Publications by Katherine Blundell


Inverse Compton X-ray halos around high-z radio galaxies: A feedback mechanism powered by far-infrared starbursts or the CMB?

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I Smail, KM Blundell, BD Lehmer, DM Alexander

We report the detection of extended X-ray emission around two powerful high-z radio galaxies (HzRGs) at z~3.6 (4C03.24 & 4C19.71) and use these to investigate the origin of extended, Inverse Compton (IC) powered X-ray halos at high z. The halos have X-ray luminosities of Lx~3e44 erg/s and sizes of ~60kpc. Their morphologies are broadly similar to the ~60-kpc long radio lobes around these galaxies suggesting they are formed from IC scattering by relativistic electrons in the radio lobes, of either CMB or FIR photons from the dust-obscured starbursts in these galaxies. These observations double the number of z>3 HzRGs with X-ray detected IC halos. We compare the IC X-ray to radio luminosity ratios for these new detections to the two previously detected z~3.8 HzRGs. Given the similar redshifts, we would expect comparable X-ray IC luminosities if CMB mm photons are the seed field for the IC emission. Instead the two z~3.6 HzRGs, which are ~4x fainter in the FIR, also have ~4x fainter X-ray IC emission. Including a further six z>2 radio sources with IC X-ray halos from the literature, we suggest that in the more compact (lobe sizes <100-200kpc), majority of radio sources, the bulk of the IC emission may be driven by scattering of locally produced FIR photons from luminous, dust-obscured starbursts within these galaxies, rather than CMB photons. The resulting X-ray emission can ionise the gas on ~100-200-kpc scales around these systems and thus form their extended Ly-alpha emission line halos. The starburst and AGN activity in these galaxies are thus combining to produce an effective and wide-spread "feedback" process, acting on the long-term gas reservoir for the galaxy. If episodic radio activity and co-eval starbursts are common in massive, high-z galaxies, then this IC-feedback mechanism may affect the star-formation histories of massive galaxies. [Abridged]


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.


Probing the history of SS433's jet kinematics via Decade-resolution radio observations of W50

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PT Goodall, KM Blundell, SJB Burnell

We present the results of a kinematical study of the W50 nebula using high resolution radio observations from the Very Large Array (VLA) spanning a 12-year period, sampled in 1984, 1993 and 1996. We conduct a careful analysis of the proper motions of the radio filaments across the W50 nebula at each epoch, and detect no significant motion for them during this period. The apparent lack of movement in the radio filaments mandates either (i) a high degree of deceleration of SS433's jet ejecta in the W50 nebula, or (ii) that the lobes of W50 formed a long time ago in SS433's history, during a jet outburst with appreciably different characteristics to the well-known precessing jet state observed in SS433 at the present day. We discuss the possible scenarios which could explain this result, with relevance to the nature of SS433's current jet activity.


SS433's circumbinary ring and accretion disc viewed through its attenuating disc wind

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S Perez, KM Blundell

We present optical spectroscopy of the microquasar SS433 covering a significant fraction of a precessional cycle of its jet axis. The components of the prominent stationary H-alpha and H-beta lines are mainly identified as arising from three emitting regions: (i) a super-Eddington accretion disc wind, in the form of a broad component accounting for most of the mass loss from the system, (ii) a circumbinary disc of material that we presume is being excreted through the binary's L2 point, and (iii) the accretion disc itself as two remarkably persistent components. The accretion disc components move with a Keplerian velocity of ~600 km/s in the outer region of the disc. A direct result of this decomposition is the determination of the accretion disc size, whose outer radius attains ~8 R_sun in the case of Keplerian orbits around a black hole mass of 10 M_sun. We determine an upper limit for the accretion disc inner to outer radius ratio in SS433, R_in/R_out ~ 0.2, independent of the mass of the compact object. The Balmer decrements, H-alpha/H-beta, are extracted from the appropriate stationary emission lines for each component of the system. The physical parameters of the gaseous components are derived. The circumbinary ring decrement seems to be quite constant throughout precessional phase, implying a constant electron density of log N_e(cm^-3) ~ 11.5 for the circumbinary disc. The accretion disc wind shows a larger change in its decrements exhibiting a clear dependence on precessional phase, implying a sinusoid variation in its electron density log N_e(cm^-3) along our line-of-sight between 10 and 13. This dependence of density on direction suggests that the accretion disc wind is polloidal in nature.


