Science Highlights

GMRT polarisation and brightness temperature observations of Venus
Mohan et al. present results from carefully designed Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) low-frequency observations of Venus during its inferior conjunction. This ensured that the apparent angular size and flux density of Venus would be the largest observable from the Earth, making these the most detailed and sensitive observations of Venus that are possible with the GMRT. Mohan et al. used this opportunity to observe Venus at 234 MHz, 608 MHz and 1298 MHz. The figure shows the degree of polarisation maps for Venus at 607.67 MHz (top panel) and 1297.67 MHz (bottom panel), with the contour levels at 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36 and 40 percent; these are the lowest frequencies at which polarimetric maps have been made of Venus. Such polarimetric observations are essential for determining the sub-surface dielectric constant. As the penetration depth is substantially larger at low frequencies, metrewave observations allow us to probe the deeper sub-surface layers of Venus. This, in turn, is a very useful input for modeling the planetary surface dielectric properties. Using these observations, Mohan et al. determined the sub-surface dielectric constant to be ~4.5. At 234 MHz, they placed an upper limit of 321 K on the brightness temperature of Venus, firmly establishing that the brightness temperature of Venus begins to falls by about 1.4 GHz; the 234 MHz upper limit implies that the rate at which the temperature falls is even steeper than estimated earlier. This drop in the observed brightness temperature continues to pose a puzzle for present-day thermal emission models, which predict the brightness temperature to remain constant at low frequencies. However, the existing models do not take sub-surface properties into account, while emission at lower frequencies arises from deeper subsurface layers. These results suggest that sub-surface properties (dielectric properties through density and mineral content) can significantly impact the observed brightness temperature at low radio frequencies.
A radio halo surrounding the Brightest Cluster Galaxy in RXCJ0232.2-4420: a mini-halo in transition?
Kale et al. report the discovery of a ``radio halo'', a diffuse radio source, in the galaxy cluster RXCJ0232.2-4420 (SPT-CL J0232-4421, z = 0.2836) using observations with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope. Diffuse radio sources associated with the intra-cluster medium - the medium that pervades the space between galaxies in a galaxy cluster- are direct probes of cosmic ray electrons and magnetic fields in the cluster. Although magnetic fields are believed to be ubiquitous in galaxy clusters, such radio sources are rare. The known sample of such sources has been broadly classified into radio halos that are >700 kpc-sized sources that occur in merging clusters and mini-halos that are only a couple of hundred kpc in size and occur in relaxed clusters. It has been proposed that mini-halos transition into radio halos when a relaxed system undergoes a merger; however, this transition has not been observed clearly. The newly-discovered source has an extent of 550 kpc x 800 kpc - a size in the radio halo category. However, it surrounds the Brightest Cluster Galaxy like a typical mini-halo. Kale et al. have compared the radio power of this source with that of known radio halos and mini-halos and found it to be consistent with both populations. In the X-ray bands, this cluster has been classified as a complex system - indicating a state that is neither a merger nor a completely relaxed state. Kale et al. hence propose that this system is among the rare class of transition systems between mini-halos and radio halos. The 3-color image shows the image of the galaxy cluster in radio waves (blue), X-rays (green) and visible light (red).
Solar physics with the Square Kilometre Array
Although solar physics is one of the most mature branches of astrophysics, the Sun confronts us with many long standing problems that are fundamental in nature. Some of these problems, like the physics of shocks, are common across many astrophysical contexts and some others, like developing the ability to predict space weather, are of enormous societal relevance for the present technologically reliant society. Nindos et al. discuss how the Square Kilometre Array, the upcoming most ambitious radio telescope designed yet, can potentially lead to transformative advances in our understanding of the Sun and address some of these fundamental problems. In its first incarnation, SKA1 will comprise two instruments, the SKA1-Low aperture array (top panel) to be built in the Murchison region of Western Australia, and the SKA1-Mid dishes (bottom panel) to be build in the Karoo region of South Africa (image credit: SKA Organization). Nindos et al. summarise our current understanding of the key open problems in solar physics, based on work done across a large swathe of the electromagnetic spectrum. It then articulate the reasons why SKA observations can play an important role in answering some of these questions. These questions include: (1) the location and magnetic configuration of the electron acceleration site; (2) the mechanism(s) responsible for particle acceleration; (3) the flare-coronal mass ejection (CME) relationship; (4) the timing and evolution of CMEs from the early stages of development all the way to the outer corona; (5) the drivers of coronal shocks as well as the locations and efficiency of electron acceleration by shocks; and (6) the origin of solar energetic particles. This paper also showcases the recent work from the SKA precursors and pathfinders, namely the Murchison Widefield Array in Australia and the Low Frequency Array in Europe, which are already revealing previously unknown details of solar emissions and enabling more detailed and realistic modelling of solar phenomena. In addition, as is always the case with new instruments that outperform their predecessors in significant ways, it also emphasises the high probability of new discoveries that cannot yet be predicted.
The host galaxy of the fast-evolving luminous transient AT2018cow
Roychowdhury et al. report Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) HI 21cm imaging of CGCG137-068, the host galaxy of the fast-evolving luminous transient (FELT) AT2018cow, the first study of the gas properties of a FELT host galaxy. They obtain a total HI mass of 660 million solar masses for the host galaxy, and an atomic gas depletion time of 3 Gyr and a gas-to-stellar mass ratio of 0.47, consistent with values in normal star-forming dwarf galaxies. At spatial resolutions of > 6 kpc, the neutral hydrogen of CGCG137-068 appears to be distributed in a disk, in mostly regular rotation. However, at spatial resolutions of 2 kpc, the highest column density neutral hydrogen is found to lie in an asymmetric ring around the central regions; AT2018cow lies within this high column density ring. This HI ring is suggestive of an interaction between CGCG~137-068 and a companion galaxy. Such a ring is ideal for the formation of compact regions of star formation hosting massive stars which are likely progenitors of FELTs. The figure shows the integrated HI 21cm intensity (top panels) and HI 21cm velocity field (bottom panels), at three different resolutions; the green circle in the top panels indicates the position of the FELT AT2018cow. The low-resolution images of the left and middle panels show that the large-scale HI 21cm emission is in the form of a regularly-rotating disk. The high resolution image of the right panel shows that the HI 21cm emission is distributed in a high-column density ring, with AT2018cow arising from the gas in this ring.
