Deep multi-frequency radio observations of the SHADES fields and the nature of the faint radio populaton
The two SCUBA HAlf-Degree Extragalactic Survey (SHADES) fields are amongst the richest places in the sky in terms of multi-wavelength coverage. They comprise an eastern section of the Lockman Hole (LH) and the central portion of the Subaru- XMM/Newton Deep Field (SXDF). In this thesis, I have obtained extremely deep, multi-frequency radio imaging of the SHADES fields using the GiantMetre-wave Radio Telescope (GMRT) and the Very Large Array (VLA), at 610MHz and 1.4GHz, respectively. These data are used to analyse the nature of the sub-milliJansky (sub-mJy) radio population, which has been hotly debated in the last few years: are they powered by star-forming or nuclear activity? To tackle the problem, I employ different approaches making use of the large variety of multi-wavelength data in the SHADES fields. I begin by analysing the spectral index, α610MHz 1.4GHz , of radio sources detected in the LH, to explore the dominant emission mechanism. Based on a robust 10 σ detection criterion, I find a constantmedian spectral index of α610MHz 1.4GHz ≈ −0.6 to −0.7 for sources between S1.4GHz ≈ 200 μJy and 10mJy. This result suggests that the galaxy population in the sub-mJy regime is powered by optically-thin synchrotron emission – starforming galaxies or lobe-dominated active galactic nuclei (AGN). Making use of X-ray observations in the LH, I show that the fraction of radio sources detected in the hard X-ray band (between 2 and 10 keV) decreases from 50 to 15 per cent between S1.4GHz ≈ 1mJy and . 100 μJy, which strongly suggests a transition from AGN to star-forming galaxies. Based on the deep, multi-wavelength coverage of the SXDF, I explore the behaviour of the far-infrared (FIR)/radio correlation as a function of redshift. I combine the q24 factor – the logarithmic flux density ratio between Spitzer 24-μm and VLA 1.4- GHz flux densities – with available photometric redshifts and find strong evidence that the correlation holds out to z ≈ 3.5. Based on M82-like k-corrections and using a high-significance (S1.4GHz > 300 μJy) radio sub-sample, I find a mean and scatter of q24 = 0.71 ± 0.47. Monte-Carlo simulations based on these findings show that fewer sources deviate from the correlation at fainter flux densities (i.e. fewer radioloud AGN). I predict that the radio-loud fraction drops from 50 per cent at ∼ 1mJy to zero at . 100 μJy. The validity of the FIR/radio correlation out to very high redshifts adds credibility to identifications of sub-millimetre (submm) galaxies (SMGs) made at radio wavelengths. Based on a sample of 45 radio-identified SMGs in the LH, I find a median radio spectral index of α610MHz 1.4GHz = −0.72 ± 0.07, which suggests that optically-thin synchrotron is the dominant radio emission mechanism. Finally, as anAppendix I include a theoretical treatment that constrains the average geometry of the dusty, torus-like structures believed to obscure a large fraction of the AGN population. I use the distribution of column densities (NH) obtained from deep ∼ 1Msec X-ray observations in the Chandra Deep Field South. I find that to reproduce the wide observed range of NH, the best torus model is given by a classical “donut”- shaped distribution with an exponential angular dependency of the density profile.