Publications by Katherine Blundell


Cosmological growth and feedback from supermassive black holes

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P Mocz, KM Blundell, AC Fabian

We develop a simple evolutionary scenario for the growth of supermassive black holes (BHs), assuming growth due to accretion only, to learn about the evolution of the BH mass function from $z=3$ to 0 and from it calculate the energy budgets of different modes of feedback. We tune the parameters of the model by matching the derived X-ray luminosity function (XLF) with the observed XLF of active galactic nuclei. We then calculate the amount of comoving kinetic and bolometric feedback as a function of redshift, derive a kinetic luminosity function and estimate the amount of kinetic feedback and $PdV$ work done by classical double Fanaroff-Riley II (FR II) radio sources. We also derive the radio luminosity function for FR IIs from our synthesized population and set constraints on jet duty cycles. Around 1/6 of the jet power from FR II sources goes into $PdV$ work done in the expanding lobes during the time the jet is on. Anti hierarchical growth of BHs is seen in our model due to addition of an amount of mass being accreted on to all BHs independent of the BH mass. The contribution to the total kinetic feedback by active galaxies in a low accretion, kinetically efficient mode is found to be the most significant at $z<1.5$. FR II feedback is found to be a significant mode of feedback above redshifts $z\sim 1.5$, which has not been highlighted by previous studies.


The non-thermal emission of extended radio galaxy lobes with curved electron spectra

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P Duffy, KM Blundell

The existing theoretical framework for the energies stored in the synchrotron-emitting lobes of radio galaxies and quasars doesn't properly account for the curved spectral shape that many of them exhibit. We characterise these spectra using parameters that are straightforwardly observable in the era of high-resolution, low-frequency radio astronomy: the spectral curvature and the turnover in the frequency spectrum. This characterisation gives the Lorentz factor at the turnover in the energy distribution (we point out that this is distinctly different from the Lorentz factor corresponding to the turnover frequency in a way that depends on the amount of curvature in the spectrum) and readily gives the equipartition magnetic field strength and the total energy of the radiating plasma obviating the need for any assumed values of the cutoff frequencies to calculate these important physical quantities. This framework readily yields the form of the X-ray emission due to inverse-Compton (IC) scattering of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) photons by the electrons in the plasma having Lorentz factors of $\sim$1000. We also present the contribution to CMB anisotropies due to relativistic plasmas such as giant radio galaxy lobes, expressed in terms of the extent to which the lobes have their magnetic field and particle energies are in equipartition with one another.


Jet propulsion of wind ejecta from a major flare in the black hole microquasar SS433

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K Blundell, P Hirst

We present direct evidence, from Adaptive-Optics near-infra-red imaging, of the jets in the Galactic microquasar SS433 interacting with enhanced wind-outflow off the accretion disc that surrounds the black hole in this system. Radiant quantities of gas are transported significant distances away from the black hole approximately perpendicular to the accretion disc from which the wind emanates. We suggest that the material that comprised the resulting "bow-tie" structure is associated with a major flare that the system exhibited ten months prior to the observations. During this flare, excess matter was expelled by the accretion disc as an enhanced wind, which in turn is "snow-ploughed", or propelled, out by the much faster jets that move at approximately a quarter of the speed of light. Successive instances of such bow-ties may be responsible for the large-scale X-ray cones observed across the W50 nebula by ROSAT.


The inverse-Compton ghost HDF 130 and the giant radio galaxy 6C 0905+3955: matching an analytic model for double radio source evolution

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P Mocz, AC Fabian, KM Blundell, PT Goodall, SC Chapman, DJ Saikia