The precession of SS433's radio ruff on long timescales

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S Doolin, KM Blundell

Roughly perpendicular to SS433's famous precessing jets is an outflowing "ruff" of radio-emitting plasma, revealed by direct imaging on milli-arcsecond scales. Over the last decade, images of the ruff reveal that its orientation changes over time with respect to a fixed sky co-ordinate grid. For example, during two months of daily observations with the VLBA by Mioduszewski et al. (2004), a steady rotation through ~10 degrees is observed whilst the jet angle changes by ~20 degrees. The ruff reorientation is not coupled with the well-known precession of SS433's radio jets, as the ruff orientation varies across a range of 69 degrees whilst the jet angle varies across 40 degrees, and on greatly differing and non-commensurate timescales. It has been proposed that the ruff is fed by SS433's circumbinary disk, discovered by a sequence of optical spectroscopy by Blundell et al. (2008), and so we present the results of 3D numerical simulations of circumbinary orbits. These simulations show precession in the longitude of the ascending node of all inclined circumbinary orbits - an effect which would be manifested as the observed ruff reorientation. Matching the rate of ruff precession is possible if circumbinary components are sufficiently close to the binary system, but only if the binary mass fraction is close to equality and the binary eccentricity is non-zero.


The complex, variable near infrared extinction towards the Nuclear Bulge

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AJ Gosling, RM Bandyopadhyay, KM Blundell

Using deep J, H and Ks-band observations, we have studied the near-infrared (nIR) extinction of the Nuclear Bulge (NB) and we find significant, complex variations on small physical scales. We have applied a new variable nIR colour excess method, V-NICE, to measure the extinction; this method allows for variation in both the extinction law parameter alpha and the degree of absolute extinction on very small physical scales. We see significant variation in both these parameters on scales of 5 arcsec. In our observed fields, representing a random sample of sight lines to the NB, we measure alpha to be 2.64 +- 0.52, compared to the canonical "universal" value of 2. Our measured levels of A_Ks are similar to previously measured results (1 < A_Ks < 4.5); however, the steeper extinction law results in higher values for A_J (4.5 < A_J < 10) and A_H (1.5 < A_H < 6.5). Only when the extinction law is allowed to vary on the smallest scales can we recover self-consistent measures of the absolute extinction at each wavelength, allowing accurate reddening corrections for field star photometry in the NB. The steeper extinction law slope also suggests that previous conversions of nIR extinction to A_V may need to be reconsidered. Finally, we find that the measured values of extinction are significantly dependent on the filter transmission functions of the instrument used to obtain the data. This effect must be taken into account when combining or comparing data from different instruments.


Multiwavelength study of Cygnus A I. Precession and slow jet speeds from radio observations

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KC Steenbrugge, KM Blundell

We study the jet and counterjet of the powerful classical double FRII radio galaxy Cygnus A as seen in the 5, 8 and 15-GHz radio bands using the highest spatial resolution and signal-to-noise archival data available. We demonstrate that the trace of the radio knots that delineate the jet and counterjet deviates from a straight line and that the inner parts can be satisfactorily fitted with the precession model of Hjellming & Johnston. The parameter values of the precession model fits are all plausible although the jet speed is rather low (< 0.5 c) but, on investigation, found to be consistent with a number of other independent estimates of the jet speed in Cygnus A. We compare the masses and precession periods for sources with known precession and find that for the small number of AGN with precessing jets the precession periods are significantly longer than those for microquasars.


