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Corstanje A.,Radboud University Nijmegen | Schellart P.,Radboud University Nijmegen | Nelles A.,Radboud University Nijmegen | Buitink S.,Radboud University Nijmegen | And 85 more authors.
Astroparticle Physics | Year: 2015

Extensive air showers, induced by high energy cosmic rays impinging on the Earth's atmosphere, produce radio emission that is measured with the LOFAR radio telescope. As the emission comes from a finite distance of a few kilometers, the incident wavefront is non-planar. A spherical, conical or hyperbolic shape of the wavefront has been proposed, but measurements of individual air showers have been inconclusive so far. For a selected high-quality sample of 161 measured extensive air showers, we have reconstructed the wavefront by measuring pulse arrival times to sub-nanosecond precision in 200 to 350 individual antennas. For each measured air shower, we have fitted a conical, spherical, and hyperboloid shape to the arrival times. The fit quality and a likelihood analysis show that a hyperboloid is the best parameterization. Using a non-planar wavefront shape gives an improved angular resolution, when reconstructing the shower arrival direction. Furthermore, a dependence of the wavefront shape on the shower geometry can be seen. This suggests that it will be possible to use a wavefront shape analysis to get an additional handle on the atmospheric depth of the shower maximum, which is sensitive to the mass of the primary particle. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Schellart P.,Radboud University Nijmegen | Trinh T.N.G.,University of Groningen | Buitink S.,Radboud University Nijmegen | Buitink S.,Vrije Universiteit Brussel | And 88 more authors.
Physical Review Letters | Year: 2015

We present measurements of radio emission from cosmic ray air showers that took place during thunderstorms. The intensity and polarization patterns of these air showers are radically different from those measured during fair-weather conditions. With the use of a simple two-layer model for the atmospheric electric field, these patterns can be well reproduced by state-of-the-art simulation codes. This in turn provides a novel way to study atmospheric electric fields. © 2015 American Physical Society.

Van Weeren R.J.,Harvard - Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | Williams W.L.,Leiden University | Williams W.L.,Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy | Tasse C.,Rhodes University | And 119 more authors.
Astrophysical Journal | Year: 2014

We present Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) Low Band observations of the Boötes and 3C 295 fields. Our images made at 34, 46, and 62 MHz reach noise levels of 12, 8, and 5 mJy beam-1, making them the deepest images ever obtained in this frequency range. In total, we detect between 300 and 400 sources in each of these images, covering an area of 17-52 deg2. From the observations, we derive Euclidean-normalized differential source counts. The 62 MHz source counts agree with previous GMRT 153 MHz and Very Large Array 74 MHz differential source counts, scaling with a spectral index of -0.7. We find that a spectral index scaling of -0.5 is required to match up the LOFAR 34 MHz source counts. This result is also in agreement with source counts from the 38 MHz 8C survey, indicating that the average spectral index of radio sources flattens toward lower frequencies. We also find evidence for spectral flattening using the individual flux measurements of sources between 34 and 1400 MHz and by calculating the spectral index averaged over the source population. To select ultra-steep spectrum (α < -1.1) radio sources that could be associated with massive high-redshift radio galaxies, we compute spectral indices between 62 MHz, 153 MHz, and 1.4 GHz for sources in the Boötes field. We cross-correlate these radio sources with optical and infrared catalogs and fit the spectral energy distribution to obtain photometric redshifts. We find that most of these ultra-steep spectrum sources are located in the 0.7 ≲ z ≲ 2.5 range. © 2014. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

Girard J.N.,University Paris Diderot | Girard J.N.,Rhodes University | Zarka P.,CNRS Laboratory for Space Studies and Astrophysical Instrumentation | Tasse C.,University of Paris Descartes | And 83 more authors.
Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2016

Context.With the limited amount of in situ particle data available for the innermost region of Jupiter's magnetosphere, Earth-based observations of the giant planets synchrotron emission remain the sole method today of scrutinizing the distribution and dynamical behavior of the ultra energetic electrons magnetically trapped around the planet. Radio observations ultimately provide key information about the origin and control parameters of the harsh radiation environment. Aims.We perform the first resolved and low-frequency imaging of the synchrotron emission with LOFAR. At a frequency as low as 127 MHz, the radiation from electrons with energies of 1-30 MeV are expected, for the first time, to be measured and mapped over a broad region of Jupiter's inner magnetosphere. Methods. Measurements consist of interferometric visibilities taken during a single 10-hour rotation of the Jovian system. These visibilities were processed in a custom pipeline developed for planetary observations, combining flagging, calibration, wide-field imaging, direction-dependent calibration, and specific visibility correction for planetary targets. We produced spectral image cubes of Jupiter's radiation belts at the various angular, temporal, and spectral resolutions from which flux densities were measured. Results. The first resolved images of Jupiter's radiation belts at 127-172 MHz are obtained with a noise level ∼20-25 mJy/beam, along with total integrated flux densities. They are compared with previous observations at higher frequencies. A greater extent of the synchrotron emission source (4 RJ) is measured in the LOFAR range, which is the signature-as at higher frequencies-of the superposition of a "pancake" and an isotropic electron distribution. Asymmetry of east-west emission peaks is measured, as well as the longitudinal dependence of the radial distance of the belts, and the presence of a hot spot at λm = 230° ± 25°. Spectral flux density measurements are on the low side of previous (unresolved) ones, suggesting a low-frequency turnover and/or time variations of the Jovian synchrotron spectrum. Conclusions. LOFAR proves to be a powerful and flexible planetary imager. In the case of Jupiter, observations at 127 MHz depict the distribution of ∼1-30 MeV energy electrons up to ∼4-5 planetary radii. The similarities of the observations at 127 MHz with those at higher frequencies reinforce the conclusion that the magnetic field morphology primarily shapes the brightness distribution features of Jupiter's synchrotron emission, as well as how the radiating electrons are likely radially and latitudinally distributed inside about 2 planetary radii. Nonetheless, the detection of an emission region that extends to larger distances than at higher frequencies, combined with the overall lower flux density, yields new information on Jupiter's electron distribution, and this information may ultimately shed light on the origin and mode of transport of these particles. © 2016 ESO.