We present new GMRT observations of HDF 130, an inverse-Compton (IC) ghost of a giant radio source that is no longer being powered by jets. We compare the properties of HDF 130 with the new and important constraint of the upper limit of the radio flux density at 240 MHz to an analytic model. We learn what values of physical parameters in the model for the dynamics and evolution of the radio luminosity and X-ray luminosity (due to IC scattering of the cosmic microwave background (CMB)) of a Fanaroff-Riley II (FR II) source are able to describe a source with features (lobe length, axial ratio, X-ray luminosity, photon index and upper limit of radio luminosity) similar to the observations. HDF 130 is found to agree with the interpretation that it is an IC ghost of a powerful double-lobed radio source, and we are observing it at least a few Myr after jet activity (which lasted 5--100 Myr) has ceased. The minimum Lorentz factor of injected particles into the lobes from the hotspot is preferred to be $\gamma\sim10^3$ for the model to describe the observed quantities well, assuming that the magnetic energy density, electron energy density, and lobe pressure at time of injection into the lobe are linked by constant factors according to a minimum energy argument, so that the minimum Lorentz factor is constrained by the lobe pressure. We also apply the model to match the features of 6C 0905+3955, a classical double FR II galaxy thought to have a low-energy cutoff of $\gamma\sim10^4$ in the hotspot due to a lack of hotspot inverse-Compton X-ray emission. The models suggest that the low-energy cutoff in the hotspots of 6C 0905+3955 is $\gamma\gtrsim 10^3$, just slightly above the particles required for X-ray emission.


Radio and X-ray emission from disc winds in radio-quiet quasars

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KC Steenbrugge, EJD Jolley, Z Kuncic, KM Blundell

It has been proposed that the radio spectra of radio-quiet quasars is produced by free-free emission in the optically thin part of an accretion disc wind. An important observational constraint on this model is the observed X-ray luminosity. We investigate this constraint using a sample of PG radio-quiet quasars for which XMM-Newton EPIC spectra are available. Comparing the predicted and measured luminosities for 0.5, 2 and 5 keV, we conclude that all of the studied PG quasars require a large hydrogen column density absorber, requiring these quasars to be close to or Compton-thick. Such a large column density can be directly excluded for PG 0050+124, for which a high-resolution RGS spectrum exists. Further constraint on the column density for a further 19 out of the 21 studied PG quasars comes from the EPIC spectrum characteristics such as hard X-ray power-law photon index and the equivalent width of the Fe Kalpha line; and the small equivalent width of the C IV absorber present in UV spectra. For 2 sources: PG 1001+054 and PG 1411+442 we cannot exclude that they are indeed Compton-thick, and the radio and X-ray luminosity are due to a wind originating close to the super-massive black hole. We conclude that for 20 out of 22 PG quasars studied free-free emission from a wind emanating from the accretion disc cannot mutually explain the observed radio and X-ray luminosity.


A doubled double hotspot in J0816+5003 and the logarithmic slope of the lensing potential

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K Blundell, P Schechter, N Morgan, M Jarvis, S Rawlings, J Tonry

We present an analysis of observations of the doubly-lensed double hotspot in the giant radio galaxy J0816+5003 from MERLIN, MDM, WIYN, WHT, UKIRT and the VLA. The images of the two hotspot components span a factor of two in radius on one side of the lensing galaxy at impact parameters of less than 500pc. Hence we measure the slope of the lensing potential over a large range in radius, made possible by significant improvement in the accuracy of registration of the radio and optical frame and higher resolution imaging data than previously available. We also infer the lens and source redshifts to be 0.332 and > 1 respectively. Purely on the basis of lens modelling, and independently of stellar velocity dispersion measurements, we find the potential to be very close to isothermal.


Multiwavelength study of Cygnus A III. Evidence for relic lobe plasma

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KC Steenbrugge, I Heywood, KM Blundell

We study the particle energy distribution in the cocoon surrounding Cygnus A, using radio images between 151 MHz and 15 GHz and a 200 ks Chandra ACIS-I image. We show that the excess low frequency emission in the the lobe further from Earth cannot be explained by absorption or excess adiabatic expansion of the lobe or a combination of both. We show that this excess emission is consistent with emission from a relic counterlobe and a relic counterjet that are being re-energized by compression from the current lobe. We detect hints of a relic hotspot at the end of the relic X-ray jet in the more distant lobe. We do not detect relic emission in the lobe nearer to Earth as expected from light travel-time effects assuming intrinsic symmetry. We determine that the duration of the previous jet activity phase was slightly less than that of the current jet-active phase. Further, we explain some features observed at 5 and 15 GHz as due to the presence of a relic jet.


