrotron radiation in the radio and X-ray emission due to inverse-Compton (IC) upscattering by gamma~10^3 electrons of the cosmic microwave background. After the jets switch off, the radio luminosity (due to higher gamma electrons) falls faster than the X-ray luminosity and for some time the source appears as an IC ghost of a radio galaxy before becoming completely undetectable in the X-ray. With our model, for one set of typical parameters, we predict radio lobes occupy a volume fraction of the universe of 0.01, 0.03, 0.3 at z=2 (during the quasar era) of the filamentary structures in which they are situated, for typical jet lifetimes 5*10^7 yr, 10^8 yr, 5*10^8 yr; however since the inferred abundance of sources depends on how quickly they fall below the radio flux limit the volume filling factor is found to be a strong function of radio galaxy properties such as energy index and minimum gamma factor of injected particles, the latter not well constrained by observations. We test the predicted number density of sources against the Chandra X-ray Deep Field North survey and also find the contribution to the unresolved cosmic X-ray background by the lobes of radio galaxies. 10-30 per cent of observable double-lobed structures in the X-ray are predicted to be IC ghosts. The derived X-ray luminosity function of our synthetic population shows that double-lobed sources have higher space densities than X-ray clusters at redshifts z>2 and X-ray luminosities above 10^44 erg s^-1.


The X-ray luminous cluster underlying the bright radio-quiet quasar H1821+643

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HR Russell, AC Fabian, JS Sanders, RM Johnstone, KM Blundell, WN Brandt, CS Crawford

We present a Chandra observation of the only low redshift, z=0.299, galaxy cluster to contain a highly luminous radio-quiet quasar, H1821+643. By simulating the quasar PSF, we subtract the quasar contribution from the cluster core and determine the physical properties of the cluster gas down to 3 arcsec (15 kpc) from the point source. The temperature of the cluster gas decreases from 9.0\pm0.5 keV down to 1.3\pm0.2 keV in the centre, with a short central radiative cooling time of 1.0\pm0.1 Gyr, typical of a strong cool-core cluster. The X-ray morphology in the central 100 kpc shows extended spurs of emission from the core, a small radio cavity and a weak shock or cold front forming a semi-circular edge at 15 arcsec radius. The quasar bolometric luminosity was estimated to be 2 x 10^{47} erg per sec, requiring a mass accretion rate of 40 Msolar per yr, which corresponds to half the Eddington accretion rate. We explore possible accretion mechanisms for this object and determine that Bondi accretion, when boosted by Compton cooling of the accretion material, could provide a significant source of the fuel for this outburst. We consider H1821+643 in the context of a unified AGN accretion model and, by comparing H1821+643 with a sample of galaxy clusters, we show that the quasar has not significantly affected the large-scale cluster gas properties.


Opacity effects and shock-in-jet modelling of low-level activity in Cygnus X-3

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JCA Miller-Jones, MP Rupen, M Türler, EJ Lindfors, KM Blundell, GG Pooley

We present simultaneous dual-frequency radio observations of Cygnus X-3 during a phase of low-level activity. We constrain the minimum variability timescale to be 20 minutes at 43 GHz and 30 minutes at 15 GHz, implying source sizes of 2 to 4 AU. We detect polarized emission at a level of a few per cent at 43 GHz which varies with the total intensity. The delay of approximately 10 minutes between the peaks of the flares at the two frequencies is seen to decrease with time, and we find that synchrotron self-absorption and free-free absorption by entrained thermal material play a larger role in determining the opacity than absorption in the stellar wind of the companion. A shock-in-jet model gives a good fit to the lightcurves at all frequencies, demonstrating that this mechanism, which has previously been used to explain the brighter, longer-lived giant outbursts in this source, is also applicable to these low-level flaring events. Assembling the data from outbursts spanning over two orders of magnitude in flux density shows evidence for a strong correlation between the peak brightness of an event, and the timescale and frequency at which this is attained. Brighter flares evolve on longer timescales and peak at lower frequencies. Analysis of the fitted model parameters suggests that brighter outbursts are due to shocks forming further downstream in the jet, with an increased electron normalisation and magnetic field strength both playing a role in setting the strength of the outburst.


