Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Weathering the Largest Storms in the Universe: Understanding environmental effects on extended radio emission in clusters

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posted on 2021-12-08, 11:36 authored by Dehghan, Siamak

This thesis presents an investigation of the habitat of extended radio sources, and the way in which the generation and properties of these radio sources are affected by environmental factors. We begin with a detailed structure analysis of the 0.3 deg² area of the MUSYC-ACES field, generated by applying a density-based clustering method, known as DBSCAN, to our spectroscopic and photometric samples of the field. As a result, we identify 62 over-dense regions across the field. Based on the properties of the detected structures, we classify 13 as clusters, of which 90% are associated with diffuse soft-band X-ray emission. This provides a strong and independent confirmation that both the clustering and classification methodologies are reliable for use in investigation of the environment of the radio sources in the Chandra Deep Field South (CDFS).  Using an interpolation-based method followed by a new calibration technique of using clusters of similar mass as standard candles, we are able to estimate the local environmental richness for a desired region. This methodology is applied to a sample of AGNs and star forming galaxies in the CDFS to probe whether or not the radio luminosity of the different radio sources is correlated to their environments. As a result, we do not find a significant correlation between the radio luminosity and the environment of star-forming galaxies and radio-quiet AGNs, however, a weak positive dependency is spotted for radio-loud AGNs. This may indicate that over-populated environments trigger or enhance the radio activity processes in the AGNs. We find that star-forming galaxies, unlike radio-loud AGNs, tend to avoid overpopulated environments especially at low redshifts. However, radio-loud AGN are found in both poor and rich environments. As a result, we find neither of these radio sources suitable for tracing the over-dense regions of the Universe, unlike tailed radio galaxies.  It is believed that tailed radio galaxies reside in the dense environments of clusters and groups, and therefore, may be the signatures of overdensities in large-scale structure. To evaluate the idea of using tailed radio galaxies as tracers of dense environments, a systematic study of these sources as a function of density is required. For this reason and by using the 1.4 GHz Australia Telescope Large Area Survey (ATLAS) data, we examined over four deg² area of the ATLAS-CDFS field, which includes the entire CDFS. We present a catalogue of 56 non-linear, extended, and low surface brightness sources including 45 tailed radio galaxies, two relic candidates, and a possible radio halo. We report the detection of the most distant tailed radio galaxy to date, at a redshift of 2.1688. In addition, despite the lack of deep spectroscopic data in the ATLAS field, we find two of the detected tailed radio galaxies are associated with clusters. We find three Head-Tail galaxy candidates in the CDFS field, all of which are located at high redshifts, where the magnitude constraint of our redshift sample prevents any structure detection.  One of the primary objectives of this research is to investigate the association between the morphology of tailed radio galaxies and the physical characteristics of the surrounding environment. In order to understand the role of the variety of factors that influence the radio morphology, we constructed a simple model that generates the overall radio structure of the sources in different habitats. We report the results of the simulation of the wide-angle tail radio galaxy PKS J0334-3900, which shows that both the gravitation interactions and a cluster wind are required to generate the observed radio tails. As a result, we find the morphology of the tailed radio galaxies as an invaluable tool to probe environmental characteristics.  In a supplementary study, we investigate the role of cluster dynamics on generation and alternation of extended radio sources. We present a comprehensive structure and sub-structure analysis of the Abell 3266 galaxy cluster. Based on the results of the sub-structure test, position and orientation of a radio relic candidate, and morphology of a prominent tailed radio galaxy in the cluster, we propose an ongoing merger scenario for this chaotic cluster environment. Furthermore, we verify our theory by an N-body simulation of a pre-merger cluster and an in-falling group. The results of the simulation supports our merger scenario by explaining both the orientation of the radio relic and the observed morphology of the tailed radio galaxy.  While there is a weak correlation between the luminosity of radio-loud AGNs and environmental density, tailed radio galaxies make superior probes of over-dense regions. Thus, overall we find tailed radio galaxies can be used to trace overdensities out to z ~ 2 and probe the details of the environments in which they are found.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970102 Expanding Knowledge in the Physical Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Chemical and Physical Sciences


Johnston-Hollitt, Melanie