The extended X-ray emission around HDF130 at z=1.99: an inverse Compton ghost of a giant radio source in the Chandra Deep Field North

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AC Fabian, S Chapman, CM Casey, F Bauer, KM Blundell

One of the six extended X-ray sources found in the Chandra DeepField North is centred on HDF130, which has recently been shown to be a massive galaxy at z=1.99 with a compact radio nucleus. The X-ray source has a roughly double-lobed structure with each lobe about 41 arcsec long, or 345 kpc at the redshift of HDF130. We have analyzed the 2 Ms X-ray image and spectrum of the source and find that it is well fit by a power-law continuum of photon index 2.65 and has a 2--10 keV luminosity of 5.4x10^{43}ergps (if at z=1.99). Any further extended emission within a radius of 60 arcsec has a luminosity less than half this value, which is contrary to what is expected from a cluster of galaxies. The source is best explained as an inverse Compton ghost of a giant radio source, which is no longer being powered, and for which Compton losses have downgraded the energetic electrons, \gamma> 10^4, required for high-frequency radio emission. The lower energy electrons, \gamma~1000, produce X-rays by inverse Compton scattering on the Cosmic Microwave Background. Depending on the magnetic field strength, some low frequency radio emission may remain. Further inverse Compton ghosts may exist in the Chandra deep fields.


On the origin of radio core emission in radio-quiet quasars

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K Blundell, Z Kuncic

We present a model for the radio emission from radio-quiet quasar nuclei. We show that a thermal origin for the high brightness temperature, flat spectrum point sources (known as radio ``cores'') is possible provided the emitting region is hot and optically-thin. We hence demonstrate that optically-thin bremsstrahlung from a slow, dense disk wind can make a significant contribution to the observed levels of radio core emission. This is a much more satisfactory explanation, particularly for sources where there is no evidence of a jet, than a sequence of self-absorbed synchrotron components which collectively conspire to give a flat spectrum. Furthermore, such core phenomena are already observed directly via milli-arcsecond radio imaging of the Galactic microquasar SS433 and the active galaxy NGC1068. We contend that radio-emitting disk winds must be operating at some level in radio-loud quasars and radio galaxies as well (although in these cases, observations of the radio cores are frequently contaminated/dominated by synchrotron emission from jet knots). This interpretation of radio core emission mandates mass accretion rates that are substantially higher than Eddington. Moreover, acknowledgment of this mass-loss mechanism as an AGN feedback process has important implications for the input of energy and hot gas into the inter-galactic medium (IGM) since it is considerably less directional than that from jets.


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.


Clues from microquasars to the origin of radio-loudness of quasars

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C Nipoti, KM Blundell, J Binney

We analysed the long-term variability of four microquasars (GRS 1915+105, Cyg X-1, Cyg X-3, and Sco X-1) in radio and X rays. The results of our analysis indicate the existence of two distinct modes of energy output, which we refer to as the `coupled' mode and the `flaring' mode. The coupled mode is responsible for mildly fluctuating, flat-spectrum radio emission, coupled with the X-ray emission; the flaring mode produces powerful, steep-spectrum radio flares, with no significant counterpart in X rays. We find that the fraction of time spent by a typical microquasar in the flaring mode is similar to the fraction of quasars that are radio-loud. This is consistent with the hypothesis that radio-loudness of quasars is a function of the epoch at which the source is observed.


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.


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.


Radio galaxy evolution: what you can learn from a Brief Encounter

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K Blundell, S Rawlings, C Willott, N Kassim, R Perley

We describe the pitfalls encountered in deducing from classical double radio source observables (luminosity, spectral index, redshift and linear size) the essential nature of how these objects evolve. We discuss the key role played by hotspots in governing the energy distribution of the lobes they feed, and subsequent spectral evolution. We present images obtained using the new 74 MHz receivers on the VLA and discuss constraints which these enforce on models of the backflow and ages in classical doubles.


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.


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KM Blundell, F barrio

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