Coenen T.,University of Amsterdam | Coenen T.,Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy | Van Leeuwen J.,University of Amsterdam | Van Leeuwen J.,Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy | And 104 more authors.
Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2014

We have conducted two pilot surveys for radio pulsars and fast transients with the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) around 140 MHz and here report on the first low-frequency fast-radio burst limit and the discovery of two new pulsars. The first survey, the LOFAR Pilot Pulsar Survey (LPPS), observed a large fraction of the northern sky, ~ 1.4 × 104 deg2, with 1 h dwell times. Each observation covered ~75 deg2 using 7 independent fields formed by incoherently summing the high-band antenna fields. The second pilot survey, the LOFAR Tied-Array Survey (LOTAS), spanned ~600 deg2, with roughly a 5-fold increase in sensitivity compared with LPPS. Using a coherent sum of the 6 LOFAR "Superterp" stations, we formed 19 tied-array beams, together covering 4 deg2 per pointing. From LPPS we derive a limit on the occurrence, at 142 MHz, of dispersed radio bursts of < 150 day-1 sky-1, for bursts brighter than S> 107 Jy for the narrowest searched burst duration of 0.66 ms. In LPPS, we re-detected 65 previously known pulsars. LOTAS discovered two pulsars, the first with LOFAR or any digital aperture array. LOTAS also re-detected 27 previously known pulsars. These pilot studies show that LOFAR can efficiently carry out all-sky surveys for pulsars and fast transients, and they set the stage for further surveying efforts using LOFAR and the planned low-frequency component of the Square Kilometer Array. © 2014 ESO .

Heald G.H.,Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy | Heald G.H.,University of Groningen | Pizzo R.F.,Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy | Orru E.,Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy | And 179 more authors.
Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2015

We present the Multifrequency Snapshot Sky Survey (MSSS), the first northern-sky Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) imaging survey. In this introductory paper, we first describe in detail the motivation and design of the survey. Compared to previous radio surveys, MSSS is exceptional due to its intrinsic multifrequency nature providing information about the spectral properties of the detected sources over more than two octaves (from 30 to 160 MHz). The broadband frequency coverage, together with the fast survey speed generated by LOFAR's multibeaming capabilities, make MSSS the first survey of the sort anticipated to be carried out with the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Two of the sixteen frequency bands included in the survey were chosen to exactly overlap the frequency coverage of large-area Very Large Array (VLA) and Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) surveys at 74 MHz and 151 MHz respectively. The survey performance is illustrated within the MSSS Verification Field (MVF), a region of 100 square degrees centered at (α,δ)J2000 = (15h,69°). The MSSS results from the MVF are compared with previous radio survey catalogs. We assess the flux and astrometric uncertainties in the catalog, as well as the completeness and reliability considering our source finding strategy. We determine the 90% completeness levels within the MVF to be 100 mJy at 135 MHz with 108″ resolution, and 550 mJy at 50 MHz with 166″ resolution. Images and catalogs for the full survey, expected to contain 150 000-200 000 sources, will be released to a public web server. We outline the plans for the ongoing production of the final survey products, and the ultimate public release of images and source catalogs. © ESO, 2015.

Sobey C.,Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy | Sobey C.,Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy | Young N.J.,University of Witwatersrand | Young N.J.,University of Manchester | And 106 more authors.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society | Year: 2015

PSR B0823+26, a 0.53-s radio pulsar, displays a host of emission phenomena over time-scales of seconds to (at least) hours, including nulling, subpulse drifting, and mode-changing. Studying pulsars like PSR B0823+26 provides further insight into the relationship between these various emission phenomena and what they might teach us about pulsar magnetospheres. Here we report on the LOFAR (Low-Frequency Array) discovery that PSR B0823+26 has a weak and sporadically emitting 'quiet' (Q) emission mode that is over 100 times weaker (on average) and has a nulling fraction forty-times greater than that of the more regularly-emitting 'bright' (B) mode. Previously, the pulsar has been undetected in the Q mode, and was assumed to be nulling continuously. PSR B0823+26 shows a further decrease in average flux just before the transition into the B mode, and perhaps truly turns off completely at these times. Furthermore, simultaneous observations taken with the LOFAR, Westerbork, Lovell, and Effelsberg telescopes between 110 MHz and 2.7 GHz demonstrate that the transition between the Q mode and B mode occurs within one single rotation of the neutron star, and that it is concurrent across the range of frequencies observed. © 2015 The Authors.

