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MOJAVE: Monitoring of Jets in Active Galactic Nuclei with VLBA Experiments. XI. Spectral distributions

  • Hovatta, T.
  • Aller, M. F.
  • Aller, H. D.
  • Clausen-Brown, E.
  • Homan, D. C.
  • Kovalev, Y. Y.
  • Lister, M. L.
  • Pushkarev, A. B.
  • Savolainen, T.
Published Article
Publication Date
Mar 31, 2014
Submission Date
Mar 31, 2014
DOI: 10.1088/0004-6256/147/6/143
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We have obtained milliarcsecond-scale spectral index distributions for a sample of 190 extragalactic radio jets through the MOJAVE project. The sources were observed in 2006 at 8.1, 8.4, 12.1, and 15.4 GHz, and we study the four-frequency spectrum in individual jet features. We performed detailed simulations to study the effects of image alignment and (u,v)-plane coverage on the spectral index maps to verify our results. The core spectral indices are on average flat, while the jet spectrum is in general steep with a mean index of -1.04. A simple power-law fit is often inadequate for the core regions, as expected if the cores are partially self-absorbed. The overall jet spectrum steepens at a rate of about -0.001 to -0.004 per deprojected parsec when moving further out from the core with flat spectrum radio quasars having significantly steeper spectra than the BL Lac objects. The spectrum in both types of objects flattens at the locations of the jet components indicating particle acceleration or density enhancements along the jet. The mean spectral index at the component locations of -0.81 corresponds to a power-law index of ~2.6 for the electron energy distribution. We find a significant trend that jet components with linear polarization parallel to the jet (magnetic field perpendicular to the jet) have flatter spectra, as expected for transverse shocks. Compared to quasars, BL Lacs have more jet components with perpendicular magnetic field alignment, which may explain their generally flatter spectra. The overall steepening of the spectra with distance can be explained with radiative losses if the jets are collimating or with the evolution of the high-energy cutoff in the electron spectrum if the jets are conical. This interpretation is supported by a significant correlation with the age of the component and the spectral index, with older components having steeper spectra. (abridged)


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