Extragalactic Peaked-Spectrum Radio Sources at Low-Frequencies are Young Radio Galaxies

M. M. Slob, J. R. Callingham, H. J. A. Röttgering, W. L. Williams, K. J. Duncan, F. de Gasperin, M. J. Hardcastle, G. K. Miley

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We present a sample of 373 peaked-spectrum (PS) sources with spectral peaks around 150 MHz, selected using a subset of the two LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR) all-sky surveys, the LOFAR Two Meter Sky Survey and the LOFAR LBA Sky Survey. These LOFAR surveys are the most sensitive low-frequency widefield surveys to date, allowing us to select low-luminosity peaked-spectrum sources. Our sample increases the number of known PS sources in our survey area by a factor 50. The 5 GHz luminosity distribution of our PS sample shows we sample the lowest luminosity PS sources to date by nearly an order of magnitude. Since high-frequency gigahertz-peaked spectrum sources and compact steep-spectrum sources are hypothesised to be the precursors to large radio galaxies, we investigate whether this is also the case for our sample of low-frequency PS sources. Using optical line emission criteria, we find that our PS sources are predominately high-excitation radio galaxies instead of low-excitation radio galaxies, corresponding to a quickly evolving population. We compute the radio source counts of our PS sample, and find they are scaled down by a factor of ≈40 compared to a general sample of radio-loud active galactic nuclei (AGN). This implies that the lifetimes of PS sources are 40 times shorter than large-scale radio galaxies if their luminosity functions are identical. To investigate this, we compute the first radio luminosity function for a homogeneously selected PS sample. We find that for 144 MHz luminosities ≳1025 W Hz-1, the PS luminosity function has the same shape as an unresolved radio-loud AGN population, but shifted down by a factor of ≈-pagination10. We interpret this as strong evidence that these high-luminosity PS sources evolve into large-scale radio-loud AGN. For local low-luminosity PS sources, there is a surplus of PS sources, which we hypothesise to be the addition of frustrated PS sources that do not evolve into large-scale AGN.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA186
Number of pages20
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2022


  • astro-ph.GA
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Radio continuum: galaxies
  • Galaxies: active


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