H. E. Bignall

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpor, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Publications (84)131.95 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We describe a new tool for studying the structure and physical characteristics of ultracompact active galactic nucleus (AGN) jets and their surroundings with μas precision. This tool is based on the frequency dependence of the light curves observed for intra-day variable radio sources, where the variability is caused by interstellar scintillation. We apply this method to PKS 1257-326 to resolve the core-shift as a function of frequency on scales well below ~12 μas. We find that the frequency dependence of the position of the scintillating component is rν–0.1 ± 0.24 (99% confidence interval) and the frequency dependence of the size of the scintillating component is dν–0.64 ± 0.006. Together, these results imply that the jet opening angle increases with distance along the jet: with nd > 1.8. We show that the flaring of the jet, and flat frequency dependence of the core position is broadly consistent with a model in which the jet is hydrostatically confined and traversing a steep pressure gradient in the confining medium with and np 7. Such steep pressure gradients have previously been suggested based on very long baseline interferometry studies of the frequency dependent core shifts in AGNs.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2013; 765(2):142. · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Intraday variability (IDV) of the radio emission from active galactic nuclei is now known to be predominantly due to interstellar scintillation (ISS). The MASIV (The Micro-Arcsecond Scintillation-Induced Variability) survey of 443 flat spectrum sources revealed that the IDV is related to the radio flux density and redshift. A study of the physical properties of these sources has been severely handicapped by the absence of reliable redshift measurements for many of these objects. This paper presents 79 new redshifts and a critical evaluation of 233 redshifts obtained from the literature. We classify spectroscopic identifications based on emission line properties, finding that 78% of the sources have broad emission lines and are mainly FSRQs. About 16% are weak lined objects, chiefly BL Lacs, and the remaining 6% are narrow line objects. The gross properties (redshift, spectroscopic class) of the MASIV sample are similar to those of other blazar surveys. However, the extreme compactness implied by ISS favors FSRQs and BL Lacs in the MASIV sample as these are the most compact object classes. We confirm that the level of IDV depends on the 5\,GHz flux density for all optical spectral types. We find that BL Lac objects tend to be more variable than broad line quasars. The level of ISS decreases substantially above a redshift of about two. The decrease is found to be generally consistent with ISS expected for beamed emission from a jet that is limited to a fixed maximum brightness temperature in the source rest frame.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2013; 767(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We describe a new tool for studying the structure and physical characteristics of ultracompact AGN jets and their surroundings with microarcsecond precision. This tool is based on the frequency dependence of the light curves observed for intra-day variable radio sources, where the variability is caused by interstellar scintillation. We apply this method to PKS1257-326 to resolve the core-shift as a function of frequency on scales well below ~12 microarcseconds. We find that the frequency dependence of the position of the scintillating component is r \propto \nu^{-0.1 \pm 0.24} (99% confidence interval) and the frequency dependence of the size of the scintillating component is d \propto \nu^{-0.64 \pm 0.006}. Together, these results imply that the jet opening angle increases with distance along the jet: d \propto r^{n_d}$ with n_d > 1.8. We show that the flaring of the jet, and flat frequency dependence of the core position is broadly consistent with a model in which the jet is hydrostatically confined and traversing a steep pressure gradient in the confining medium with p \propto r^{-n_p} and n_p > 7. Such steep pressure gradients have previously been suggested based on VLBI studies of the frequency dependent core shifts in AGN.
    01/2013;
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    Artem V. Tuntsov, Hayley E. Bignall, Mark A. Walker
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    ABSTRACT: The interstellar scattering responsible for pulsar parabolic arcs, and for intra-day variability of compact radio quasars, is highly anisotropic in some cases. We numerically simulate these observed phenomena using totally anisotropic, power-law models for the electron density fluctuations which cause the scattering. By comparing our results to the scattered image of PSR B0834+06 and, independently, to dual-frequency light curves of the quasar PKS1257-326, we constrain the nature of the scattering media on these lines of sight. We find that models with spectral indices slightly below \beta=3, including the one-dimensional Kolmogorov model, are broadly consistent with both data sets. We confirm that a single physical model suffices for both sources, with the scattering medium simply being more distant in the case of B0834+06. This reinforces the idea that intra-day variability and parabolic arcs have a common cause in a type of interstellar structure which, though obscure, is commonplace. However, the implied gas pressure fluctuations are large compared to typical interstellar pressures, and the magnetic stresses are much larger still. Thus while these scattering media may be commonplace, their underlying dynamics appear quite extraordinary.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 12/2012; 429(3). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) will give us an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the transient sky at radio wavelengths. In this paper we present VAST, an ASKAP survey for Variables and Slow Transients. VAST will exploit the wide-field survey capabilities of ASKAP to enable the discovery and investigation of variable and transient phenomena from the local to the cosmological, including flare stars, intermittent pulsars, X-ray binaries, magnetars, extreme scattering events, interstellar scintillation, radio supernovae and orphan afterglows of gamma ray bursts. In addition, it will allow us to probe unexplored regions of parameter space where new classes of transient sources may be detected. In this paper we review the known radio transient and variable populations and the current results from blind radio surveys. We outline a comprehensive program based on a multi-tiered survey strategy to characterise the radio transient sky through detection and monitoring of transient and variable sources on the ASKAP imaging timescales of five seconds and greater. We also present an analysis of the expected source populations that we will be able to detect with VAST.
