A MERLIN pilot study of faint variable VLA FIRST radio sources

Research paper by E. Xanthopoulos

Indexed on: 02 Mar '11Published on: 02 Mar '11Published in: Astrophysics and Space Science


We present the results of a pilot study in which we obtained Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network (MERLIN) L-band snapshot images of the 20 strongest radio sources from a sample of 123 radio objects that exhibit significant flux density variations at 1.4 GHz on a seven year base-line. The sample was created using FIRST VLA B-array data from 1995 and 2002 on a strip around zero declination near the south Galactic cap. The primary purpose is to assess the presence of radio jets and provide direct evidence between long-term variability and jet structures, as several models suggest. The radio structure of all the sources in this subsample appears very compact and our high resolution MERLIN observations reveal for the first time the presence of small milli-arcsecond (mas) jets and/or jet-like extensions in 17 of the 20 variable sources (literature data show core-jet structures or hints of extended structure in the other three objects which are point sources in our MERLIN observations). In the future we will use the radio results from the complete study, in combination with their optical Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) data, in order to investigate trends and possible differences or similarities between the quasars and galaxies that host these radio sources, and so examine existing unification schemes or open up new aspects in AGN unification.