MeerTRAP is a project to continuously use the MeerKAT radio telescope to search the radio sky for pulsars and fast radio transients and to rapidly and accurately locate them. Utilising the excellent sensitivity and sky coverage of MeerTRAP the team will discover many rare and scientifically important pulsar types: relativistic binaries, intermittent emitters, and transitioning systems. Current radio telescopes have only explored the tip of the transients "iceberg" and MeerTRAP will transform our knowledge of these manifestations of extreme physics. It will detect hundreds of new bursts, which will all be well localised, allowing us to identify hosts and distances, greatly enhancing their use as cosmological probes. Localisation also enables measurement of their true fluxes, polarisation, and spectral indices; all of which are crucial to identify their origin. To achieve this we are designing, implementing, and exploiting state-of-the-art hardware and software. We will also use the MeerLICHT optical telescope, which will track MeerKAT, to give us a crucial glimpse of the optical sky immediately before and after any radio transient to further constrain their origin and the associated physics.
The MeerTRAP pipeline will detect fast radio transients, such as fast radio bursts, RRATs, and pulsars, in real-time.
Once a transient has been detected it can be rapidly localised using imaging. This enables rapid follow-up with MeerLICHT and other telescopes.
MeerTRAP is partnered with the MeerLICHT optical telescope, a fully robotic telescope that co-points with MeerKAT. This is essential for identifying optical counterparts of fast radio transients, particularly fast radio bursts.
Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are are bright, astrophysical radio flashes that are known to be extragalactic in origin. Though a lot of them have been discovered over a broad range of radio frequencies (a few GHz right down to 600 MHz), none so far have been discovered at the lower end of the radio band (100 — 400 MHz). The reason for dearth of FRBs at low frequencies is generally attributed to absorption and scattering of radio waves as they propagate through the intergalactic and the interstellar medium. To investigate this further, we performed a drift scan survey for FRBs at 332-MHz using the 76-m Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank. The search spanned over 58 days with the telescope pointed to the zenith as it was under maintenance. We surveyed approximately 0.61 square degrees of the sky. We did not detect any FRBs though we often detected single pulses from a known pulsar, PSR B0329+54 that transited through the primary beam of the receiver. The non-detections help us in placing constraints over various absorption models that were considered by previous authors on this topic. We show that free-free absorption is the most likely channel of absorption of radio waves and the most suitable conditions for them can occur in dense, ionised shells for Super-Luminous Super Nova Remnants that have been postulated as potential progenitors of these mysterious bursts. The results of this study have been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The paper is also now out on the ArXiv (https://arxiv.org/abs/2002.11178).
MeerTRAP PhD student Laura Driessen led work on the discovery and analysis of the first new transient to be discovered with the MeerKAT telescope! you can find out more here, and you can read the paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, or open-access on ArXiv.
The light curve of the newly discovered flaring source MKT J170456.2-482100, and the images corresponding to the light curve (the position of MKT J170456.2-482100 is circled in pink).
The detection plot of one of the bursts from the repeating fast radio burst FRB121102, as seen by our MeerTRAP team after the real time detection of the burst. The top plot shows the frequency time plot, and the bottom plot shows the dedispersed burst profile.
We’re excited to announce that we have been involved in the detection of bursts from the first repeating fast radio burst, FRB 121102!
Recently, it was reported by various facilities that FRB 121102 was active, so we took the opportunity (as part of a MeerKAT DDT proposal) to observe the source early on the morning of the 10th of September. We used the MeerTRAP real-time pulse detection pipeline and backend, with the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy beam former, to search for bursts in real-time for three hours.
Check out the ATel announcing our detection of 12 bursts from FRB 121102 in real-time in the three hours of observing.
Duncan working hard with the MeerTRAP team to spot bursts from the repeating fast radio burst, FRB121102.