The peculiar radio pulses from the magnetic Bp star HD 142990
Radio emission from hot magnetic stars usually arises from the gyrosynchrotron process. However, a small number of these stars have been found to produce coherent radio emission generated by the Electron Cyclotron Maser Emission (ECME). This emission is observed in the form of highly circularly polarized pulses that arise close to rotational phases where the longitudinal magnetic field of the star is zero (i.e. the magnetic null phase). In the present work, Das et al.  used upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (uGMRT) observations to confirm the presence of ECME from another star, HD 142990, at frequencies ~550-850 MHz (speculated to be a possibility by Lenc et al. (2018), based on their detection of highly circularly polarized emission from the star with the Murchison Widefield Array). Das et al. observed the star around both the magnetic null phases, and found significant flux density enhancement in both circular polarizations near both magnetic nulls, consistent with the hypothesis that the detected emissions arise from the ECME mechanism. The ECME pulses are, however, peculiar in the sequence of arrival of the two circulate polarizations, with the observed pattern matching that from neither the extra-ordinary mode (X-mode) nor the ordinary mode (O-mode). Das et al. found that both circular polarizations at 550-850 MHz appear to originate near the same magnetic pole, which has not been observed earlier. To explain this unique observation, the authors propose a scenario involving a transition between magnetic-ionic modes. This observation of mode transition, if confirmed, will be the first of its kind in hot magnetic stars. Further observations at frequencies both above and below the range 550-850 MHz will be needed to test the validity of this hypothesis. The upper panel of the figure shows the variation of the flux density of the star at different GMRT frequency bands. Band 4 corresponds to the frequency range 550-850 MHz and L-band, to 1420 MHz. RCP and LCP stand for right and left circular polarization, respectively. The lower panel shows the variation of the star's longitudinal magnetic field; the latter data were obtained from Shultz et al. (2018). The enhancements in flux density occur close to the magnetic null phases, which is expected for ECME.
Inhomogeneities revealed in a supernova via low frequency GMRT observations
Radio emission from supernovae is considered to be synchrotron emission which is absorbed at early epochs. Since the absorption optical depth scales approximately proportional to the square of the wavelength, low frequencies are ideal to probe the optically thick phase. Chandra et al. used low-frequency Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) observations of a core-collapse (Type Ib) supernova, Master OT J120451.50+265946.6, to find that the radio-emitting shock is inhomogeneous, with the inhomogeneities confined within the magnetic field distribution. Because of these inhomogeneities, the absorption is due to the superposition of various optical depths caused by varying magnetic fields. The inhomogeneities are primarily visible at low frequencies, and the high-cadence, high-sensitivity GMRT observations were critical in unraveling the nature of the inhomogeneities, which has important implications for the size of radio emitting regions. The left panel of the figure shows a single-component synchrotron self-absorption model fit to the GMRT 610 MHz data on the supernova, in the optically thick phase; this reveals a very steep electron energy spectrum, which is highly unphysical. The right panel of the figure shows the best-fit model that incorporates inhomogeneous synchrotron self-absorption, again fitting to the supernova light curves. The data at 0.61 GHz and 1.4 GHz data are from the GMRT (with three 1.4 GHz data points from the Karl G. Jansky Very large Array (VLA)), while the 7.1 GHz and 19.1 GHz data are from the VLA. The data before day 87 have been excluded from the fit as the radio emitting shock was crossing a dense shell at this epoch.
Ionized carbon 158 micron Emission from z~4 HI Absorption-selected Galaxies
Neeleman, Kanekar et al. have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) to carry out a search for the ionized carbon ([CII]) 158 micron emission line from galaxies associated with four high-metallicity damped Ly-alpha absorbers (DLAs) at z~4. They detected [CII] 158 micron emission from galaxies at the DLA redshift in three fields, with one field showing two [CII] emitters. Combined with previous results, Neeleman et al. have now detected [CII] 158 micron emission from five of six galaxies associated with targeted high-metallicity DLAs at z~4. The galaxies have relatively large impact parameters, ~ 16-45 kpc, [CII] 158 micron line luminosities of 0.04-3 billion solar luminosities, and rest-frame far-infrared properties similar to those of luminous Lyman-break galaxies, with star formation rates of ~7-110 solar masses per year. Comparing the absorption and emission line profiles yields a remarkable agreement between the line centroids, indicating that the DLA traces gas at velocities similar to that of the [CII] 158 micron emission. This disfavours a scenario where the DLA arises from gas in a companion galaxy. These observations highlight ALMA’s unique ability to uncover a high-redshift galaxy population that has largely eluded detection for decades. The figure shows (top panels) the integrated [CII] 158 micron flux density maps over channels containing line emission and (bottom panels) 350 GHz continuum images of the four quasar fields (with the plus sign indicating the quasar position). For the sole [CII] 158 micron non-detection, the [CII] line flux density is integrated over the central 100 km/s around the DLA redshift.