The inverse-Compton X-ray-emitting lobes of the high-redshift giant radio galaxy 6C 0905+39

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MC Erlund, AC Fabian, KM Blundell

We present new XMM-Newton data of the high-redshift (z=1.883), Mpc-sized giant radio galaxy 6C 0905+39. The larger collecting area and longer observation time for our new data means that we can better characterise the extended X-ray emission, in particular its spectrum, which arises from cosmic microwave background photons scattered into the X-ray band by the energetic electrons in the spent synchrotron plasma of the (largely) radio-quiet lobes of 6C 0905+39. We calculate the energy that its jet-ejected plasma has dumped into its surroundings in the last 3 X 10^7 years and discuss the impact that similar, or even more extreme, examples of spent, radio-quiet lobes would have on their surroundings. Interestingly, there is an indication that the emission from the hotspots is softer than the rest of the extended emission and the core, implying it is due to synchrotron emission. We confirm our previous detection of the low-energy turnover in the eastern hotspot of 6C 0905+39.


A novel method for measuring the extragalactic background light: Fermi application to the lobes of Fornax A

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M Georganopoulos, RM Sambruna, D Kazanas, AN Cillis, CC Cheung, ES Perlman, KM Blundell, DS Davis

We describe a new method for measuring the extragalactic background light (EBL) through the detection of $\gamma$-ray inverse Compton (IC) emission due to scattering of the EBL photons off relativistic electrons in the lobes of radio galaxies. Our method has no free physical parameters and is a powerful tool when the lobes are characterized by a high energy sharp break or cutoff in their electron energy distribution (EED). We show that such a feature will produce a high energy IC `imprint' of the EBL spectrum in which the radio lobes are embedded, and show how this imprint can be used to derive the EBL. We apply our method to the bright nearby radio galaxy Fornax A, for which we demonstrate, using WMAP and EGRET observations, that the EED of its lobes is characterized by a conveniently located cutoff, bringing the IC EBL emission into the {\sl Fermi} energy range. We show that {\sl Fermi} will set upper limits to the optical EBL and measure the more elusive infrared EBL.


Detection of a relic X-ray jet in Cygnus A

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KC Steenbrugge, KM Blundell, P Duffy

We present a 200 ks Chandra ACIS-I image of Cygnus A, and discuss a long linear feature seen in its counterlobe. This feature has a non-thermal spectrum and lies on the line connecting the brighter hotspot on the approaching side and the nucleus. We therefore conclude that this feature is (or was) a jet. However, the outer part of this X-ray jet does not trace the current counterjet observed in radio. No X-ray counterpart is observed on the jet side. Using light-travel time effects we conclude that this X-ray 50 kpc linear feature is a relic jet that contains enough low-energy plasma (gamma ~ 10^3) to inverse-Compton scatter cosmic microwave background photons, producing emission in the X-rays.


The 6C** sample of steep-spectrum radio sources: II - Redshift distribution and the space density of high-redshift radio galaxies

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MJ Cruz, MJ Jarvis, S Rawlings, KM Blundell

We use the 6C** sample to investigate the co-moving space density of powerful, steep-spectrum radio sources. This sample, consisting of 68 objects, has virtually complete K-band photometry and spectroscopic redshifts for 32 per cent of the sources. In order to find its complete redshift distribution, we develop a method of redshift estimation based on the K-z diagram of the 3CRR, 6CE, 6C* and 7CRS radio galaxies. Based on this method, we derive redshift probability density functions for all the optically identified sources in the 6C** sample. Using a combination of spectroscopic and estimated redshifts, we select the most radio luminous sources in the sample. Their redshift distribution is then compared with the predictions of the radio luminosity function of Jarvis et al. We find that, within the uncertainties associated with the estimation method, the data are consistent with a constant co-moving space density of steep-spectrum radio sources beyond z > 2.5, and rule out a steep decline.


