The spectral energy distribution of powerful starburst galaxies - I. Modelling the radio continuum

T. J. Galvin, N. Seymour, J. Marvil, M. D. Filipović, N. F.H. Tothill, R. M. McDermid, N. Hurley-Walker, P. J. Hancock, J. R. Callingham, R. H. Cook, R. P. Norris, M. E. Bell, K. S. Dwarakanath, B. For, B. M. Gaensler, L. Hindson, M. Johnston-Hollitt, A. D. Kapińska, E. Lenc, B. McKinleyJ. Morgan, A. R. Offringa, P. Procopio, L. Staveley-Smith, R. B. Wayth, C. Wu, Q. Zheng

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    We have acquired radio-continuum data between 70MHz and 48 GHz for a sample of 19 southern starburst galaxies at moderate redshifts (0.067 < z < 0.227) with the aim of separating synchrotron and free-free emission components. Using a Bayesian framework, we find the radio continuum is rarely characterized well by a single power law, instead often exhibiting lowfrequency turnovers below 500 MHz, steepening at mid to high frequencies, and a flattening at high frequencies where free-free emission begins to dominate over the synchrotron emission. These higher order curvature components may be attributed to free-free absorption across multiple regions of star formation with varying optical depths. The decomposed synchrotron and free-free emission components in our sample of galaxies form strong correlations with the total-infrared bolometric luminosities. Finally, we find that without accounting for free-free absorption with turnovers between 90 and 500MHz the radio continuum at low frequency (v < 200 MHz) could be overestimated by upwards of a factor of 12 if a simple power-law extrapolation is used from higher frequencies. The mean synchrotron spectral index of our sample is constrained to be α = -1.06, which is steeper than the canonical value of -0.8 for normal galaxies. We suggest this may be caused by an intrinsically steeper cosmic ray distribution.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)779-799
    Number of pages21
    JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

    Bibliographical note

    This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 474, Issue 1, 11 February 2018, Pages 779–799, Copyright 2018 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


    • Galaxies: starburst
    • Radio continuum: galaxies


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