The Expanded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope
With 30 antennas and a maximum baseline length of 25 km, the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) is the premier low-frequency radio interferometer today. Patra et al. carried out a study of possible expansions of the GMRT, via adding new antennas and installing focal plane arrays (FPAs), to improve its point-source sensitivity, surface brightness sensitivity, angular resolution, field of view, and U-V coverage. They carried out array configuration studies, aimed at minimizing the number of new GMRT antennas required to obtain a well-behaved synthesized beam over a wide range of angular resolutions for full-synthesis observations. This was done via two approaches, tomographic projection and random sampling, to identify the optimal locations for the new GMRT antennas. We report results for the optimal locations of the antennas of an expanded array (the EGMRT), consisting of the existing 30 GMRT antennas, 30 new antennas at short distances, roughly 2.5 km from the GMRT array centre, and 26 additional antennas at relatively long distances, roughly 5-25 km from the array centre. The collecting area and the field of view of the proposed EGMRT array would be larger by factors of, respectively, roughly 3 and roughly 30 than those of the GMRT. Indeed, the EGMRT continuum sensitivity and survey speed with 550-850 MHz FPAs installed on the 45 antennas within a distance of ~ 2.5 km of the array centre would be far better than those of any existing interferometer, and comparable to the sensitivity and survey speed of Phase-1 of the Square Kilometre Array. In the figure, the left panel shows the root-mean-square (RMS) continuum noise of the EGMRT compared with that of modern radio interferometers (the uGMRT, the JVLA, LOFAR, MeerKAT, ASKAP, and the SKA-1) for a 9-hour full-synthesis integration. The green and magenta dashed lines show the RMS confusion noise for, respectively, the EGMRT and the uGMRT, at the different observing frequencies. It is clear that source confusion will be a limiting factor for the EGMRT only in its lowest frequency band (125-250 MHz), where the sensitivity is likely to anyway be limited by systematic effects, rather than thermal noise. The right panel shows the survey speed figure of merit (e.g. Dewdney et al. 2015), of the EGMRT compared with that of other present or planned radio interferometers. For the EGMRT, we have considered two possibilities: the open green stars (EGMRT) refer to single-pixel feeds on all 86 antennas, while the solid blue circles (EGMRT+FPA) assume FPAs covering 550-850 MHz installed on the 45 antennas within ~ 2.5 km of the central square.
Long-term behaviour of a Type IIP Supernova, SN 2004dj, at radio frequencies
Radio emission from core-collapse supernovae carries information about the progenitor stellar system and immediate circumstellar environment. Nayana et al. used the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) and the Very Large Array (VLA) to carry out a radio study of a Type IIP supernova, SN 2004dj, observing the source over both a wide range of frequencies (0.24 - 43 GHz) and a long time interval (covering ages from around 1 day to around 12 years after the discovery of the supernova). The wide frequency and temporal coverage allowed the authors to perform detailed modelling of local conditions in the supernova environment. Assuming a progenitor stellar wind velocity of 10 km/s, they infer the mass-loss rate of the progenitor star to be approximately a millionth of a solar mass per year. The derived value of the shock deceleration parameter is suggestive of a mildly decelerating blast wave. They studied temporal variation of the radio spectral indices between multiple frequency pairs (the figure shows the evolution of the spectral indices measured between frequencies of 1.06 and 1.4 GHz, 1.4 and 4.9 GHz, and 4.9 and 8.46 GHz), finding that the spectral indices steepen to values of -1 for an extended period from around day 50 to around day 125 after the explosion, especially at higher frequencies (between 4.86 and 8.46 GHz). This is indicative of electron cooling at the supernova shock. They calculate the cooling time scales and break frequencies for both synchrotron cooling and inverse-Compton cooling, and suggest that the steepening in spectral indices is due to inverse-Compton cooling of relativistic electrons at the supernova shock.
Discovery of super-Alfvénic oscillations in solar type-III radio bursts
At the site of their origin, solar metrewave radio bursts contain pristine information about the local coronal magnetic field and plasma parameters. On its way through the turbulent corona, this radiation gets substantially modified due to propagation effects. Effectively disentangling the intrinsic variations in emission from propagation effects has remained a challenge. Mohan et al. demonstrate a way to achieve this, using snapshot spectroscopic imaging study of weak type III bursts using data from the Murchison Widefield Array. All of the imaging for this work was done using AIRCARS, the automated solar radio imaging pipeline developed by the NCRA Solar Physics group. This study has lead to the discovery of second-scale Quasi-Periodic Oscillations (QPOs) in burst source sizes and orientation with simultaneous QPOs in intensity. Though the QPOs in intensity were previously known, they had never been imaged. In absence of any information about their size, these rapid oscillations were usually interpreted as a particular mode of magnetohydro-dynamic (MHD) oscillations in the coronal plasma. Their imaging lead to the realisation that the observed oscillations in source sizes are so large that the required speeds are two orders of magnitude larger than the typical Alfvén speeds expected at these coronal heights. This study thus rules out MHD oscillations and implies the presence of a quasi-periodic regulation mechanism operating much deeper in the corona. In addition, this study has also provided, for the first time, a way to quantify the density inhomogeneities in the low corona. The figure shows the variation in the area of the source of type III emission (red) and its intensity (green) measured in Solar Flux Units (1 SFU = 10,000 Jy) as a function of time for one of the six groups of type III bursts studied. The anti-correlation between the size and intensity time series is evident. QPOs in the orientation of the source of type III emission are also seen (blue).