The 6C** sample of steep-spectrum radio sources: I - Radio data, near-infrared imaging and optical spectroscopy

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MJ Cruz, MJ Jarvis, KM Blundell, S Rawlings, S Croft, H-R Kloeckner, RJ McLure, C Simpson, TA Targett, CJ Willott

We present basic observational data on the 6C** sample. This is a new sample of radio sources drawn from the 151 MHz 6C survey, which was filtered with radio criteria chosen to optimize the chances of finding radio galaxies at z > 4. The filtering criteria are a steep-spectral index and a small angular size. The final sample consists of 68 sources from a region of sky covering 0.421 sr. We present VLA radio maps, and the results of K-band imaging and optical spectroscopy. Near-infrared counterparts are identified for 66 of the 68 sources, down to a 3-sigma limiting magnitude of K ~ 22 mag in a 3-arcsec aperture. Eight of these identifications are spatially compact, implying an unresolved nuclear source. The K-magnitude distribution peaks at a median K=18.7 mag, and is found to be statistically indistinguishable from that of the similarly selected 6C* sample, implying that the redshift distribution could extend to z > 4. Redshifts determined from spectroscopy are available for 22 (32 per cent) of the sources, over the range of 0.2 < z < 3.3 . We measure 15 of these, whereas the other 7 were previously known. Six sources are at z > 2.5. Four sources show broad emission lines in their spectra and are classified as quasars. Three of these show also an unresolved K-band identification. Eleven sources fail to show any distinctive emission and/or absorption features in their spectra. We suggest that these could be (i) in the so-called `redshift desert' region of 1.2 < z < 1.8, or (ii) at a greater redshift, but feature weak emission line spectra.


Jet evolution, flux ratios and light-travel time effects

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JCA Miller-Jones, KM Blundell, P Duffy

Studies of the knotty jets in both quasars and microquasars frequently make use of the ratio of the intensities of corresponding knots on opposite sides of the nucleus in order to infer the product of the intrinsic jet speed (beta) and the cosine of the inclination angle of the jet-axis (cos{theta}), via the formalism I_{a}/I_{r} = ((1+beta cos{theta})/(1-beta cos{theta}))^{3+alpha}, where alpha relates the intensity I_{nu} as a function of frequency nu as I_{nu} propto nu^{-alpha}. Where beta cos{theta} is determined independently, the intensity ratio of a given pair of jet to counter-jet knots is over-predicted by the above formalism compared with the intensity ratio actually measured from radio images. As an example in the case of Cygnus X-3 the original formalism predicts an intensity ratio of about 185, whereas the observed intensity ratio at one single epoch is about 3. Mirabel and Rodriguez (1999) have refined the original formalism, and suggested measuring the intensity ratio of knots when they are at equal angular separations from the nucleus. This method is only applicable where there is sufficient time-sampling with sufficient physical resolution to interpolate the intensities of the knots at equal distances from the nucleus, and can therefore be difficult to apply to microquasars and is impossible to apply to quasars. Accounting for both the light-travel time between the knots and the simple evolution of the knots themselves reconciles this over-prediction and renders the original formalism obsolete.


Time-sequenced Multi-Radio-Frequency Observations of Cygnus X-3 in Flare

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JCA Miller-Jones, KM Blundell, MP Rupen, AJ Mioduszewski, P Duffy, AJ Beasley

