Studying the explosive Universe and gravitational waves through the automation of Australian radio telescopes

Mon 25 February, 2019 @14:15 PM, level 7, David Caro Building
Dr Gemma Anderson, ICRAR, Curtin University

Email:  gemma.anderson[at]


The first neutron star gravitational wave merger has been detected and Australia is primed to take the lead in locating their radio afterglows. However, the positional uncertainties make fast localisation of the electromagnetic counterpart extremely difficult. In order to address this concern, I use new rapid-response systems on Australian radio telescopes to rapidly and automatically obtain observations of transients. These systems allow telescopes to “trigger” on transient alerts, causing the telescope to automatically repoint and begin collecting data within minutes of discovery. For example, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) can be on-target within 14 seconds of receiving a trigger. Additionally, the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) can now be on-target within minutes. My main research focus is on the rapid follow-up of transients, particularly short-duration gamma-ray bursts, a known subclass of gravitational wave events that are well localised by the Swift telescope. MWA response times are fast enough to probe for prompt radio signals predicted to be produced by merging neutron star binaries, in-turn allowing us to test neutron star merger models. ATCA can be on-target to probe the reverse shock emission from gamma-ray bursts, allowing us to determine a template of the radio luminosities and temporal behaviour of the gravitational wave events that will be detected by aLIGO/Virgo. In this talk, I will discuss some of the early results from the MWA and ATCA rapid-response observations of transient events and how these experiements will contribute invaluable knowledge towards optimising transient science to be conducted with the Square Kilometre Array.