An unsupervised imaging pipeline for generation of high dynamic range solar radio images
Solar radio emission, especially at metre-wavelengths, is well known to vary over small spectral (< 100 kHz) and temporal (< 1 s) spans. With the new generation of instruments, it is now becoming possible to capture data with sufficient resolution (temporal, spectral and angular) that one can begin to characterize the solar morphology simultaneously along the axes of time and frequency. This, however, requires one to make around a million images per hour and renders the usual manual effort intensive approach impractical. The authors have hence developed an end-to-end imaging pipeline optimized for solar imaging - “Automated Imaging Routine for Compact Arrays for the Radio Sun (AIRCARS)”. They demonstrate AIRCARS on data from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA). The dynamic range of the output images routinely varies from a few hundred to a few thousand. In the few cases, where they have pushed AIRCARS to its limits, the dynamic range can reach as high as ~100,000. These are now the highest dynamic range solar radio images at metre wavelengths, and are enabling exploration of pristine and interesting phase space. AIRCARS has the potential to transform the multi-petabyte MWA solar archive of raw data into science-ready images. AIRCARS can also be tuned to upcoming telescopes like the Square Kilometre Array, making it a very useful tool for the heliophysics community. The figure shows example AIRCARS images spanning the extremes of solar radio emissions. The bright compact emission seen in the top panel comes from a type II radio burst and the image has dynamic range of ~100,000. At a brightness temperature of roughly 1 billion K, it outshines the solar disc by about four orders of magnitude. The lower panel shows the Sun during a quite phase, when the brightness does not vary greatly across the disc. The dynamic range of this image is ~1,000.
A VLA-GMRT look at 11 FR-II Quasars
Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs) are a special class of galaxies that emit enormous amounts of energy from the nuclear region.  There are several variants of AGNs classified based on their observed properties.  Detailed observations of AGNs over two decades have suggested that AGNs are intrinsically similar objects, but may appear different due to different viewing angles; this idea is now known as the AGN unification scheme.  Vaddi et al. address the unification of radio-loud AGNs via statistical and spectral analysis approaches.  A sample of 11 steep-spectrum radio quasars and 13 Fanaroff-Riley-II radio galaxies that span similar luminosity and redshift ranges were used for this study. Matched resolution radio data for the quasars were obtained using the Jansky Very Large Array. The results are in general agreement with orientation-based AGN unification. However, the authors find that environmental effects cannot be ignored. The lack of correlation between the statistical orientation indicators such as misalignment angle and radio core prominence (see the figure), and the larger lobe distortions in quasars compared to radio galaxies suggest that additional intrinsic or environment effects are at play.
A Long-term study of three rotating radio transients
Occasional flashes of dispersed radio emission of typically a few milliseconds duration are detected from Rotating Radio Transients (RRATs). The nature of these RRATs, and their association with the rest of the neutron star population is still an open question. Bhattacharyya et al. present the longest-term timing study so far of three RRATs -- J1819-1458, J1840-1419 and J1913+1330 -- performed with the Lovell, Parkes and Green Bank telescopes over the past decade. Investigation of long-term variations of the pulse emission rate from these RRATs brings out a marginal indication of a long-term increase in the pulse detection rate with time for PSR J1819-1458 and J1913+1330. Conversely, a variation of the pulse detection rate of two orders of magnitude is observed between different epochs for PSR J1913+1330. The study also detected, for the first time, a weak persistent mode in PSR J1913+1330, in addition to the RRAT pulses, suggesting a possible connection between RRATs and the normal pulsar population. Although frequency-glitches are commonly seen for pulsars, PSR J1819-1458 is the only RRAT to exhibit glitches; a selection of its pulses is shown in the figure. The authors study the post-glitch timing properties of PSR J1819-1458 in detail and discuss implications of this study for glitch models. Its post-glitch over-recovery of the frequency derivative is magnetar-like; similar behaviour is only observed for two other pulsars, both of which have relatively high magnetic field strengths. Following the over-recovery, the authors find that some fraction of the pre-glitch frequency derivative is gradually recovered. It will be interesting to know if these glitches are representative of RRATs. This can only be verified with regular monitoring to detect possible glitches in other RRATs. 
Angular momentum of dwarf galaxies
Mass and specific angular momentum are two fundamental physical parameters of galaxies. Kurapati et al. (2018) use high-resolution HI 21cm observations and broad band photometry to measure the baryonic mass (M) and baryonic specific angular momentum (j) of 11 dwarf galaxies that lie in the Lynx-Cancer void. They find that the specific angular momentum of void dwarf galaxies is similar to that of other dwarf galaxies in average density environments. However, all dwarf galaxies (regardless of environment) have significantly higher specific angular momentum than expected from an extrapolation of the relation between specific angular momentum and baryonic mass for large spiral galaxies. The figure shows the difference between the observed specific angular momentum of dwarf galaxies and the specific angular momentum expected from the bulge-less spiral relation, as a function of baryonic mass. The elevation in specific angular momentum occurs for dwarf galaxies with masses lower than roughly a billion solar masses. Galaxies above this mass threshold have relatively low baryonic specific angular momenta, following the relation obtained for massive galaxies with zero bulge fraction. Interestingly, the above mass threshold is very similar to the mass below which galaxy discs start to become systematically thick. Kurapati et al. examine the possibility that both these effects, viz. the thickening of disks and the increase in specific angular momentum, are results of feedback from star formation. Such feedback would preferentially remove the low angular momentum gas from the central parts of dwarfs (thus increasing the specific angular momentum of the system) and also inject mechanical energy into the system, leading to thicker discs. They find however, that the observed amount of observed star formation in their sample galaxies is insufficient to produce the observed increase in the specific angular momentum. It hence appears that some other, as yet unknown mechanism, plays a role in producing the observed enhancement in specific angular momentum.
