T. E. Hassall

University of Southampton, Southampton, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (27)115.51 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Aims. An efficient means of locating calibrator sources for International LOFAR is developed and used to determine the average density of usable calibrator sources on the sky for subarcsecond observations at 140 MHz. Methods. We used the multi-beaming capability of LOFAR to conduct a fast and computationally inexpensive survey with the full International LOFAR array. Sources were pre-selected on the basis of 325 MHz arcminute-scale flux density using existing catalogues. By observing 30 different sources in each of the 12 sets of pointings per hour, we were able to inspect 630 sources in two hours to determine if they possess a sufficiently bright compact component to be usable as LOFAR delay calibrators. Results. Over 40% of the observed sources are detected on multiple baselines between international stations and 86 are classified as satisfactory calibrators. We show that a flat low-frequency spectrum (from 74 to 325 MHz) is the best predictor of compactness at 140 MHz. We extrapolate from our sample to show that the density of calibrators on the sky that are sufficiently bright to calibrate dispersive and non-dispersive delays for the International LOFAR using existing methods is 1.0 per square degree. Conclusions. The observed density of satisfactory delay calibrator sources means that observations with International LOFAR should be possible at virtually any point in the sky, provided that a fast and efficient search using the methodology described here is conducted prior to the observation to identify the best calibrator.
    11/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present LOFAR Low Band observations of the Bootes and 3C295 fields. Our images made at 34, 46, and 62 MHz reach noise levels of 12, 8, and 5 mJy beam$^{-1}$, making them the deepest images ever obtained in this frequency range. In total, we detect between 300 and 400 sources in each of these images, covering an area of 17 to 52 deg$^{2}$. From the observations we derive Euclidean-normalized differential source counts. The 62 MHz source counts agree with previous GMRT 153 MHz and VLA 74 MHz differential source counts, scaling with a spectral index of $-0.7$. We find that a spectral index scaling of $-0.5$ is required to match up the LOFAR 34 MHz source counts. This result is also in agreement with source counts from the 38 MHz 8C survey, indicating that the average spectral index of radio sources flattens towards lower frequencies. We also find evidence for spectral flattening using the individual flux measurements of sources between 34 and 1400 MHz and by calculating the spectral index averaged over the source population. To select ultra-steep spectrum ($\alpha < -1.1$) radio sources, that could be associated with massive high redshift radio galaxies, we compute spectral indices between 62 MHz, 153 MHz and 1.4 GHz for sources in the Bo\"otes field. We cross-correlate these radio sources with optical and infrared catalogues and fit the spectral energy distribution to obtain photometric redshifts. We find that most of these ultra-steep spectrum sources are located in the $ 0.7 \lesssim z \lesssim 2.5$ range.
    The Astrophysical Journal 09/2014; 793(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present broadband, low-frequency (25-80 MHz and 110-190 MHz) LOFAR observations of PSR B0943+10, with the goal of better illuminating the nature of its enigmatic mode-switching behaviour. This pulsar shows two relatively stable states: a Bright (B) and Quiet (Q) mode, each with different characteristic brightness, profile morphology, and single-pulse properties. We model the average profile evolution both in frequency and time from the onset of each mode, and highlight the differences between the two modes. In both modes, the profile evolution can be well explained by radius-to-frequency mapping at altitudes within a few hundred kilometres of the stellar surface. If both B and Q-mode emission originate at the same magnetic latitude, then we find that the change of emission height between the modes is less than 6%. We also find that, during B-mode, the average profile is gradually shifting towards later spin phase and then resets its position at the next Q-to-B transition. The observed B-mode profile delay is frequency-independent (at least from 25-80 MHz) and asymptotically changes towards a stable value of about 0.004 in spin phase by the end of mode instance, much too large to be due to changing spin-down rate. Such a delay can be interpreted as a gradual movement of the emission cone against the pulsar's direction of rotation, with different field lines being illuminated over time. Another interesting explanation is a possible variation of accelerating potential inside the polar gap. This explanation connects the observed profile delay to the gradually evolving subpulse drift rate, which depends on the gradient of the potential across the field lines.