Multifrequency observations from the VLA, VLBA and OVRO Millimeter Array of a major radio outburst of Cygnus X-3 in 2001 September are presented, measuring the evolution of the spectrum of the source over three decades in frequency, over a period of six days. Following the peak of the flare, as the intensity declines the high-frequency spectrum at frequency nu steepens from nu^{-0.4} to nu^{-0.6}, after which the spectral index remains at this latter terminal value; a trend previously observed but hitherto not satisfactorily explained. VLBA observations, for the first time, track over several days the expansion of a sequence of knots whose initial diameters are approximately 8 milliarcseconds. The light-crossing time within these plasmons is of the same order as the time-scale over which the spectrum is observed to evolve. We contend that properly accounting for light-travel time effects in and between plasmons which are initially optically thick, but which after expansion become optically thin, explains the key features of the spectral evolution, for example the observed timescale. Using the VLBA images, we have directly measured for the first time the proper motions of individual knots, analysis of which shows a two-sided jet whose axis is precessing. The best-fit jet speed is roughly beta = 0.63 and the precession period is about 5 days, significantly lower than fitted for a previous flare. Extrapolation of the positions of the knots measured by the VLBA back to zero-separation shows this to occur approximately 2.5 days after the detection of the rise in flux density of Cygnus X-3.


The under-explored radio-loudness of quasars and the possibility of radio-source--environment interactions

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K Blundell

I demonstrate that radio observations in the literature to date of optically-selected quasars are largely inadequate to reveal the full extent of their jet-activity. I discuss a recent example of an optically-powerful quasar, which is radio-quiet according to all the standard classifications, which Blundell & Rawlings discovered to have a >100 kpc jet, and show that other than being the first FRI quasar to be identified, there is no reason to presume it is exceptional. I also discuss a possible new probe of accounting for the interactions of radio sources with their environments. This tool could help to avoid over-estimating magnetic fields strengths within cluster gas. I briefly describe recent analyses by Rudnick & Blundell which confront claims in the literature of cluster gas B-fields > 10 micro-G.


Post-outburst radio spectral evolution of Cygnus X-3

ASP Conference Proceedings (0)

JCA Miller-Jones, KM Blundell, MP Rupen, AJ Beasley, AJ Mioduszewski

Multifrequency VLA and OVRO observations of the radio outburst of Cygnus X-3 in September 2001 are presented, illustrating the evolution of the spectrum of the source over a period of six days. An estimate of the magnetic field in the emitting region is made from the spectral turnover and possible explanations for the spectral evolution are suggested.


Optical spectroscopy of radio galaxies in the 7C Redshift Survey

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CJ Willott, S Rawlings, KM Blundell, M Lacy, GJ Hill, SE Scott

We present optical spectroscopy of all 49 radio galaxies in the 7C-I and 7C-II regions of the 7C Redshift Survey (7CRS). The low-frequency (151 MHz) selected 7CRS sample contains all sources with flux-densities S_151 > 0.5 Jy in three regions of the sky; 7C-I and 7C-II were chosen to overlap with the 5C6 and 5C7 surveys respectively, and cover a total sky area of 0.013 sr. The sample has been completely identified and spectroscopy of the quasars and broad-lined radio galaxies has been presented in Willott et al. (1998). Only seven of the radio galaxies do not have redshift determinations from the spectroscopy, giving a redshift completeness for the sample of >90%. The median redshift of the 7CRS is 1.1. We present a composite 0.2<z<0.8 7CRS radio galaxy spectrum and investigate the strengths of the 4000 Angstrom breaks in these radio galaxies. We find an anti-correlation between the 4000 Angstrom break strength and emission line luminosity, indicating that departures from old elliptical galaxy continuum shapes are most likely due to non-stellar emission associated with the active nucleus.


The properties of the X-ray holes in the intracluster medium of the Perseus cluster

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AC Fabian, A Celotti, KM Blundell, NE Kassim, RA Perley

High resolution X-ray and low frequency radio imaging now allow us to examine in detail the interaction and physical properties of the radio source 3C84 and the surrounding thermal gas. The radiative and dynamical properties of the inner X-ray holes, which coincide with the radio lobes, indicate that the ratio of the energy factor k and filling factor f is in the range 180<k/f<500. We define k to be the ratio of the total particle energy to that of the electrons radiating above a fiducial frequency of 10MHz. The relativistic plasma and magnetic field are not in equipartition, since the field must be a factor of 4 or more lower than required for pressure balance. Unexpected steep-spectrum spurs in the low-frequency radio maps point to outer X-ray holes, which are plausibly buoyant old radio lobes. The evidence that the inner lobes are currently expanding subsonically, yet have not detached due to buoyancy, and the requirement that the synchrotron cooling time must exceed the age of the hole, enable us to constrain the jet power of the nucleus to between 10^44 and 10^45 ergps, depending on the filling factor of the relativistic plasma.