Detection of the Galactic warm neutral medium in HI 21cm absorption
Patra et al. report a deep GMRT search for Galactic HI 21-cm absorption towards the quasar B0438-436, yielding the detection of wide, weak HI 21-cm absorption, with a velocity-integrated HI 21-cm optical depth of 0.0188 +/- 0.0036 km/s. Comparing this with the HI column density measured in the Parkes Galactic All-Sky Survey gives a column density-weighted harmonic mean spin temperature of 3760 +/- 365 K, one of the highest measured in the Galaxy. This is consistent with most of the HI along the sightline arising in the stable warm neutral medium. The low-peak HI 21-cm optical depth towards B0438-436 implies negligible self-absorption, allowing a multi-Gaussian joint decomposition of the HI 21-cm absorption and emission spectra. This yields a gas kinetic temperature T_k <= (4910 +/- 1900) K, and a spin temperature T_s = (1000 +/- 345) K for the gas that gives rise to the HI 21-cm absorption. The GMRT data are consistent with the HI 21-cm absorption arising from either the stable WNM, with T_s << T_k, T_k~5000 K, and little penetration of the background Lyman-alpha radiation field into the neutral hydrogen, or the unstable neutral medium, with T_sT_k~1000 K. The figure shows results of the multi-Gaussian joint decomposition of the (A) HI 21-cm emission and (B) HI 21-cm absorption spectra. The top panels show the best-fit model (solid curve) overlaid on the two spectra, while the bottom two panels show the residuals from the fit.
Probing Star Formation in Galaxies at z~1
Bera et al. carried out deep GMRT 610 MHz imaging of four fields of the DEEP2 Galaxy Redshift Survey, and stacked the radio emission from a sample of nearly 4000 blue star-forming galaxies at 0.7<z< 1.45 to detect the median rest-frame 1.4 GHz radio continuum emission of the galaxies. The authors used the local relation between total star formation rate (SFR) and radio 1.4 GHz luminosity to infer a median total SFR of (24.4 +/- 1.4) solar masses per year for blue star-forming galaxies at these redshifts. They detect the main-sequence relation between SFR and stellar mass, and find that the power-law index of the main sequence shows no change over z~0.7-1.45. They also find that the nebular line emission suffers less extinction than the stellar continuum, contrary to the situation in the local Universe; further, the ratio of nebular extinction to stellar extinction increases with decreasing redshift. They combined their results with earlier GMRT HI 21cm emission studies of the DEEP2 fields to obtain an upper limit of 0.87 Gyr to the atomic gas depletion time of star-forming galaxies at z~1.3. Neutral atomic gas thus appears to be a transient phase in high-z star-forming galaxies. The left panel of the figure shows the stacked rest-frame 1.4 GHz radio emission of the galaxies of the sample, detected at high statistical significance; the right panel shows a similar stack at neighbouring locations ("off-source") which shows no signal, indicating that the detected signal of the left panel is very unlikely to arise from systematic effects.
A Post-correlation Beamformer for Time-domain Studies of Pulsars and Transients
Roy, Chengalur & Pen have demonstrated that a new way of beam-forming called post-correlation beam-forming (i.e. beam-forming which involves only phased sums of the correlation of the voltages of different antennas in an array) significantly improves the capabilities and sensitivity of the upgraded GMRT for discovering new pulsars and fast radio bursts (FRBs). Compared with the traditionally used incoherent (IA) and phased (PA) beam-forming techniques in radio telescopes for time-domain astronomy, this new technique dramatically reduces the effect of red-noise and radio frequency interference, yielding more than factor of 2 improvements in the  GMRT time-domain survey sensitivity. The eye-catching improvements in the signal-to-noise of the pulses from PSR J2144-3933 can be seen in the single-pulse time-series from the post-correlation beam-former. The extremely well-cleaned post-correlation beam also has an order of magnitude reduction in red-noise, as is clear in the power spectra plot. The post-correlation beam formation beautifully brings out the hitherto unexplored capability of interferometric arrays (the future of radio astronomy) over single dish telescopes.  We describe a time-domain survey with the GMRT using this post-correlation beam formation,  which will be one of the most sensitive surveys for pulsars and FRBs at low and mid-range radio frequencies.
Curvature in the spectrum of a remnant radio galaxy with the uGMRT
The origin of cosmic rays in the intra-cluster medium (ICM) has been attributed to re-acceleration of charged particles in shocks and turbulence. For these re-acceleration mechanisms to work, it is expected that there will be reservoirs of seed cosmic ray electrons in the ICM. Radio galaxies with jets and lobes are strong candidates for providing these seeds. Dr. Kale and collaborators have used the unique broad band observing capabilities of the recently operational upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (uGMRT) to study an enigmatic "dead radio galaxy" or a "remnant radio relic" in the galaxy cluster Abell 4038. They have shown that the spectrum of the source varies considerably across its extent and undergoes extreme changes from high to low frequencies that are quantified in a parameter called the "spectral curvature". The authors fine that the assumption that the spectra of seed particles are simple power-laws may not be correct, given the extreme spectral curvature measured using the uGMRT images. Their study has recently been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Massive Absorption-selected Galaxies at Intermediate Redshifts
The nature of absorption-selected galaxies and their connection to the general galaxy population have been open issues for more than three decades, with little information available on their gas properties. Kanekar et al. used detections of carbon monoxide (CO) emission with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array to show that five of seven high-metallicity, absorption-selected galaxies at intermediate redshifts, z ~ 0.5–0.8, have extremely large molecular gas masses and high molecular gas fractions relative to stars. Their modest star formation rates then imply long gas depletion timescales, an order of magnitude larger than typical in star-forming galaxies. High-metallicity absorption-selected galaxies at z ~ 0.5–0.8 thus appear distinct from populations of star-forming galaxies at both z ~ 1.3–2.5, during the peak of star formation activity in the Universe, and low redshifts, z < 0.05. Their relatively low SFRs, despite the large molecular gas reservoirs, may indicate a transition in the nature of star formation at intermediate redshifts, z ~ 0.7. The figure shows the five CO detections (in contours), with the position of the background quasar indicated by a star in each panel.