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 08/2014; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have conducted two pilot surveys for radio pulsars and fast transients with the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) around 140 MHz and here report on the first low-frequency fast-radio burst limit and the discovery of two new pulsars. The first survey, the LOFAR Pilot Pulsar Survey (LPPS), observed a large fraction of the northern sky, ~1.4 x 10^4 sq. deg, with 1-hr dwell times. Each observation covered ~75 sq. deg using 7 independent fields formed by incoherently summing the high-band antenna fields. The second pilot survey, the LOFAR Tied-Array Survey (LOTAS), spanned ~600 sq. deg, with roughly a 5-fold increase in sensitivity compared with LPPS. Using a coherent sum of the 6 LOFAR "Superterp" stations, we formed 19 tied-array beams, together covering 4 sq. deg per pointing. From LPPS we derive a limit on the occurrence, at 142 MHz, of dispersed radio bursts of < 150 /day/sky, for bursts brighter than S > 107 Jy for the narrowest searched burst duration of 0.66 ms. In LPPS, we re-detected 65 previously known pulsars. LOTAS discovered two pulsars, the first with LOFAR or any digital aperture array. LOTAS also re-detected 27 previously known pulsars. These pilot studies show that LOFAR can efficiently carry out all-sky surveys for pulsars and fast transients, and they set the stage for further surveying efforts using LOFAR and the planned low-frequency component of the Square Kilometer Array.
    08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The Sun is an active source of radio emission which is often associated with energetic phenomena such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). At low radio frequencies (<100 MHz), the Sun has not been imaged extensively because of the instrumental limitations of previous radio telescopes. Here, the combined high spatial, spectral and temporal resolution of the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) was used to study solar Type III radio bursts at 30-90 MHz and their association with CMEs. The Sun was imaged with 126 simultaneous tied-array beams within 5 solar radii of the solar centre. This method offers benefits over standard interferometric imaging since each beam produces high temporal (83 ms) and spectral resolution (12.5 kHz) dynamic spectra at an array of spatial locations centred on the Sun. LOFAR's standard interferometric output is currently limited to one image per second. Over a period of 30 minutes, multiple Type III radio bursts were observed, a number of which were found to be located at high altitudes (4 solar radii from the solar center at 30 MHz) and to have non-radial trajectories. These bursts occurred at altitudes in excess of values predicted by 1D radial electron density models. The non-radial high altitude Type III bursts were found to be associated with the expanding flank of a CME. The CME may have compressed neighbouring streamer plasma producing larger electron densities at high altitudes, while the non-radial burst trajectories can be explained by the deflection of radial magnetic fields as the CME expanded in the low corona.
    07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present radio observations of the Moon between $35$ and $80$ MHz to demonstrate a novel technique of interferometrically measuring large-scale diffuse emission extending far beyond the primary beam (global signal) for the first time. In particular, we show that (i) the Moon appears as a negative-flux source at frequencies $35<\nu<80$ MHz since it is `colder' than the diffuse Galactic background it occults, (ii) using the (negative) flux of the lunar disc, we can reconstruct the spectrum of the diffuse Galactic emission with the lunar thermal emission as a reference, and (iii) that reflected RFI (radio-frequency interference) is concentrated at the center of the lunar disc due to specular nature of reflection, and can be independently measured. Our RFI measurements show that (i) Moon-based Cosmic Dawn experiments must design for an Earth-isolation of better than $80$ dB to achieve an RFI temperature $<1$ mK, (ii) Moon-reflected RFI contributes to a dipole temperature less than $20$ mK for Earth-based Cosmic Dawn experiments, (iii) man-made satellite-reflected RFI temperature exceeds $20$ mK if the aggregate cross section of visible satellites exceeds $80$ m$^2$ at $800$ km height, or $5$ m$^2$ at $400$ km height. Currently, our diffuse background spectrum is limited by sidelobe confusion on short baselines (10-15% level). Further refinement of our technique may yield constraints on the redshifted global $21$-cm signal from Cosmic Dawn ($40>z>12$) and the Epoch of Reionization ($12>z>5$).
