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Recent infection testing algorithms (RITA) for HIV combine serological assays with epidemiological data to determine likely recent infections, indicators of ongoing transmission. In 2016, we integrated RITA into national HIV surveillance in Ireland to better inform HIV prevention interventions. We determined the avidity index (AI) of new HIV diagnoses and linked the results with data captured in the national infectious disease reporting system. RITA classified a diagnosis as recent based on an AI < 1.5, unless epidemiological criteria (CD4 count <200 cells/mm3; viral load <400 copies/ml; the presence of AIDS-defining illness; prior antiretroviral therapy use) indicated a potential false-recent result. Of 508 diagnoses in 2016, we linked 448 (88.1%) to an avidity test result. RITA classified 12.5% of diagnoses as recent, with the highest proportion (26.3%) amongst people who inject drugs. On multivariable logistic regression recent infection was more likely with a concurrent sexually transmitted infection (aOR 2.59; 95% CI 1.04–6.45). Data were incomplete for at least one RITA criterion in 48% of cases. The study demonstrated the feasibility of integrating RITA into routine surveillance and showed some ongoing HIV transmission. To improve the interpretation of RITA, further efforts are required to improve completeness of the required epidemiological data.
Phased Array Feed (PAF) technology is the next major advancement in radio astronomy in terms of combining high sensitivity and large field of view. The Focal L-band Array for the Green Bank Telescope (FLAG) is one of the most sensitive PAFs developed so far. It consists of 19 dual-polarization elements mounted on a prime focus dewar resulting in seven beams on the sky. Its unprecedented system temperature of ~17 K will lead to a 3 fold increase in pulsar survey speeds as compared to contemporary single pixel feeds. Early science observations were conducted in a recently concluded commissioning phase of the FLAG where we clearly demonstrated its science capabilities. We observed a selection of normal and millisecond pulsars and detected giant pulses from PSR B1937+21.
An evolution of the low-frequency pulse profile of PSR B2217+47 is observed during a six-year observing campaign with the LOFAR telescope at 150 MHz. The evolution is manifested as a new component in the profile trailing the main peak. The leading part of the profile, including a newly-observed weak component, is steady during the campaign. The transient component is not visible in simultaneous observations at 1500 MHz using the Lovell telescope, implying a chromatic effect. A variation in the dispersion measure of the source is detected in the same timespan. Precession of the pulsar and changes in the magnetosphere are investigated to explain the profile evolution. However, the listed properties favour a model based on turbulence in the interstellar medium (ISM). This interpretation is confirmed by a strong correlation between the intensity of the transient component and main peak in single pulses. Since PSR B2217+47 is the fourth brightest pulsar visible to LOFAR, we speculate that ISM-induced pulse profile evolution might be relatively common but subtle and that SKA-Low will detect many similar examples. In this scenario, similar studies of pulse profile evolution could be used in parallel with scintillation arcs to characterize the properties of the ISM.
New simultaneous X-ray and radio observations of the archetypal mode-switching pulsar PSR B0943+10 have been carried out with XMM-Newton and the LOFAR, LWA and Arecibo radio telescopes in November 2014. They allowed us to better constrain the X-ray spectral and variability properties of this pulsar and to detect, for the first time, the X-ray pulsations also during the X-ray-fainter mode. The combined timing and spectral analysis indicates that unpulsed non-thermal emission, likely of magnetospheric origin, and pulsed thermal emission from a small polar cap are present during both radio modes and vary in a correlated way.
We are investigating complete samples of southern hemisphere flat spectrum extra-galactic radio sources drawn from the Parkes 2.7 GHz Survey (see Bolton et al. 1979 and references therein). These samples are being used for a variety of investigations, including a determination of the space distribution and luminosity function of radio QSOs, their radio size distribution, as well as the structures of the individual sources. Accurate positions are being determined, as well, in order to establish an extra-galactic position reference frame in the southern hemisphere.
Six radio telescopes were operated as the first southern hemisphere VLBI array in April and May 1982. Observations were made at 2.3 and 8.4 Ghz. This array produced VLBI images of 28 southern hemisphere radio sources, high accuracy VLBI geodesy between southern hemisphere sites, and subarcsecond radio astrometry of celestial sources south of declination −45 degrees. This paper discusses only the astrophysical aspects of the experiment.
VLBI observations of the nucleus of Centaurus A were made in April, 1982 at two frequencies with an array of five Australian radio antennas as part of the Southern Hemisphere VLBI Experiment (SHEVE). Observations were undertaken at 2.29 GHz with all five antennas, while only two were operational at 8.42 GHz. The 2.29 GHz data yielded significant information on the structure of the nuclear jet. At 8.42 GHz a compact unresolved core was detected as well.
