The impact of a young radio galaxy: Clues from the cosmic ray electron population

V. Heesen, J.H. Croston, Jeremy J. Harwood, M.J. Hardcastle, Ananda Hota

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In the framework of hierarchical structure formation, active galactic nuclei (AGN) feedback shapes the galaxy luminosity function. Low luminosity, galaxy-scale double radio sources are ideal targets to investigate the interplay between AGN feedback and star formation. We use Very Large Array and BIMA millimetre-wave array observations to study the radio continuum emission of NGC 3801 between 1.4 and 112.4 GHz. We find a prominent spectral break at 10 GHz, where the spectrum steepens as expected from cosmic ray electron (CRe) ageing. Using the equipartition magnetic field and fitting JP models locally, we create a spatially resolved map of the spectral age of the CRe population. The spectral age of τint =2.0±0.2Myr agrees within a factor of 2 with the dynamical age of the expanding X-ray emitting shells. The spectral age varies only little across the lobes, requiring an effective mixing process of the CRe such as a convective backflow of magnetized plasma. The jet termination points have a slightly younger CRe spectral age, hinting at in situ CRe re-acceleration. Our findings support the scenario where the supersonically expanding radio lobes heat the interstellar medium (ISM) of NGC 3801 via shock waves, and, as their energy is comparable to the energy of the ISM, are clearly able to influence the galaxy's further evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1364-1380
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


  • Galaxies
  • General-radio continuum
  • Individual
  • Jets-quasars
  • NGC 3801-galaxies
  • Non-thermal-cosmic rays-galaxies
  • Radiation mechanisms


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