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Title: V-FASTR: THE VLBA FAST RADIO TRANSIENTS EXPERIMENT

Abstract

Recent discoveries of dispersed, non-periodic impulsive radio signals with single-dish radio telescopes have sparked significant interest in exploring the relatively uncharted space of fast transient radio signals. Here we describe V-FASTR, an experiment to perform a blind search for fast transient radio signals using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The experiment runs entirely in a commensal mode, alongside normal VLBA observations and operations. It is made possible by the features and flexibility of the DiFX software correlator that is used to process VLBA data. Using the VLBA for this type of experiment offers significant advantages over single-dish experiments, including a larger field of view, the ability to easily distinguish local radio-frequency interference from real signals, and the possibility to localize detected events on the sky to milliarcsecond accuracy. We describe our software pipeline, which accepts short integration ({approx} ms) spectrometer data from each antenna in real time during correlation and performs an incoherent dedispersion separately for each antenna, over a range of trial dispersion measures. The dedispersed data are processed by a sophisticated detector and candidate events are recorded. At the end of the correlation, small snippets of the raw data at the time of the events are storedmore » for further analysis. We present the results of our event detection pipeline from some test observations of the pulsars B0329+54 and B0531+21 (the Crab pulsar).« less

Authors:
;  [1]; ;  [2]; ; ;  [3]
  1. International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845 (Australia)
  2. NRAO, P.O. Box O, Socorro, NM 87801 (United States)
  3. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
21578398
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 735; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/735/2/97
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; DETECTION; PULSARS; RADIOWAVE RADIATION; COSMIC RADIO SOURCES; ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION; RADIATIONS