    07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: This study aims to characterise the polarized foreground emission in the ELAIS-N1 field and to address its possible implications for the extraction of the cosmological 21-cm signal from the Low-Frequency Array - Epoch of Reionization (LOFAR-EoR) data. We use the high band antennas of LOFAR to image this region and RM-synthesis to unravel structures of polarized emission at high Galactic latitudes. The brightness temperature of the detected Galactic emission is on average 4 K in polarized intensity and covers the range from -10 to +13rad m^-2 in Faraday depth. The total polarized intensity and polarization angle show a wide range of morphological features. We have also used the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) at 350 MHz to image the same region. The LOFAR and WSRT images show a similar complex morphology, at comparable brightness levels, but their spatial correlation is very low. The fractional polarization at 150 MHz, expressed as a percentage of the total intensity, amounts to 1.5%. There is no indication of diffuse emission in total intensity in the interferometric data, in line with results at higher frequencies. The wide frequency range, good angular resolution and good sensitivity make LOFAR an exquisite instrument for studying Galactic polarized emission at a resolution of 1-2 rad m^-2 in Faraday depth. The different polarised patterns observed at 150 MHz and 350 MHz are consistent with different source distributions along the line of sight wring in a variety of Faraday thin regions of emission. The presence of polarised foregrounds is a serious complication for Epoch of Reionization experiments. To avoid the leakage of polarized emission into total intensity, which can depend on frequency, we need to calibrate the instrumental polarization across the field of view to a small fraction of 1%.
    07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first detection of carbon radio recombination line absorption along the line of sight to Cygnus A. The observations were carried out with the Low Frequency Array in the 33-57 MHz range. These low-frequency radio observations provide us with a new line of sight to study the diffuse, neutral gas in our Galaxy. To our knowledge this is the first time that foreground Milky Way recombination line absorption has been observed against a bright extragalactic background source. By stacking 48 carbon α lines in the observed frequency range we detect carbon absorption with a signal-to-noise ratio of about 5. The average carbon absorption has a peak optical depth of 2 × 10-4, a line width of 10 km s-1 and a velocity of +4 km s-1 with respect to the local standard of rest. The associated gas is found to have an electron temperature Te ˜ 110 K and density ne ˜ 0.06 cm-3. These properties imply that the observed carbon α absorption likely arises in the cold neutral medium of the Orion arm of the Milky Way. Hydrogen and helium lines were not detected to a 3σ peak optical depth limit of 1.5 × 10-4 for a 4 km s-1 channel width. Radio recombination lines associated with Cygnus A itself were also searched for, but are not detected. We set a 3σ upper limit of 1.5 × 10-4 for the peak optical depth of these lines for a 4 km s-1 channel width.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 02/2014; 437:3506-3515. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first detection of carbon radio recombination line absorption along the line of sight to Cygnus A. The observations were carried out with the LOw Frequency ARray in the 33 to 57 MHz range. These low frequency radio observations provide us with a new line of sight to study the diffuse, neutral gas in our Galaxy. To our knowledge this is the first time that foreground Milky Way recombination line absorption has been observed against a bright extragalactic background source. By stacking 48 carbon $\alpha$ lines in the observed frequency range we detect carbon absorption with a signal-to-noise ratio of about 5. The average carbon absorption has a peak optical depth of 2$\times$10$^{-4}$, a line width of 10 km s$^{-1}$ and a velocity of +4 km s$^{-1}$ with respect to the local standard of rest. The associated gas is found to have an electron temperature $T_{e}\sim$ 110 K and density $n_{e}\sim$ 0.06 cm$^{-3}$. These properties imply that the observed carbon $\alpha$ absorption likely arises in the cold neutral medium of the Orion arm of the Milky Way. Hydrogen and helium lines were not detected to a 3$\sigma$ peak optical depth limit of 1.5$\times$10$^{-4}$ for a 4 km s$^{-1}$ channel width. Radio recombination lines associated with Cygnus A itself were also searched for, but are not detected. We set a 3$\sigma$ upper limit of 1.5$\times$10$^{-4}$ for the peak optical depth of these lines for a 4 km s$^{-1}$ channel width.