On the redshift cut-off for steep-spectrum radio sources

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MJ Jarvis, S Rawlings, CJ Willott, KM Blundell, S Eales, M Lacy

We use three samples (3CRR, 6CE and 6C*) selected at low radio frequency to constrain the cosmic evolution in the radio luminosity function (RLF) for the `most luminous' steep-spectrum radio sources. Although intrinsically rare, such sources give the largest possible baseline in redshift for the complete flux-density-limited samples currently available. Using parametric models to describe the RLF which incorporate distributions in radio spectral shape and linear size as well as the usual luminosity and redshift, we find that the data are consistent with a constant comoving space density between z~2.5 and z~4.5. We find this model is favoured over a model with similar evolutionary behaviour to that of optically-selected quasars (i.e. a roughly Gaussian distribution in redshift) with a probability ratio of ~25:1 and ~100:1 for spatially-flat cosmologies with Omega_Lambda = 0 and Omega_Lambda = 0.7 respectively. Within the uncertainties, this evolutionary behaviour may be reconciled with the shallow decline preferred for the comoving space density of flat-spectrum sources by Dunlop & Peacock (1990) and Jarvis & Rawlings (2000), in line with the expectations of Unified Schemes.


The quasar fraction in low-frequency selected complete samples and implications for unified schemes

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CJ Willott, S Rawlings, KM Blundell, M Lacy

Low-frequency radio surveys are ideal for selecting orientation-independent samples of extragalactic sources because the sample members are selected by virtue of their isotropic steep-spectrum extended emission. We use the new 7C Redshift Survey along with the brighter 3CRR and 6C samples to investigate the fraction of objects with observed broad emission lines - the `quasar fraction' - as a function of redshift and of radio and narrow emission line luminosity. We find that the quasar fraction is more strongly dependent upon luminosity (both narrow line and radio) than it is on redshift. Above a narrow [OII] emission line luminosity of log L_[OII] > 35 W (or radio luminosity log L_151 > 26.5 W/Hz/sr), the quasar fraction is virtually independent of redshift and luminosity; this is consistent with a simple unified scheme with an obscuring torus with a half-opening angle theta_trans approx 53 degrees. For objects with less luminous narrow lines, the quasar fraction is lower. We show that this is not due to the difficulty of detecting lower-luminosity broad emission lines in a less luminous, but otherwise similar, quasar population. We discuss evidence which supports at least two probable physical causes for the drop in quasar fraction at low luminosity: (i) a gradual decrease in theta_trans and/or a gradual increase in the fraction of lightly-reddened (0 < A(V) < 5) lines-of-sight with decreasing quasar luminosity; and (ii) the emergence of a distinct second population of low luminosity radio sources which, like M87, lack a well-fed quasar nucleus and may well lack a thick obscuring torus.


A sample of 6C radio sources designed to find objects at redshift > 4: the radio data

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KM Blundell, S Rawlings, SA Eales, GB Taylor, AD Bradley

We describe the selection of a sample of 34 radio sources from the 6C survey (Hales, Baldwin & Warner 1993) from a region of sky covering 0.133 sr. The selection criteria for this sample, hereafter called 6C*, were chosen to optimise the chances of finding radio galaxies at redshift z > 4. Optical follow-up observations have already led to the discovery of the most distant known radio galaxy at z = 4.41 (Rawlings et al. 1996). We present VLA radio maps and derive radio spectra for all the 6C* objects.

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