The Distance to SS433/W50 and its Interaction with the ISM

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FJ Lockman, KM Blundell, WM Goss

[ABRIDGED] The distance to the relativistic jet source SS433 and the related supernova remnant W50 is re-examined using new observations of HI in absorption from the VLA, HI in emission from the GBT, and 12CO emission from the FCRAO. The new measurements show HI in absorption against SS433 to a velocity of 75 km/s but not to the velocity of the tangent point, which bounds the kinematic distance at 5.5 < d_k < 6.5 kpc. This is entirely consistent with a 5.5 +/- 0.2 kpc distance determined from light travel-time arguments (Blundell & Bowler 2004). The HI emission map shows evidence of interaction of the lobes of W50 with the interstellar medium near the adopted systemic velocity of V_LSR = 75 km/s. The western lobe sits in a cavity in the HI emission near the Galactic plane, while the eastern lobe terminates at an expanding HI shell. The expanding shell has a radius of 40 pc, contains 8 +/- 3 x 10^3 M_sun of HI and has a measured kinetic energy of 3 +/- 1.5 x 10^{49} ergs. There may also be a static HI ring or shell around the main part of W50 itself at an LSR velocity of 75 km/s, with a radius of 70 pc and a mass in HI of 3.5 - 10 x 10^4 M_sun. We do not find convincing evidence for the interaction of the system with any molecular cloud or with HI at other velocities. The HI emission data suggest that SS433 lies in an interstellar environment substantially denser than average for its distance from the Galactic plane. This Population I system, now about 200 pc below the Galactic plane, most likely originated as a runaway O-star binary ejected from a young cluster in the plane. New astrometric data on SS433 show that the system now has a peculiar velocity of a few tens of km/s in the direction of the Galactic plane. From this peculiar velocity and the symmetry of the W50 remnant we derive a time since the SN of < 10^5 yr.


Fluctuations and symmetry in the speed and direction of the jets of SS433 on different timescales

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K Blundell, M Bowler, L Schmidtobreick

ABRIDGED We present new results on the variations in speed and direction of the jet bolides in the Galactic microquasar SS433, from high resolution spectra, taken with the ESO 3.6-m New Technology Telescope almost nightly over 0.4 of a precession cycle. We find: (i) These data exhibit multiple ejections within most 24-hour periods and, throughout the duration of the observing campaign, the weighted means of the individual bolides, in both the red jet and the blue jet, clearly exhibit the pronounced nodding known in this system. (ii) We present further evidence for a 13-day periodicity in the jet speed, and show this cannot be dominated by Doppler shifts from orbital motion. (iii) We show the phase of this peak jet speed has shifted by a quarter of a cycle in the last quarter-century. (iv) We show that the two jets ejected by SS433 are highly symmetric on timescales measured thus far. (v) We demonstrate that the anti-correlation between variations in direction and in speed is not an artifact of an assumption of symmetry. (vi) We show that a recently proposed mechanism (Begelman et al 2006) for varying the ejection speed and anti-correlating it with polar angle variations is ruled out. (vii) The speed of expansion of the plasma bolides in the jets is approximately 0.0024c. These novel data carry a clear signature of speed variations. They have a simple and natural interpretation in terms of both angular and speed fluctuations which are identical on average in the two jets. They complement archival optical data and recent radio imaging.


AGN effect on cooling flow dynamics

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FA Bibi, J Binney, K Blundell, H Omma

We analyzed the feedback of AGN jets on cooling flow clusters using three-dimensional AMR hydrodynamic simulations. We studied the interaction of the jet with the intracluster medium and creation of low X-ray emission cavities (Bubbles) in cluster plasma. The distribution of energy input by the jet into the system was quantified in its different forms, i.e. internal, kinetic and potential. We find that the energy associated with the bubbles, (pV + gamma pV/(gamma-1)), accounts for less than 10 percent of the jet energy.


Exploring the Nature of Weak Chandra Sources near the Galactic Centre

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RM Bandyopadhyay, JCA Miller-Jones, KM Blundell, FE Bauer, P Podsiadlowski, QD Wang, S Rappaport, E Pfahl

We present results from the first near-IR imaging of the weak X-ray sources discovered in the Chandra/ACIS-I survey (Wang et al. 2002) towards the Galactic Centre (GC). These ~800 discrete sources, which contribute significantly to the GC X-ray emission, represent an important and previously unknown population within the Galaxy. From our VLT observations we will identify likely IR counterparts to a sample of the hardest sources, which are most likely X-ray binaries. With these data we can place constraints on the nature of the discrete weak X-ray source population of the GC.


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.