    07/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: The fraction of compact active galactic nuclei (AGNs) that exhibit interstellar scintillation (ISS) at radio wavelengths, as well as their scintillation amplitudes, have been found to decrease significantly for sources at redshifts z > 2. This can be attributed to an increase in the angular sizes of the \muas-scale cores or a decrease in the flux densities of the compact \muas cores relative to that of the mas-scale components with increasing redshift, possibly arising from (1) the space-time curvature of an expanding Universe, (2) AGN evolution, (3) source selection biases, (4) scatter broadening in the ionized intergalactic medium (IGM) and intervening galaxies, or (5) gravitational lensing. We examine the frequency scaling of this redshift dependence of ISS to determine its origin, using data from a dual-frequency survey of ISS of 128 sources at 0 < z < 4. We present a novel method of analysis which accounts for selection effects in the source sample. We determine that the redshift dependence of ISS is partially linked to the steepening of source spectral indices ({\alpha}^8.4_4.9) with redshift, caused either by selection biases or AGN evolution, coupled with weaker ISS in the {\alpha}^8.4_4.9 < -0.4 sources. Selecting only the -0.4 < {\alpha}^8.4_4.9 < 0.4 sources, we find that the redshift dependence of ISS is still significant, but is not significantly steeper than the expected (1+z)^0.5 scaling of source angular sizes due to cosmological expansion for a brightness temperature and flux-limited sample of sources. We find no significant evidence for scatter broadening in the IGM, ruling it out as the main cause of the redshift dependence of ISS. We obtain an upper limit to IGM scatter broadening of < 110\muas at 4.9 GHz with 99% confidence for all lines of sight, and as low as < 8\muas for sight-lines to the most compact, \sim 10\muas sources.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2012; 756(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The discovery that interstellar scintillation (ISS) is suppressed for compact radio sources at z >~ 2 has enabled ISS surveys to be used as cosmological probes. We discuss briefly the potential and challenges involved in such an undertaking, based on a dual-frequency survey of ISS carried out to determine the origin of this redshift dependence.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 04/2012; 7(S285):347-348.
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    Hayley E. Bignall, Jeffrey A. Hodgson
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    ABSTRACT: The line of sight towards the compact, radio loud quasar PKS 1257-326 passes through a patch of scattering plasma in the local Galactic ISM that causes large and rapid, intra-hour variations in the received flux density at centimetre wavelengths. This rapid interstellar scintillation (SS) has been occurring for at least 15 years, implying that the scattering ``screen'' is at least 100 AU in physical extent. Through observations of the ISS we have measured microarcsecond-scale ``core shifts'' in PKS 1257-326, corresponding to changing opacity during an intrinsic outburst. Recent analysis of VLA data of a sample of 128 quasars found 6 sources scintillating with a characteristic time-scale of < 2 hours, suggesting that nearby scattering screens in the ISM may have a covering fraction of a few percent. That is an important consideration for proposed surveys of the transient and variable radio sky.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 04/2012; 7(S285):129-132.
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  • 01/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: Preliminary specifications for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) call for 25% of the total collecting area of the dish array to be located at distances greater than 180 km from the core, with a maximum baseline of at least 3000 km. The array will provide angular resolution ~ 40 - 2 mas at 0.5 - 10 GHz with image sensitivity reaching < 50 nJy/beam in an 8 hour integration with 500 MHz bandwidth. Given these specifications, the high angular resolution component of the SKA will be capable of detecting brightness temperatures < 200 K with milliarcsecond-scale angular resolution. The aim of this article is to bring together in one place a discussion of the broad range of new and important high angular resolution science that will be enabled by the SKA, and in doing so, address the merits of long baselines as part of the SKA. We highlight the fact that high angular resolution requiring baselines greater than 1000 km provides a rich science case with projects from many areas of astrophysics, including important contributions to key SKA science.
    Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia 11/2011; 29(1). · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Since the discovery that the flux densities of very compact astrophysical sources are modulated by scattering in the inhomogeneous, ionized interstellar medium (ISM) of our own Galaxy through a phenomenon known as Interstellar Scintillation (ISS), these scattering effects have been used with great success as a tool to probe the physics of the ISM and the sources themselves. With the recent discovery of a redshift dependence in the ISS of quasars in a 4.9 GHz survey of about 500 sources, large statistical studies of ISS have been imbued with a cosmological significance. Possible causes of this effect include cosmological expansion, scatter broadening by the ionized intergalactic medium and evolution of quasar morphology with redshift. Since each of these hypotheses have different wavelength dependences, we have carried out dual-frequency observations of a subsample of 140 quasars to determine the origin of this redshift dependence of ISS. We are therefore using interstellar scattering, for the first time, as a cosmological probe at micro-arcsecond scales - achieving an angular resolution two orders of magnitude finer than that of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). We discover a weaker redshift dependence at 8.4 GHz as compared to 4.9 GHz, indicating a strong wavelength scaling in the effect. We are investigating possible source selection effects and developing the theory to model the observations to enable an accurate interpretation of the data.
    General Assembly and Scientific Symposium, 2011 XXXth URSI; 09/2011
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    ABSTRACT: The 4.9 GHz Micro-Arcsecond Scintillation-Induced Variability (MASIV) Survey detected a drop in Interstellar Scintillation (ISS) for sources at redshifts z > 2, indicating an apparent increase in angular diameter or a decrease in flux density of the most compact components of these sources, relative to their extended emission. This can result from intrinsic source size effects or scatter broadening in the Intergalactic Medium (IGM), in excess of the expected (1+z)^0.5 angular diameter scaling of brightness temperature limited sources due to cosmological expansion. We report here 4.9 GHz and 8.4 GHz observations and data analysis for a sample of 140 compact, flat-spectrum sources which may allow us to determine the origin of this angular diameter-redshift relation by exploiting their different wavelength dependences. In addition to using ISS as a cosmological probe, the observations provide additional insight into source morphologies and the characteristics of ISS. As in the MASIV Survey, the variability of the sources is found to be significantly correlated with line-of-sight H-alpha intensities, confirming its link with ISS. For 25 sources, time delays of about 0.15 to 3 days are observed between the scintillation patterns at both frequencies, interpreted as being caused by a shift in core positions when probed at different optical depths. Significant correlation is found between ISS amplitudes and source spectral index; in particular, a large drop in ISS amplitudes is observed at spectral indices of < -0.4 confirming that steep spectrum sources scintillate less. We detect a weakened redshift dependence of ISS at 8.4 GHz over that at 4.9 GHz, with the mean variance at 4-day timescales reduced by a factor of 1.8 in the z > 2 sources relative to the z < 2 sources, as opposed to the factor of 3 decrease observed at 4.9 GHz. This suggests scatter broadening in the IGM.
    The Astronomical Journal 07/2011; 142(4). · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    Narrow-Line Seyfert 1 Galaxies and their place in the Universe, Milano, Italy; 04/2011
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    ABSTRACT: There is growing evidence of relativistic jets in radio-loud narrow-line Seyfert 1 (RL-NLS1) galaxies. We constrain the observational properties of the radio emission in the first RL-NLS1 galaxy ever detected in gamma-rays, PMN J0948+0022, i.e., its flux density and structure in total intensity and in polarization, its compactness, and variability. We performed three real-time e-VLBI observations of PMN J0948+0022 at 22 GHz, using a global array including telescopes in Europe, East Asia, and Australia. These are the first e-VLBI science observations ever carried out with a global array, reaching a maximum baseline length of 12458 km. The observations were part of a large multiwavelength campaign in 2009. The source is detected at all three epochs. The structure is dominated by a bright component, more compact than 55 microarcsec, with a fainter component at a position angle theta~ 35deg. Relativistic beaming is required by the observed brightness temperature of 3.4x10^11 K. Polarization is detected at a level of about 1%. The parameters derived by the VLBI observations, in addition to the broad-band properties, confirm that PMN J0948+0022 is similar to flat spectrum radio quasars. Global e-VLBI is a reliable and promising technique for future studies.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 04/2011; 528:L11. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The extreme, intra-hour and >10% rms flux density scintillation observed in AGNs such as PKS 0405-385, J1819+3845 and PKS 1257-326 at cm wavelengths has been attributed to scattering in highly turbulent, nearby regions in the interstellar medium. Such behavior has been found to be rare. We searched for rapid scintillators among 128 flat spectrum AGNs and analyzed their properties to determine the origin of such rapid and large amplitude radio scintillation. The sources were observed at the VLA at 4.9 and 8.4 GHz simultaneously at two hour intervals over 11 days. We detected six rapid scintillators with characteristic time-scales of 10%. We found strong lines of evidence linking rapid scintillation to the presence of nearby scattering regions, estimated to be
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 01/2011; 534. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the results of a successful 7 hour 1.4 GHz VLBI experiment using two new stations, ASKAP-29 located in Western Australia and WARK12M located on the North Island of New Zealand. This was the first geodetic VLBI observing session with the participation of these new stations. We have determined the positions of ASKAP-29 and WARK12M. Random errors on position estimates are 150-200 mm for the vertical component and 40-50 mm for the horizontal component. Systematic errors caused by the unmodeled ionosphere path delay may reach 1.3 m for the vertical component.
    Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia 12/2010; 28. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: VLBI observations of intraday variable (IDV) quasars found in the MASIV (Micro-Arcsecond Scintillation-Induced Variability) 5 GHz VLA Survey of 500 flat-spectrum sources in the northern sky have shown that these sources are extremely compact, often unresolved, on milliarcsecond scales, and more core-dominated than their non-IDV counterparts. VAST: an ASKAP Survey for Variables and Slow Transients, proposes to observe 10,000 square degrees of southern sky daily for 2 years in the VAST-Wide survey component. This is expected to reveal of order 30,000 compact sources brighter than 10 mJy showing refractive interstellar scintillation (the cause of centimeter-wavelength IDV) at the survey frequency of about 1.4 GHz. Many of these sources may be suitable astrometric calibrators for VLBI at higher frequencies.
    12/2010;
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    ABSTRACT: We have studied the archetypal Gigahertz Peaked Spectrum radio galaxy, PKS 1934 – 638, using the Australian Long Baseline Array augmented with two new telescopes that greatly improve the angular resolution of the array. These very long baseline interferometry observations represent the first scientific results from a new antenna in New Zealand and the first antenna of the Australian SKA Pathfinder. A compact double radio source, PKS 1934 – 638 has been monitored over a period of 40 years and the observation described here provides the latest datum, eight years after the previous observation, to aid in the study of the long-term evolution of the source structure. We take advantage of these new long baselines to probe PKS 1934 – 638 at the relatively low frequency of 1.4 GHz in order to examine the effects of optical depth on the structure of the radio source. Optical depth effects, resulting in the observation of frequency-dependent structure, may have previously been interpreted in terms of an expansion of the source as a function of time. Expansion and frequency-dependent effects are important to disentangle in order to estimate the age of PKS 1934 – 638. We show that frequency-dependent structure effects are likely to be important in PKS 1934 – 638 and present a simple two-dimensional synchrotron source model in which opacity effects due to synchrotron self-absorption are taken into account. Evidence for expansion of the radio source over 40 years is therefore weak with consequences for the estimated age of the radio source.
    The Astronomical Journal 10/2010; 140(5):1506. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The detection of gamma-ray emission by Fermi-LAT from the radio loud Narrow Line Seyfert 1 PMN J0948+0022 (Abdo et al. 2009, ApJ 699, 976) triggered a multi-wavelength campaign between March and July 2009. Given its high compactness (Doi et al. 2006, PASJ 58, 829), inverted spectrum, and 0deg declination, the source was an ideal target to observe at 22 GHz with a Global VLBI array extending from Europe to East Asia and Australia. In order to deliver prompt results to be analysed in combination with the other instruments participating in the campaign, the observations were carried out with real time VLBI, for the first time on a Global scale. Indeed, the main results have been published just a few months after the campaign (Abdo et al. 2009, ApJ 707, 727). Here we present additional details about the e-VLBI observations. Comment: PoS(10th EVN Symposium)080: Proceedings of the 10th European VLBI Network Symposium and EVN Users Meeting: VLBI and the new generation of radio arrays, September 20-24, 2010, Manchester Uk
    Proceedings of the 10th European VLBI Network Symposium and EVN Users Meeting: VLBI and the new generation of radio arrays, Manchester, UK; 09/2010

Publication Stats

284 Citations
131.95 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013
    • Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman
      Kuala Lumpor, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • 2011–2013
    • Curtin University Australia
      • International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)
      Bentley, Western Australia, Australia
  • 2010
    • International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
      Perth City, Western Australia, Australia
  • 2009
    • University of Groningen
      • Kapteyn Astronomical Institute
      Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
  • 2004–2009
    • Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe
      Hoogeveen, Drenthe, Netherlands
  • 2008
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Department of Astronomy
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2006
    • National Radio Astronomy Observatory
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
    • Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
      • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
    • University of Tasmania
      • School of Mathematics & Physics
      Hobart Town, Tasmania, Australia
  • 2001–2003
    • University of Adelaide
      Tarndarnya, South Australia, Australia