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Flow diagram depicting the rapid-response observing system required for detecting prompt radio emission from SGRBs. Following a SGRB (1), Swift will detect the event (2) and then transmit its position down to Earth (3). This positional information will then be received by MWA and ATCA (with future plans for ASKAP), resulting in radio observations of the event with response times within minutes of the burst’s detection (4).

Flow diagram depicting the rapid-response observing system required for detecting prompt radio emission from SGRBs. Following a SGRB (1), Swift will detect the event (2) and then transmit its position down to Earth (3). This positional information will then be received by MWA and ATCA (with future plans for ASKAP), resulting in radio observations of the event with response times within minutes of the burst’s detection (4).

The radio Universe is an extremely dynamic place. Flaring and explosive (also known as “transient”) radio emission can be produced by hungry black holes launching powerful radio jets, from the interaction of material ejected from exploding stars (known as supernovae and long-duration gamma-ray bursts), and even in the form of bright radio flares from our smallest solar neighbours. Short-duration gamma-ray bursts (SGRBs), which result from the merger of two dense neutron stars and therefore thought to be a subclass of gravitational wave events detectable with Advanced LIGO (aLIGO), can also produce radio emission. Studying the radio emission produced by transient sources provides vital insights into shock physics and particle acceleration, magnetic field strengths, and the structure of the surrounding interstellar medium. However, one complication is that transient radio emission can be very short-lived (seconds to hours) so it is imperative radio telescopes begin observing these objects before any rapid flaring activity fades away forever. This PhD project involves the use of a new and innovative rapid-response observing mode on the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), which will probe the earliest radio properties of high-energy (X-ray/gamma-ray) transients detected with NASA’s Swift satellite. The rapid-response observing system on ATCA responds to Swift-detected transients and automatically repoints the telescope, allowing it to begin observing the event within minutes of its detection.
ATCA is currently collecting rapid-response observations on Swift-detected SGRBs and superflares from nearby flaring stars (with future plans to expand the project to include other transients). These data will be used to characterise the timescales and brightness of SGRB radio flares, which will provide vital insight into the radio properties of gravitation wave events, and thus the radio signatures to search for within the large positional uncertainties provided by aLIGO. The emission mechanisms capable of generating giant radio flares associated with the high-energy superflares from flare stars, which are 10,000 times more powerful than those from our Sun, will also be investigated. As the project develops, it is planned that similar experiments will also be conducted with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). These rapid-response programs will act as a test-bed for transient observing strategies with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Co-Supervisors

Professor James Miller-Jones

Director, Science (Curtin)

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Dr Paul Hancock

Early Career Research Fellow, Space Detective

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