An antenna in geostationary orbit was used for VLBI observations at 2.3 GHz, in combination with ground antennas in Australia and Japan. 23 of the 25 observed sources were detected on orbiter-ground baselines, with baseline lengths as large as 2.15 earth diameters. Brightness temperatures between 1012 K and 4 × 1012 K were measured for 10 sources.
The Southern Hemisphere VLBI Experiment (SHEVE) program is aimed at producing high-resolution images of southern radio sources. The radio telescopes of the present SHEVE array are described below and some recent results presented.
We are using the VSOP space VLBI mission to observe a complete sample of Pearson-Readhead survey sources at 4.8 GHz to determine core brightness temperatures and pc-scale jet properties. To date we have imaged 27 of the 31 objects in our sample. Our preliminary results show that the majority of objects contain strong core components that remain unresolved on baselines of 30,000 km. The brightness temperatures of several cores significantly exceed 1012 K, which is indicative of highly relativistically beamed emission. We also find that core brightness temperature is correlated with intraday variability in compact AGNs.
PKS 1830–211 is the strongest known radio gravitational lens by almost an order of magnitude and has the potential to provide a measurement of H0, provided the lensing system can be parameterized. Attempts to identify optical counterparts, to measure redshifts, have so far proved unsuccessful and this has lead to radio and millimetre spectral line observations. We present our discovery of an absorption system at z = 0.19. A brief description is also made of our ATCA observations to measure the lensing time delay for this source.
The ALFA mission is designed to map the entire sky at frequencies between approximately 0.3 and 30 MHz with angular resolution limited by interstellar and interplanetary scattering. Most of this region of the spectrum is inaccessible from the ground because of absorption and refraction by the Earth’s ionosphere. A wide range of astrophysical questions concerning solar system, galactic, and extragalactic objects could be answered with high resolution images at low frequencies, where absorption effects and coherent emission processes become important and the synchrotron lifetimes of electrons are comparable to the age of the universe.
Radio-wave scattering in the Vela supernova remnant acts as an imperfect lens to resolve the pulsar’s radio emission region. We use this lens to measure the pulsar’s emission region. We suggest that refraction of radiation within the pulsar’s magnetosphere is responsible for the observed size.
PKS 1934–638 is an archetypal GPS source, peaking at 1.4 GHz and exhibits almost no flux density variability. VLBI images at frequencies of .843, 2.3, 4.8, & 8.4 were made with the southern hemisphere VLBI array and they reveal that the source is a 42 mas compact double. There is no detectable change in separation over the last 20 years, yielding an upper limit of ~ 0.03c ± 0.2c on any expansion velocity. The spectral shapes of the two components are remarkably similar, despite indications of finer structure on longer baselines. Magnetic field calculations indicate fields of a few mGauss and the results are consistent with equipartition.
From the combination of VLBI phase-referenced observations and Hipparcos satellite data, we have found evidence of a low-mass object orbiting the late-type star AB Doradus. The mass of the new object is near the hydrogen burning limit and will constitute a precise point for calibrating the low end of the main sequence. This represents the first detection of a low-mass stellar companion using the VLBI technique, which could become an important tool in future searches for planets and brown dwarfs orbiting other stars.
In recent years, a revolution in astronomical position measurements has been taking place with the advent of modern space techniques. These new techniques, which supplement the traditional astrometric measurements, include laser ranging to the moon and artificial satellites, very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) of galactic and extra-galactic radio sources and spacecraft, radio tracking of satellites, and radar-ranging and spacecraft tracking during planetary encounters. Impressive accuracies have been achieved and further improvements are forthcoming. Each technique can be expected to establish its own reference frame which is derived from observations of a particular class of objects. The celestial and terrestrial coordinate systems are related through adopted constants and definitions. Contemporary astronomy has led to the development of three principal celestial coordinate systems: the optical frame (FK4/FK5) based on positions of galactic stars; the planetary/lunar ephemeris frame based on the major celestial bodies of the solar system; and the radio frame constructed from observations of extragalactic radio sources (quasars). Each frame is rotated with respect to others; furthermore, the optical frame offset is time variable. It is important that all frames be interconnected and unified. The optical frame is being connected to the radio frame by VLBI observations of radio emitting stars. The radio frame is being tied to the ephemeris frame in several ways – one is via differential VLBI measurements between quasars and planet-orbiting spacecraft.
VLBI observations of the nucleus of Centaurus A have been made at three southern hemisphere observatories. Since Centaurus A is the nearest active galaxy, VLBI investigations are important because the physical processes in the nucleus can be studied in greater linear detail than in other similar galaxies. Previous VLBI observations of Centaurus A have been hampered by its southerly declination (−43°) and the sparsity of VLBI capability in the southern hemisphere, leading to only scattered single point u, v coverage. This paper presents results from the early stages of development of a southern hemisphere VLBI network.