Quantifying the weakest non-thermal solar emissions via non-imaging studies
At metre radio wavelengths, the thermal free-free emission from the million K coronal plasma forms the bulk of the solar emission. This broadband emission varies slowly in time and smoothly across frequency.  Superposed on this background emission are emissions from a variety of non-thermal mechanisms, which span a large range of strengths, and temporal and spectral scales. Studies with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) have recently shown that the weak short-lived narrow-band non-thermal emission features occur much more frequently than had been appreciated earlier. This is exciting because these weak non-thermal emission features may contain clues for solving the longstanding coronal heating problem. Sharma et al. attempt to quantify the weak non-thermal solar emissions using non-imaging techniques, taking advantage of the fine-grained data provided by the MWA to separate out the emission into a slowly varying component, which under moderately quiet solar conditions is expected to be dominated by thermal emission, and an impulsive component, expected to arise from non-thermal processes. They use a method based on a class of statistical data models called Gaussian mixture models (GMMs) to estimate both the strength of the emission components and their time-frequency occupancy. The top panel of the figure shows the observed distribution of the impulsive emission (black dots) superposed on the probability distribution function determined using the GMMs. The dashed and solid lines show, respectively, the individual Gaussian components and the sum of all the Gaussian components; the mean, width and weight of each component are listed on the top right. Surprisingly, Sharma et al. find that even during the moderately quiet solar conditions of the observations, the amount of energy radiated in impulsive non-thermal component is similar to that in the thermal component. Further, they detect evidence for the presence of non-thermal emission in as much as 20-45% of the frequency-time plane. Both of these aspects had not been realised till now. The bottom panel shows slowly varying and impulsive flux densities as a function of observing frequency. The non-thermal emissions studied here are about an order of magnitude weaker than the weakest similar emissions reported in the past. This work establishes the usefulness of the GMM technique for such studies, and gives some tantalising hints, though a lot more needs to be done to assess the role of the weak non-thermal features in coronal heating.
Electron Cyclotron Maser Emission from a radio star
HD133880 is a B-type rapidly-rotating star, with a period less than 1 day, on the main sequence. It is characterised by the presence of an asymmetric dipolar magnetic field of kiloGauss strength. Gyro-synchrotron radio emission has earlier been detected from this star. In 2015, Chandra et al. reported strong enhancement in the star's radio flux (at 610 MHz and 1420 MHz) at certain rotational phases, but the phase coverage was too limited for a detailed study. In the present work, Das, Chandra & Wade aimed to understand the origin of the radio pulses, by using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) 610 and 1420 MHz receivers to observe the star over a complete rotation. The GMRT 610 MHz data revealed a dramatic increase (by an order of magnitude) in the star's radio emission at a narrow epoch (phase 0.73) during its rotation, and in the right circular polarization; this can be seen in the upper panel of the attached figure. The observed enhancement is confined to a narrow range of phases and is approximately 100% polarised. Further, the enhancement occurs when the line of sight magnetic field is nearly zero, as can be seen in the lower panel of the figure. Das et al. find that the GMRT data single out Electron Cyclotron Maser Emission as the likely cause of the observed enhanced radiation. This maser process arises, under suitable conditions, due to the interaction of electromagnetic waves with a population of mildly relativistic electrons in a magnetised plasma. Previously, only one magnetic star (CU Vir) was known to host this mechanism, and it was unclear if this is a specific property of CU Vir or a common property of magnetic stars. The discovery of the maser mechanism in a second star rules out the first possibility and, since the maser process is more favourable at low frequencies, emphasizes the importance of more low frequency studies of magnetic stars to further understand the physical conditions that give rise to the maser.
The angular momentum content of gas-rich dwarf galaxies
A galaxy's spin is intricately connected to its morphology --- spiral galaxies spin faster and hence are thinner whereas elliptical galaxies have lower specific angular momentum and are puffier. The mass and the angular momentum of a galaxy are related via their evolutionary history. Various researchers in the past have reported a power-law scaling relation between the mass and the specific angular momentum of large spiral galaxies. Chowdhury and Chengalur used archival GMRT, VLA and WSRT HI 21cm data of five gas-rich dwarf galaxies and found that the specific angular momentum in these smaller, less massive, dwarf galaxies is significantly higher than that expected from the earlier studies of spiral disks. The figure shows the location of these dwarf galaxies in the specific angular momentum - mass plane, and compares them with the distribution of spiral galaxies. All the five gas-rich dwarf galaxies lie outside the 95% probability band of the relation for spiral galaxies. The chance probability that the dwarf galaxies belong to the same angular momentum - mass distribution as the spirals is less than one part in a million. The authors suggest two mechanisms through which the dwarfs may acquire their higher specific angular momentum: (i) preferential outflow of low angular momentum gas due to stellar feedback, and (ii) cosmic cold mode accretion, which is known to dominate in less massive galaxies.
A fourth radio arc in Abell 2626
The supermassive black holes at the centres of active galaxies can lead to the formation of spectacular jets that are detectable in deep radio imaging studies. When such black holes are situated close to the centres of galaxy clusters, they experience a dense environment. The radio jets can be affected by the black hole itself and by the environment, leading to complex morphologies. A system of three concave arcs was earlier known towards the galaxy cluster Abell 2626. Kale & Gitti used the 610 MHz receivers of the GMRT to discover a fourth arc in the sytem, that completes an intriguing symmetric structure of four arcs around the central massive galaxy that itself has two active nuclei. The origin of the exotic source is as yet unknown, but may be a rare event of precessing jets from the double nuclei of the central galaxy or a similarly rare configuration of a gravitational lens. The image shows the GMRT radio image in blue, overlaid on X-ray (red) and optical (green) images.