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: -In Press. Submitted to A&A. See http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014arXiv1406.7242G -. Context. The LOFAR Radio Telescope is a giant digital phased array interferometer with multiple antennas gathered in stations placed throughout Europe. As other interferometers, it provides a discrete set of measured Fourier components of the sky brightness. With these samples, recovering the original brightness distribution with aperture synthesis forms an inverse problem that can be solved by different deconvolution and minimization methods. Aims. Recent papers have established a clear link between the discrete nature of radio interferometry measurement and "compressed sensing" theory, which supports sparse recovery methods to reconstruct an image from the measured visibilities. We aimed at the implementation and at the scientific validation of one of these methods. Methods. We evaluated the photometric and resolution performance of the sparse recovery method in the framework of the LOFAR instrument on simulated and real data. Results. We have implemented a sparse recovery method in the standard LOFAR imaging tools, allowing us to compare the reconstructed images from both simulated and real data with images obtained from classical methods such as CLEAN or MS-CLEAN. Conclusions.We show that i) sparse recovery performs as well as CLEAN in recovering the flux of point sources, ii) performs much better on extended objects (the root mean square error is reduced by a factor up to 10), and iii) provides a solution with an effective angular resolution 2-3 times better than the CLEAN map. Applied to a real LOFAR dataset, the sparse recovery has been validated with the correct photometry and realistic recovered structures of Cygnus A, as compared to other methods. Sparse recovery has been implemented as an image recovery method for the LOFAR Radio Telescope and it can be used for other radio interferometers.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics. 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The low frequency array (LOFAR), is the first radio telescope designed with the capability to measure radio emission from cosmic-ray induced air showers in parallel with interferometric observations. In the first $\sim 2\,\mathrm{years}$ of observing, 405 cosmic-ray events in the energy range of $10^{16} - 10^{18}\,\mathrm{eV}$ have been detected in the band from $30 - 80\,\mathrm{MHz}$. Each of these air showers is registered with up to $\sim1000$ independent antennas resulting in measurements of the radio emission with unprecedented detail. This article describes the dataset, as well as the analysis pipeline, and serves as a reference for future papers based on these data. All steps necessary to achieve a full reconstruction of the electric field at every antenna position are explained, including removal of radio frequency interference, correcting for the antenna response and identification of the pulsed signal.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 12/2013; 560:14. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    T. E. Hassall, E. F. Keane, R. P. Fender
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    ABSTRACT: Recently, there have been reports of six bright, dispersed bursts of coherent radio emission found in pulsar surveys with the Parkes Multi-beam Receiver. Not much is known about the progenitors of these bursts, but they are highly-energetic, and probably of extragalactic origin. Their properties suggest extreme environments and interesting physics, but in order to understand and study these events, more examples need to be found. Fortunately, the recent boom in radio astronomy means many 'next-generation' radio telescopes are set to begin observing in the near future. In this paper we discuss the prospects of detecting short extragalactic bursts, in both beamformed and imaging data, using these instruments. We find that often the volume of space probed by radio surveys of fast transients is limited by the dispersion measure (DM) of the source, rather than its physical distance (although the two quantities are related). This effect is larger for low-frequency telescopes, where propagation effects are more prominent, but, their larger fields-of-view are often enough to compensate for this. Our simulations suggest that the low-frequency component of SKA1 could find an extragalactic burst every hour. We also show that if the sensitivity of the telescope is above a certain threshold, imaging surveys may prove more fruitful than beamformed surveys in finding these sorts of transients.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 08/2013; 436(1). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The characteristic outer scale of turbulence and the ratio of the random to ordered components of the magnetic field are key parameters to characterise magnetic turbulence in the interstellar gas, which affects the propagation of cosmic rays within the Galaxy. We provide new constraints to those two parameters. We use the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR) to image the diffuse continuum emission in the Fan region at (l,b) (137.0,+7.0) at 80"x70" resolution in the range [146,174] MHz. We detect multi-scale fluctuations in the Galactic synchrotron emission and compute their power spectrum. Applying theoretical estimates and derivations from the literature for the first time, we derive the outer scale of turbulence and the ratio of random to ordered magnetic field from the characteristics of these fluctuations . We obtain the deepest image of the Fan region to date and find diffuse continuum emission within the primary beam. The power spectrum of the foreground synchrotron fluctuations displays a power law behaviour for scales between 100 and 8 arcmin with a slope of (-1.84+/-0.19). We find an upper limit of about 20 pc for the outer scale of the magnetic interstellar turbulence toward the Fan region. We also find a variation of the ratio of random to ordered field as a function of Galactic coordinates, supporting different turbulent regimes. We use power spectra fluctuations from LOFAR as well as earlier GMRT and WSRT observations to constrain the outer scale of turbulence of the Galactic synchrotron foreground, finding a range of plausible values of 10-20 pc. Then, we use this information to deduce lower limits of the ratio of ordered to random magnetic field strength. These are found to be 0.3, 0.3, and 0.5 for the LOFAR, WSRT and GMRT fields considered respectively. Both these constraints are in agreement with previous estimates.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 08/2013; 558:72. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Faint undetected sources of radio-frequency interference (RFI) might become visible in long radio observations when they are consistently present over time. Thereby, they might obstruct the detection of the weak astronomical signals of interest. This issue is especially important for Epoch of Reionisation (EoR) projects that try to detect the faint redshifted HI signals from the time of the earliest structures in the Universe. We explore the RFI situation at 30-163 MHz by studying brightness histograms of visibility data observed with LOFAR, similar to radio-source-count analyses that are used in cosmology. An empirical RFI distribution model is derived that allows the simulation of RFI in radio observations. The brightness histograms show an RFI distribution that follows a power-law distribution with an estimated exponent around -1.5. With several assumptions, this can be explained with a uniform distribution of terrestrial radio sources whose radiation follows existing propagation models. Extrapolation of the power law implies that the current LOFAR EoR observations should be severely RFI limited if the strength of RFI sources remains strong after time integration. This is in contrast with actual observations, which almost reach the thermal noise and are thought not to be limited by RFI. Therefore, we conclude that it is unlikely that there are undetected RFI sources that will become visible in long observations. Consequently, there is no indication that RFI will prevent an EoR detection with LOFAR.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 07/2013; 435:584. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: LOFAR, the LOw-Frequency ARray, is a new-generation radio interferometer constructed in the north of the Netherlands and across europe. Utilizing a novel phased-array design, LOFAR covers the largely unexplored low-frequency range from 10-240 MHz and provides a number of unique observing capabilities. Spreading out from a core located near the village of Exloo in the northeast of the Netherlands, a total of 40 LOFAR stations are nearing completion. A further five stations have been deployed throughout Germany, and one station has been built in each of France, Sweden, and the UK. Digital beam-forming techniques make the LOFAR system agile and allow for rapid repointing of the telescope as well as the potential for multiple simultaneous observations. With its dense core array and long interferometric baselines, LOFAR achieves unparalleled sensitivity and angular resolution in the low-frequency radio regime. The LOFAR facilities are jointly operated by the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) foundation, as an observatory open to the global astronomical community. LOFAR is one of the first radio observatories to feature automated processing pipelines to deliver fully calibrated science products to its user community. LOFAR's new capabilities, techniques and modus operandi make it an important pathfinder for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). We give an overview of the LOFAR instrument, its major hardware and software components, and the core science objectives that have driven its design. In addition, we present a selection of new results from the commissioning phase of this new radio observatory.