Stewart A.J.,University of Oxford | Stewart A.J.,University of Southampton | Fender R.P.,University of Oxford | Fender R.P.,University of Southampton | And 132 more authors.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society | Year: 2016

We present the results of a four-month campaign searching for low-frequency radio transients near the North Celestial Pole with the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), as part of the Multifrequency Snapshot Sky Survey (MSSS). The data were recorded between 2011 December and 2012 April and comprised 2149 11-min snapshots, each covering 175 deg2. We have found one convincing candidate astrophysical transient, with a duration of a few minutes and a flux density at 60 MHz of 15-25 Jy. The transient does not repeat and has no obvious optical or high-energy counterpart, as a result of which its nature is unclear. The detection of this event implies a transient rate at 60 MHz of 3.9-3.7 +14.7 × 10-4 d-1 deg-2, and a transient surface density of 1.5 × 10-5 deg-2, at a 7.9-Jy limiting flux density and ~10-min time-scale. The campaign data were also searched for transients at a range of other time-scales, from 0.5 to 297 min, which allowed us to place a range of limits on transient rates at 60MHz as a function of observation duration. © 2015 The Authors.

Garsden H.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Girard J.N.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Starck J.L.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Corbel S.,French National Center for Scientific Research | And 88 more authors.
Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2015

The LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR) radio telescope is a giant digital phased array interferometer with multiple antennas distributed in Europe. It provides discrete sets of Fourier components of the sky brightness. Recovering the original brightness distribution with aperture synthesis forms an inverse problem that can be solved by various deconvolution and minimization methods. Aims. Recent papers have established a clear link between the discrete nature of radio interferometry measurement and the "compressed sensing" (CS) theory, which supports sparse reconstruction methods to form an image from the measured visibilities. Empowered by proximal theory, CS offers a sound framework for efficient global minimization and sparse data representation using fast algorithms. Combined with instrumental direction-dependent effects (DDE) in the scope of a real instrument, we developed and validated a new method based on this framework. Methods. We implemented a sparse reconstruction method in the standard LOFAR imaging tool and compared the photometric and resolution performance of this new imager with that of CLEAN-based methods (CLEAN and MS-CLEAN) with simulated and real LOFAR data. Results. We show that i) sparse reconstruction performs as well as CLEAN in recovering the flux of point sources; ii) performs much better on extended objects (the root mean square error is reduced by a factor of up to 10); and iii) provides a solution with an effective angular resolution 2-3 times better than the CLEAN images. Conclusions. Sparse recovery gives a correct photometry on high dynamic and wide-field images and improved realistic structures of extended sources (of simulated and real LOFAR datasets). This sparse reconstruction method is compatible with modern interferometric imagers that handle DDE corrections (A-and W-projections) required for current and future instruments such as LOFAR and SKA. © 2015 ESO.

Morosan D.E.,Trinity College Dublin | Gallagher P.T.,Trinity College Dublin | Zucca P.,Trinity College Dublin | O'Flannagain A.,Trinity College Dublin | And 62 more authors.
Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2015

The Sun is an active source of radio emission that is often associated with energetic phenomena ranging from nanoflares to coronal mass ejections (CMEs). At low radio frequencies (<100 MHz), numerous millisecond duration radio bursts have been reported, such as radio spikes or solar S bursts (where S stands for short). To date, these have neither been studied extensively nor imaged because of the instrumental limitations of previous radio telescopes. Aims. Here, LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR) observations were used to study the spectral and spatial characteristics of a multitude of S bursts, as well as their origin and possible emission mechanisms. Methods. We used 170 simultaneous tied-array beams for spectroscopy and imaging of S bursts. Since S bursts have short timescales and fine frequency structures, high cadence (~50 ms) tied-array images were used instead of standard interferometric imaging, that is currently limited to one image per second. Results. On 9 July 2013, over 3000 S bursts were observed over a time period of ~8 h. S bursts were found to appear as groups of short-lived (<1 s) and narrow-bandwidth (~2.5 MHz) features, the majority drifting at ~3.5 MHzs-1 and a wide range of circular polarisation degrees (2-8 times more polarised than the accompanying Type III bursts). Extrapolation of the photospheric magnetic field using the potential field source surface (PFSS) model suggests that S bursts are associated with a trans-equatorial loop system that connects an active region in the southern hemisphere to a bipolar region of plage in the northern hemisphere. Conclusions. We have identified polarised, short-lived solar radio bursts that have never been imaged before. They are observed at a height and frequency range where plasma emission is the dominant emission mechanism, however, they possess some of the characteristics of electron-cyclotron maser emission. © 2015 ESO.

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