3C radio sources as they've never been seen before

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K Blundell, N Kassim, R Perley

Low-radio-frequency observations played a remarkable role in the early days of radio astronomy; however, in the subsequent three or four decades their usefulness has largely been in terms of the finding-frequency of surveys. Recent technical innovation at the VLA has meant that spatially well-resolved imaging at low frequencies is now possible. Such imaging is essential to understanding the relationship between the hotspot and lobe emission in classical double radio sources, for example. We here present new images of 3C radio sources at 74 MHz and 330 MHz and discuss their implications.


Extremely red galaxy counterparts to 7C radio sources

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CJ Willott, S Rawlings, KM Blundell

We present RIJHK imaging of seven radio galaxies from the 7C Redshift Survey (7CRS) which lack strong emission lines and we use these data to investigate their spectral energy distributions (SEDs) with models which constrain their redshifts. Six of these seven galaxies have extremely red colours (R-K>5.5) and we find that almost all of them lie in the redshift range 1<z<2. We also present near-infrared spectroscopy of these galaxies which demonstrate that their SEDs are not dominated by emission lines, although tentative lines, consistent with H-alpha at z=1.45 and z=1.61, are found in two objects. Although the red colours of the 7CRS galaxies can formally be explained by stellar populations which are either very old or young and heavily reddened, independent evidence favours the former hypothesis. At z~1.5 at least 1/4 of powerful radio jets are triggered in massive (>L*) galaxies which formed the bulk of their stars several Gyr earlier, that is at epochs corresponding to redshifts z>5. If a similar fraction of all z~1.5 radio galaxies are old, then extrapolation of the radio luminosity function shows that, depending on the radio source lifetimes, between 10-100% of the near-IR selected extremely red object (ERO) population undergo a radio outburst at epochs corresponding to 1<z<2. An ERO found serendipitously in the field of one of the 7CRS radio sources appears to be a radio-quiet analogue of the 7CRS EROs with an emission line likely to be [OII] at z=1.20. The implication is that some of the most massive elliptical galaxies formed the bulk of their stars at z>5 and these objects probably undergo at least two periods of AGN activity: one at high redshift during which the black hole forms and another one at an epoch corresponding to z~1.5.


A sample of 6C radio sources designed to find objects at redshift > 4: II --- spectrophotometry and emission line properties

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MJ Jarvis, S Rawlings, M Lacy, KM Blundell, AJ Bunker, S Eales, R Saunders, H Spinrad, D Stern, CJ Willott

(Abridged) This is the second in a series of three papers which present and interpret basic observational data on the 6C* 151-MHz radio sample: a low-frequency selected sample which exploits filtering criteria based on radio properties (steep spectral index and small angular size) to find radio sources at redshift z > 4 within a 0.133sr patch of sky. We present results of a programme of optical spectroscopy which has yielded redshifts in the range 0.5 < z < 4.4 for the 29 sources in the sample, all but six of which are secure. We find that the fil tering criteria used for 6C* are very effective in excluding the low-redshift, low-luminosity radio sources: the median redshift of 6C* is z~1.9 compared to z~1.1 for a complete sample matched in 151-MHz flux density. By combining the emission-line dataset for the 6C* radio sources with those for the 3CRR, 6CE and 7CRS samples we establish that z > 1.75 radio galaxies follow a rough proportionality between Lyalpha- and 151 MHz-luminosity which, like similar correlations seen in samples of lower-redshift radio sources, are indicative of a primary link between the power in the source of the photoionising photons (most likely a hidden quasar nucleus) and the power carried by the radio jets. We argue that radio sources modify their environments and that the range of emission-line properties seen is determined more by the range of source age than by the range in ambient environment. This is in accord with the idea that all high-redshift, high-luminosity radio sources are triggered in similar environments, presumably recently collapsed massive structures.


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 High Resolution Radio Survey of Class I Protostars

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PW Lucas, KM Blundell, PF Roche