Stringent constraints on fundamental constant evolution over 3 billion years
Kanekar, Ghosh and Chengalur used the mighty Arecibo Telescope to carry out one of its deepest-ever observing runs, 125 hours on the hydroxyl (OH) lines from a gas cloud close to the z=0.247 active galactic nucleus PKS1413+135. The satellite OH lines, at rest frequencies of 1720 MHz and 1612 MHz, are ``conjugate'' in this system, mirror images of each other, with the 1720 MHz line in emission and the 1612 MHz line in absorption. Since the 1720 and 1612 MHz line frequencies have different dependences on the fine structure constant, alpha, and the ratio of the proton mass to the electron mass, mu, this expected perfect cancellation makes the two lines ideal to probe changes in alpha and mu out to z~0.247, i.e. a lookback time of nearly 3 billion years. If alpha and/or mu change with time, the lines would shift relative to each other, and would not cancel out. Kanekar et al. found that the OH satellite line remain conjugate within the measurement errors, with no evidence for a shift between the two lines. They used this perfect cancellation to place stringent constraints on changes in alpha and mu with cosmological time, limiting fractional changes in the two quantities to less than a few parts in a million. This is the most sensitive constraint on fractional changes in alpha in the literature, and with no known systematic effects. The top two panels of the figure show the two OH satellite lines from PKS1413+135 at z=0.247, with the 1720 MHz in the upper panel and the 1612 MHz line in the middle panel. The bottom panel shows the sum of the two line optical depths. It is clear that this is consistent with Gaussian noise, as expected if the lines are mirror images of each other.
A Giant Radio Galaxy at z ~ 0.57
Giant radio galaxies (GRGs) are radio galaxies whose linear extent is more than 1 Mpc. Most of the known GRGs are less than a billion light years away from us. The sharp decline in the number of GRGs at larger distances, i.e. higher redshifts, is a mystery because the number of normal radio sources is actually higher at high redshifts. We recently used the GMRT to carry out a deep 150 MHz study of a small region of the sky in the Lynx constellation, and discovered a large GRG, of size 7 million light years, at a distance of about 5 billion light years, i.e. a redshift of 0.57. We used the GMRT to carry out detailed imaging studies of the GRG, at 325 MHz, 610 MHz and 1420 MHz; the new data suggest that the object is probably a double-double radio galaxy. Further, the radio core of the galaxy shows an unusually steep spectrum, which may imply that there is yet another unresolved pair of lobes within the core, making this GRG a candidate triple-double radio galaxy. Further investigations of the central region of the GRG, to test if it is a re-started radio source, are now under way using the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (EVN), which has the resolution to probe the central region very close to the supermassive black hole. The figure shows the GMRT 610 MHz image of the new GRG, overlaid on the optical SDSS gri-composite image. The optical host galaxy is shown separately in the rectangular box. The double-lobe structure on either side of the central core is clearly visible.
The gas and stellar mass of low-redshift damped Lyman-alpha absorbers
Kanekar et al. report Hubble Space Telescope Cosmic Origins Spectrograph far-ultraviolet and Arecibo Telescope HI 21cm spectroscopy of six damped and sub-damped Lyman-alpha absorbers (DLAs and sub-DLAs, respectively) at z<~0.1, which have yielded estimates of their HI column density, metallicity and atomic gas mass. This significantly increases the number of DLAs with gas mass estimates, allowing the first comparison between the gas masses of DLAs and local galaxies. Including three absorbers from the literature, they obtain HI masses ~(0.24-5.2) billion solar masses, lower than the knee of the local HI mass function. This implies that massive galaxies do not dominate the absorption cross-section for low-z DLAs. Kanekar et al. use Sloan Digital Sky Survey photometry and spectroscopy to identify the likely hosts of four absorbers, obtaining low stellar masses, ~(0.01-0.3) billion solar masses in all cases, consistent with the hosts being dwarf galaxies. They obtain high HI 21cm or CO emission line widths, ~ 100-290 km/s, and high gas fractions, ~5-100, suggesting that the absorber hosts are gas-rich galaxies with low star formation efficiencies. However, the HI 21cm velocity spreads (>~ 100 km/s) appear systematically larger than the velocity spreads in typical dwarf galaxies. The figure shows the Arecibo HI 21cm spectra for the six galaxies of the paper.
Ionized carbon and dust emission from high-redshift galaxies
Gas surrounding high-redshift galaxies has been studied through observations of damped Lyman-alpha absorbers toward background quasars for decades. However, it has proven difficult to identify and characterize the galaxies associated with these absorbers due to the intrinsic faintness (at optical wavelengths) of the foreground galaxies compared with the background quasars. Neeleman et al. used the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array to obtain the first detections of ionized carbon ([CII]) 158-micron line and dust-continuum emission from two galaxies associated with damped Lyman-alpha absorbers at very high redshifts, z~4. The two upper panels of the figure show the dust continuum emission from the galaxies, while the lower panels show the [CII] 158-micron line emission. The results indicate that the host galaxies of the two absorbers are massive, dusty and rapidly star-forming systems. The hosts appear to be embedded in enriched neutral hydrogen gas reservoirs that extend well beyond the star-forming interstellar medium of the galaxies. The figure shows the two detections of ionized carbon (bottom panels) and dust continuum emission (top panels) from the two DLAs at z~4.