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 05/2013; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Some radio pulsars show clear drifting subpulses, in which subpulses are seen to drift in pulse longitude in a systematic pattern. Here we examine how the drifting subpulses of PSR B0809+74 evolve with time and observing frequency. We show that the subpulse period (P3) is constant on timescales of days, months and years, and between 14-5100 MHz. Despite this, the shapes of the driftbands change radically with frequency. Previous studies have concluded that, while the subpulses appear to move through the pulse window approximately linearly at low frequencies (< 500 MHz), a discrete step of 180 degrees in subpulse phase is observed at higher frequencies (> 820 MHz) near to the peak of the average pulse profile. We use LOFAR, GMRT, GBT, WSRT and Effelsberg 100-m data to explore the frequency-dependence of this phase step. We show that the size of the subpulse phase step increases gradually, and is observable even at low frequencies. We attribute the subpulse phase step to the presence of two separate driftbands, whose relative arrival times vary with frequency - one driftband arriving 30 pulses earlier at 20 MHz than it does at 1380 MHz, whilst the other arrives simultaneously at all frequencies. The drifting pattern which is observed here cannot be explained by either the rotating carousel model or the surface oscillation model, and could provide new insight into the physical processes happening within the pulsar magnetosphere.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 03/2013; 552:A61. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    Astronomy and Astrophysics 03/2013; Volume 552(A58). · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: ionFR calculates the amount of ionospheric Faraday rotation for a specific epoch, geographic location, and line-of-sight. The code uses a number of publicly available, GPS-derived total electron content maps and the most recent release of the International Geomagnetic Reference Field. ionFR can be used for the calibration of radio polarimetric observations; its accuracy had been demonstrated using LOFAR pulsar observations.
    Astrophysics Source Code Library. 03/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Cassiopeia A was observed using the Low-Band Antennas of the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR) with high spectral resolution. This allowed a search for radio recombination lines (RRLs) along the line-of-sight to this source. Five carbon-alpha RRLs were detected in absorption between 40 and 50 MHz with a signal-to-noise ratio of > 5 from two independent LOFAR datasets. The derived line velocities (v_LSR ~ -50 km/s) and integrated optical depths (~ 13 s^-1) of the RRLs in our spectra, extracted over the whole supernova remnant, are consistent within each LOFAR dataset and with those previously reported. For the first time, we are able to extract spectra against the brightest hotspot of the remnant at frequencies below 330 MHz. These spectra show significantly higher (15-80 %) integrated optical depths, indicating that there is small-scale angular structure on the order of ~1 pc in the absorbing gas distribution over the face of the remnant. We also place an upper limit of 3 x 10^-4 on the peak optical depths of hydrogen and helium RRLs. These results demonstrate that LOFAR has the desired spectral stability and sensitivity to study faint recombination lines in the decameter band.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 02/2013; 551(L11). · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pulsars emit from low-frequency radio waves up to high-energy gamma-rays, generated anywhere from the stellar surface out to the edge of the magnetosphere. Detecting correlated mode changes across the electromagnetic spectrum is therefore key to understanding the physical relationship among the emission sites. Through simultaneous observations, we detected synchronous switching in the radio and x-ray emission properties of PSR B0943+10. When the pulsar is in a sustained radio-"bright" mode, the x-rays show only an unpulsed, nonthermal component. Conversely, when the pulsar is in a radio-"quiet" mode, the x-ray luminosity more than doubles and a 100% pulsed thermal component is observed along with the nonthermal component. This indicates rapid, global changes to the conditions in the magnetosphere, which challenge all proposed pulsar emission theories.
    Science 01/2013; 339(6118):436-439. · 31.20 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

14 Citations
115.51 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013–2014
    • University of Southampton
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Southampton, England, United Kingdom
    • Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Utrecht
      Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • 2011–2012
    • The University of Manchester
      • Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics
      Manchester, England, United Kingdom