Citation Formats

Wayth, Randall B., Tingay, Steven J., Brisken, Walter F., Deller, Adam T., Majid, Walid A., Thompson, David R., and Wagstaff, Kiri L., E-mail: randall.wayth@icrar.org. V-FASTR: THE VLBA FAST RADIO TRANSIENTS EXPERIMENT. United States: N. p., 2011. Web. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/735/2/97.
Wayth, Randall B., Tingay, Steven J., Brisken, Walter F., Deller, Adam T., Majid, Walid A., Thompson, David R., & Wagstaff, Kiri L., E-mail: randall.wayth@icrar.org. V-FASTR: THE VLBA FAST RADIO TRANSIENTS EXPERIMENT. United States. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/735/2/97.
Wayth, Randall B., Tingay, Steven J., Brisken, Walter F., Deller, Adam T., Majid, Walid A., Thompson, David R., and Wagstaff, Kiri L., E-mail: randall.wayth@icrar.org. Sun . "V-FASTR: THE VLBA FAST RADIO TRANSIENTS EXPERIMENT". United States. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/735/2/97.
@article{osti_21578398,
title = {V-FASTR: THE VLBA FAST RADIO TRANSIENTS EXPERIMENT},
author = {Wayth, Randall B. and Tingay, Steven J. and Brisken, Walter F. and Deller, Adam T. and Majid, Walid A. and Thompson, David R. and Wagstaff, Kiri L., E-mail: randall.wayth@icrar.org},
abstractNote = {Recent discoveries of dispersed, non-periodic impulsive radio signals with single-dish radio telescopes have sparked significant interest in exploring the relatively uncharted space of fast transient radio signals. Here we describe V-FASTR, an experiment to perform a blind search for fast transient radio signals using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The experiment runs entirely in a commensal mode, alongside normal VLBA observations and operations. It is made possible by the features and flexibility of the DiFX software correlator that is used to process VLBA data. Using the VLBA for this type of experiment offers significant advantages over single-dish experiments, including a larger field of view, the ability to easily distinguish local radio-frequency interference from real signals, and the possibility to localize detected events on the sky to milliarcsecond accuracy. We describe our software pipeline, which accepts short integration ({approx} ms) spectrometer data from each antenna in real time during correlation and performs an incoherent dedispersion separately for each antenna, over a range of trial dispersion measures. The dedispersed data are processed by a sophisticated detector and candidate events are recorded. At the end of the correlation, small snippets of the raw data at the time of the events are stored for further analysis. We present the results of our event detection pipeline from some test observations of the pulsars B0329+54 and B0531+21 (the Crab pulsar).},
doi = {10.1088/0004-637X/735/2/97},
journal = {Astrophysical Journal},
number = 2,
volume = 735,
place = {United States},
year = {Sun Jul 10 00:00:00 EDT 2011},
month = {Sun Jul 10 00:00:00 EDT 2011}
}
  • We present the first results from the V-FASTR experiment, a commensal search for fast transient radio bursts using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). V-FASTR is unique in that the widely spaced VLBA antennas provide a discriminant against non-astronomical signals and a mechanism for the localization and identification of events that is not possible with single dishes or short baseline interferometers. Thus, far V-FASTR has accumulated over 1300 hr of observation time with the VLBA, between 90 cm and 3 mm wavelength (327 MHz-86 GHz), providing the first limits on fast transient event rates at high radio frequencies (>1.4 GHz).more » V-FASTR has blindly detected bright individual pulses from seven known pulsars but has not detected any single-pulse events that would indicate high-redshift impulsive bursts of radio emission. At 1.4 GHz, V-FASTR puts limits on fast transient event rates comparable with the PALFA survey at the Arecibo telescope, but generally at lower sensitivities, and comparable to the 'fly's eye' survey at the Allen Telescope Array, but with less sky coverage. We also illustrate the likely performance of the Phase 1 SKA dish array for an incoherent fast transient search fashioned on V-FASTR.« less
  • We define a framework for determining constraints on the detection rate of fast transient events from a population of underlying sources, with a view to incorporate beam shape, frequency effects, scattering effects, and detection efficiency into the metric. We then demonstrate a method for combining independent data sets into a single event rate constraint diagram, using a probabilistic approach to the limits on parameter space. We apply this new framework to present the latest results from the V-FASTR experiment, a commensal fast transients search using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). In the 20 cm band, V-FASTR now has themore » ability to probe the regions of parameter space of importance for the observed Lorimer and Keane fast radio transient candidates by combining the information from observations with differing bandwidths, and properly accounting for the source dispersion measure, VLBA antenna beam shape, experiment time sampling, and stochastic nature of events. We then apply the framework to combine the results of the V-FASTR and Allen Telescope Array Fly's Eye experiments, demonstrating their complementarity. Expectations for fast transients experiments for the SKA Phase I dish array are then computed, and the impact of large differential bandwidths is discussed.« less
  • “Fast radio transients” are defined here as bright millisecond pulses of radio-frequency energy. These short-duration pulses can be produced by known objects such as pulsars or potentially by more exotic objects such as evaporating black holes. The identification and verification of such an event would be of great scientific value. This is one major goal of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) Fast Transient Experiment (V-FASTR), a software-based detection system installed at the VLBA. V-FASTR uses a “commensal” (piggy-back) approach, analyzing all array data continually during routine VLBA observations and identifying candidate fast transient events. Raw data can be storedmore » from a buffer memory, which enables a comprehensive off-line analysis. This is invaluable for validating the astrophysical origin of any detection. Candidates discovered by the automatic system must be reviewed each day by analysts to identify any promising signals that warrant a more in-depth investigation. To support the timely analysis of fast transient detection candidates by V-FASTR scientists, we have developed a metadata-driven, collaborative candidate review framework. The framework consists of a software pipeline for metadata processing composed of both open source software components and project-specific code written expressly to extract and catalog metadata from the incoming V-FASTR data products, and a web-based data portal that facilitates browsing and inspection of the available metadata for candidate events extracted from the VLBA radio data.« less
  • We present multi-epoch Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) observations of V773 Tau A, the 51 day binary subsystem in the multiple young stellar system V773 Tau. Combined with previous interferometric and radial velocity measurements, these new data enable us to improve the characterization of the physical orbit of the A subsystem. In particular, we infer updated dynamical masses for the primary and the secondary components of 1.55 {+-} 0.11 M{sub Sun} and 1.293 {+-} 0.068 M{sub Sun }, respectively, and an updated orbital parallax distance to the system of 135.7 {+-} 3.2 pc, all consistent with previous estimates. Using themore » improved orbit, we can calculate the absolute coordinates of the barycenter of V773 Tau A at each epoch of our VLBA observations, and fit for its trigonometric parallax and proper motion. This provides a direct measurement of the distance to the system almost entirely independent of the orbit modeling. The best fit yields a distance of 129.9 {+-} 3.2 pc, in good agreement (i.e., within 1{sigma}) with the distance estimate based on the orbital fit. Taking the mean value of the orbital and trigonometric parallaxes, we conclude that V773 Tau is located at d = 132.8 {+-} 2.3 pc. The accuracy of this determination is nearly one order of magnitude better than that of previous estimates. In projection, V773 Tau and two other young stars (Hubble 4 and HDE 283572) recently observed with the VLBA are located toward the dark cloud Lynds 1495, in the central region of Taurus. These three stars appear to have similar trigonometric parallaxes, radial velocities, and proper motions, and we argue that the weighted mean and dispersion of their distances (d = 131.4 pc and {sigma}{sub d} = 2.4 pc) provide a good estimate of the distance to and depth of Lynds 1495 and its associated stellar population. The radio emission from the two sources in V773 Tau A is largely of gyrosynchrotron origin. Interestingly, both sources are observed to become typically five times brighter near periastron than near apastron (presumably because of increased flaring activity), and the separation between the radio sources near periastron appears to be systematically smaller than the separation between the stars. While this clearly indicates some interaction between the individual magnetospheres, the exact mechanisms at play are unclear because even at periastron the separation between the stars ({approx}30 R{sub *}) remain much larger than the radius of the magnetospheres around these low-mass young stars ({approx}6 R{sub *}).« less
  • We present images from a long-term program (MOJAVE: Monitoring of Jets in active galactic nuclei (AGNs) with VLBA Experiments) to survey the structure and evolution of parsec-scale jet phenomena associated with bright radio-loud active galaxies in the northern sky. The observations consist of 2424 15 GHz Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) images of a complete flux-density-limited sample of 135 AGNs above declination -20{sup 0}, spanning the period 1994 August to 2007 September. These data were acquired as part of the MOJAVE and 2 cm Survey programs, and from the VLBA archive. The sample-selection criteria are based on multi-epoch parsec-scale (VLBA)more » flux density, and heavily favor highly variable and compact blazars. The sample includes nearly all the most prominent blazars in the northern sky, and is well suited for statistical analysis and comparison with studies at other wavelengths. Our multi-epoch and stacked-epoch images show 94% of the sample to have apparent one-sided jet morphologies, most likely due to the effects of relativistic beaming. Of the remaining sources, five have two-sided parsec-scale jets, and three are effectively unresolved by the VLBA at 15 GHz, with essentially all of the flux density contained within a few tenths of a milliarcsecond.« less