Wavelet-based Characterization of Small-scale Solar Emission Features
Low radio frequency solar observations using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) have revealed the presence of numerous weak short-lived narrowband emission features, even during moderately quiet solar conditions. These non-thermal features occur at rates of many thousands per hour in the 30.72 MHz observing bandwidth, and hence necessarily require an automated approach for their detection and characterization. Suresh et al. have developed an algorithm which employs continuous wavelet transform for feature detection in the dynamic spectrum. The green circles in the figure show the peaks of the features detected in an example MWA dynamic spectrum. The left and the right panels differ only in the colour bar range and show the efficacy of this implementation in detecting features across a range of intensities, and temporal and spectral spans. They represent the first statistically robust characterization of the properties of these features. This technique can reliably detect features weaker than 1 SFU (1 SFU = 10,000 Jy), the weakest non-thermal radio emissions so far reported in the literature. The features, which typically last for 1-2 seconds and span bandwidths of 4-5 MHz, can potentially provide an energetically significant contribution to coronal and chromospheric heating. They appear to ride on a broadband background continuum, hinting at the likelihood of their being weak, type-I solar bursts.
GMRT monitoring of the X-ray binary V404 Cygni during its June 2015 outburst
Chandra & Kanekar used the GMRT at 1280, 610, 325 and 235 MHz to monitor the black hole X-ray binary V404 Cygni during its 2015 June outburst, extending for a period of 2.5 weeks, and beginning on June 26.9 UT, a day after the strongest radio/X-ray outburst. They find the low-frequency radio emission of V404 Cygni to be extremely bright and fast-decaying in the outburst phase, with an inverted spectrum below 1.5 GHz and an intermediate X-ray state. The radio emission settles to a weak, quiescent state roughly 11 days after the outburst, with a flat radio spectrum and a soft X-ray state. Combining the GMRT measurements with flux density estimates from the literature, the authors identify a spectral turnover in the radio spectrum at ~1.5 GHz on June 26.9 UT (see the attached image), indicating the presence of a synchrotron self-absorbed emitting region. They use the measured flux density at the turnover frequency with the assumption of equipartition of energy between the particles and the magnetic field to infer the jet radius, magnetic field, minimum total energy, and transient jet power. The relatively low value of the jet power, despite V404 Cygni’s high black hole spin parameter, suggests that the radio jet power does not correlate with the spin parameter.
A candidate sub-parsec binary black hole in the Seyfert galaxy NGC 7674
Kharb, Lal & Merritt have used Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) observations to discover only the second candidate sub-parsec binary black hole. The existence of such binary super-massive black holes (SMBHs) is predicted by models of hierarchical galaxy formation, but only a single such binary SMBH has been imaged until now. Kharb et al. used the VLBA to study the gas-rich interacting spiral galaxy NGC7674, which possesses a kpc-scale Z-shaped radio jet. The leading model for the formation of such Z-shaped sources postulates the presence of an uncoalesced binary SMBH, created during the infall of a satellite galaxy. Kharb et al. used the high angular resolution of the VLBA to image the central region of NGC7674 at radio frequencies between 2 and 15 GHz, resulting in the detection of two radio cores, separated by just 1 light year, at the highest observing frequency, 15 GHz. The inverted radio spectra of the two cores are consistent with their being accreting super-massive black holes!
Discovery of a radio relic in the low mass galaxy cluster PLCK G200.9-28.2
Kale et al. used the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), the XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory, and the Jansky Very Large Array to discover a new radio relic in the galaxy cluster PLCKG200.9-28.2 at z~0.22. Such arc-like radio relics are usually found at the periphery of massive colliding clusters, and are extremely rare, arising in fewer than 5% of merging clusters. Despite their rarity, radio relics are an excellent tracer of the shocks that are expected to be driven in the diffuse intra-cluster medium by violent cluster collisions. Indeed, it is very difficult to even detect these shocks at other wavelengths. So far, radio relics have been found only in the vicinity of merging massive clusters. The new radio relic detected by Kale et al. is very interesting because it arises in a cluster of low mass, the lowest mass at which such a relic has ever been seen! This demonstrates that violent mergers in low-mass clusters are capable of producing strong shock waves in their diffuse media. In the adjoining figure, the 235 MHz emission imaged with the GMRT is shown in red and the X-ray emission imaged with the XMM-Newton satellite observatory is shown in blue. The elongated source seen in red is the new radio relic.
GMRT imaging of a high-energy supernova remnant
Nayana et al. used the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) to detect 325 and 610 MHz radio emission from HESS J1731-347, one of only five known very-high-energy (VHE; > 0.1 TeV) shell-type supernova remnants (SNRs). Multiple filaments of the SNR are clearly seen in the GMRT 610 and 325 MHz images, shown, respectively, in the left and right panels of the adjacent figure. However, the faintest feature in the GMRT bands corresponds to the peak in the VHE emission. This anti-correlation can be explained if the observed VHE gamma-ray emission has a leptonic origin. The individual filaments of the SNR (indicated by "1", "2", "3", and "4") have steep radio spectra, consistent with a non-thermal origin.
An AGN's rendezvous with a radio relic
van Weeren et al. used data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope, the Jansky Very Large Array, and other telescopes to discover a cosmic event never seen before. Galaxy clusters contain multiple sources of radio emission, including active galactic nuclei (AGNs), radio halos and radio relics. A long-standing problem in studies of clusters is how low-Mach-number shocks can accelerate electrons efficiently to produce the observed radio relics. van Weeren et al. discovered, for the first time, a direct connection between a radio relic and an AGN (a radio galaxy) in the merging galaxy cluster Abell 3411-3412 by combining radio, X-ray and optical data. This discovery indicates that fossil relativistic electrons from AGNs are re-accelerated at cluster shocks. It also implies that radio galaxies play an important role in governing the non-thermal component of the intra-cluster medium in merging clusters. For the first time, two of the most powerful phenomena in the Universe have been clearly linked together in the same system. Image credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/R. van Weeren et al; Optical: NAOJ/Subaru;