Investigations in time and of space using the FIRST survey : radio source variability and the evolution of FR II quasars

Nithyanandan Thyagarajan

Investigations in time and of space using the FIRST survey : radio source variability and the evolution of FR II quasars
Thyagarajan, Nithyanandan
Thesis Advisor(s):
Helfand, David John
Ph.D., Columbia University
Persistent URL:
The FIRST survey covered ~ 10,000 deg2 of the sky over a decade, providing unprecedented levels of flux density sensitivity (~ 1 mJy) at 1.4 GHz, uniformity to within 15% (at ~ 0.15 mJy rms), 5".4 angular resolution, astrometric accuracy to better than 1" and has cataloged ≥ 800,000 sources. It has made enormous contributions to diverse scientific ends including such subjects as radio source populations, quasars, large-scale structure and clustering of radio sources, gravitational lensing, cosmology, etc. I present the motivation, analysis and results of two projects also intended to demonstrate the power and expand the scope of the FIRST survey's scientific reach. A comprehensive search for variable and transient radio sources has been conducted using the ~ 55,000 snapshot images of the FIRST survey. An analysis leading to the discovery of 1,651 variable and transient objects down to mJy levels over a wide range of timescales (few minutes to years) is presented. The multi-wavelength matching for counterparts reveals the diverse classes of objects exhibiting variability. Interestingly, ~ 60% of the objects in the sample have either no classified counterparts or no corresponding sources at any other wavelength and require multi-wavelength follow-up observations. I discuss these classes of variables and speculate on the identity of objects that lack multi-wavelength counterparts. Thus, the FIRST survey has yielded the largest sample by far of radio variables and transients to date to unprecedented levels of sensitivity and sky coverage and demonstrates the promise of future radio instruments which have transient-detection as one of their key science projects. For decades, radio astronomers have attempted to use double-lobed radio sources to constrain the angular size-redshift (θ − z) relation and to derive cosmological parameters therefrom. Most of the early attempts have, embarrassingly, shown general consistency with a static Euclidean universe rather than with Friedmann models. These earlier results can be attributed to a combination of selection effects, sample definition problems, and inconsistencies in analysis. However, some recent and more successful analyses have still failed to distinguish among different Friedmann models. A catalog of ~ 680 FR II quasars was constructed from the FIRST sources with redshifts taken from the SDSS spectroscopic QSO catalog and a similar sized sample from the SDSS photometric QSO catalog which are the largest quasar compilations to date. Using statistical analyses, no evidence for intrinsic evolution of sizes with redshift is found. A static Euclidean model for the universe is clearly ruled out. However, new degeneracies between parameters in the multi-dimensional χ2-surface are found which can only be resolved with additional, independent information. Notable differences are found between the spectroscopic and photometric samples raising questions about the nature and origin of these populations.
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Suggested Citation:
Nithyanandan Thyagarajan, , Investigations in time and of space using the FIRST survey : radio source variability and the evolution of FR II quasars, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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