We report the results of a survey of low mass Class I protostars in the cm continuum. In the initial survey, seven sources in the Taurus star formation were observed with the VLA at 0``.25 resolution. All seven sources drive CO outflows and display Herbig-Haro flows in the optical or near infrared wavebands. 4/7 sources were detected, two of which are new discoveries in systems of very low luminosity, one being the lowest luminosity system detected to date in the cm continuum. Notably, three sources were not detected to a 3-sigma limit of 0.10 mJy/beam, which indicates that significant cm continuum emission is not a universal feature of Class I systems with outflow activity. Subsequent observations of HH30, a more evolved Class II system, found no emission to a 3-sigma limit of 0.03 mJy/beam. After comparison with near infrared data, we suggest that the discriminating feature of the detected systems is a relatively high ionisation fraction in the stellar wind. Temporal variability of the outflow may also play a role. The one relatively bright source, IRAS 04016+2610 (L1489 IRS), is clearly resolved on a 0``.4 scale at 2 cm and 3.5 cm. Follow-up imaging with MERLIN did not detect this source with a 0``.04 beam, indicating that the radio emission is generated in a region with a radius of about 25 au, which is broadly similar to the radius of the bipolar cavities inferred from models of near infrared data. Interpretation of this system is complicated by the existence of a quadrupolar outflow, which we originally detected through polarimetric imaging. We present a near infrared H2 image in which a bow shock in the secondary outflow is clearly seen. This complicated structure may have been caused by a gravitational interaction between two protostars.


The emission line - radio correlation for radio sources using the 7C Redshift Survey

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CJ Willott, S Rawlings, KM Blundell, M Lacy

We have used narrow emission line data from the new 7C Redshift Survey to investigate correlations between the narrow-line luminosities and the radio properties of radio galaxies and steep-spectrum quasars. The 7C Redshift Survey is a low-frequency (151 MHz) selected sample with a flux-density limit about 25-times fainter than the 3CRR sample. By combining these samples, we can for the first time distinguish whether the correlations present are controlled by 151 MHz radio luminosity L_151 or redshift z. We find unequivocal evidence that the dominant effect is a strong positive correlation between narrow line luminosity L_NLR and L_151, of the form L_NLR proportional to L_151 ^ 0.79 +/- 0.04. Correlations of L_NLR with redshift or radio properties, such as linear size or 151 MHz (rest-frame) spectral index, are either much weaker or absent. We use simple assumptions to estimate the total bulk kinetic power Q of the jets in FRII radio sources, and confirm the underlying proportionality between jet power and narrow line luminosity first discussed by Rawlings & Saunders (1991). We make the assumption that the main energy input to the narrow line region is photoionisation by the quasar accretion disc, and relate Q to the disc luminosity, Q_phot. We find that 0.05 < Q / Q_phot < 1 so that the jet power is within about an order of magnitude of the accretion disc luminosity. The most powerful radio sources are accreting at rates close to the Eddington limit of supermassive black holes (~ 10^9 - 10^10 solar masses), whilst lower power sources are accreting at sub-Eddington rates.


A radio-jet -- galaxy interaction in 3C441

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M Lacy, S Rawlings, KM Blundell, SE Ridgway

Multi-wavelength imaging and spectroscopy of the z=0.708 radio galaxy 3C441 and a red aligned optical/infrared component are used to show that the most striking aspect of the radio-optical ``alignment effect'' in this object is due to the interaction of the radio jet with a companion galaxy in the same group or cluster. The stellar population of the red aligned continuum component is predominately old, but with a small post-starburst population superposed, and it is surrounded by a low surface-brightness halo, possibly a face-on spiral disc. The [OIII]500.7/[OII]372.7 emission line ratio changes dramatically from one side of the component to the other, with the low-ionisation material apparently having passed through the bow shock of the radio source and been compressed. A simple model for the interaction is used to explain the velocity shifts in the emission line gas, and to predict that the ISM of the interacting galaxy is likely to escape once the radio source bow shock has passed though. We also discuss another, much fainter, aligned component, and the sub-arcsecond scale alignment of the radio source host galaxy. Finally we comment on the implications of our explanation of 3C441 for theories of the alignment effect.


Evidence for a black hole in a radio-quiet quasar nucleus

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KM Blundell, AJ Beasley, M Lacy, S Garrington

We present the first milli-arcsecond resolution radio images of a radio-quiet quasar, detecting a high brightness temperature core with data from the VLBA. On maps made with lower-frequency data from MERLIN and the VLA jets appear to emanate from the core in opposite directions, which correspond to radio-emission on arcsecond scales seen with the VLA at higher frequencies. These provide strong evidence for a black-hole--based jet-producing central engine, rather than a starburst, being responsible for the compact radio emission in this radio-quiet quasar.

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