The Lockman Hole project: LOFAR observations and spectral index properties of low-frequency radio sources

Mahony, E. K.; Morganti, R.; Prandoni, I.; van Bemmel, I. M.; Shimwell, T. W.; Brienza, M.; Best, P. N.; Brüggen, M.; Calistro Rivera, G.; de Gasperin, F.; Hardcastle, M. J.; Harwood, J. J.; Heald, G.; Jarvis, M. J.; Mandal, S.; Miley, G. K.; Retana-Montenegro, E.; Röttgering, H. J. A.; Sabater, J.; Tasse, C.; van Velzen, S.; van Weeren, R. J.; Williams, W. L. and White, G. J. (2016). The Lockman Hole project: LOFAR observations and spectral index properties of low-frequency radio sources. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 463(3) pp. 2997–3020.



The Lockman Hole is a well-studied extragalactic field with extensive multi-band ancillary data covering a wide range in frequency, essential for characterizing the physical and evolutionary properties of the various source populations detected in deep radio fields (mainly star-forming galaxies and AGNs). In this paper, we present new 150-MHz observations carried out with the LOw-Frequency ARray (LOFAR), allowing us to explore a new spectral window for the faint radio source population. This 150-MHz image covers an area of 34.7 square degrees with a resolution of 18.6 × 14.7 arcsec and reaches an rms of 160 μJy beam$^-1$ at the centre of the field. As expected for a low-frequency selected sample, the vast majority of sources exhibit steep spectra, with a median spectral index of $\alpha _{150}^{1400}=-0.78\pm 0.015$. The median spectral index becomes slightly flatter (increasing from $\alpha _{150}^{1400}=-0.75)$ with decreasing flux density down to S$_1_5_0$ ∼10 mJy before flattening out and remaining constant below this flux level. For a bright subset of the 150-MHz selected sample, we can trace the spectral properties down to lower frequencies using 60-MHz LOFAR observations, finding tentative evidence for sources to become flatter in spectrum between 60 and 150 MHz. Using the deep, multi-frequency data available in the Lockman Hole, we identify a sample of 100 ultra-steep-spectrum sources and 13 peaked-spectrum sources. We estimate that up to 21 per cent of these could have z > 4 and are candidate high-z radio galaxies, but further follow-up observations are required to confirm the physical nature of these objects.

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