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Flux density monitoring data at 2.3 and 8.4 GHz is presented for a sample of 33 southern hemisphere GPS sources, drawn from the 2.7 GHz Parkes survey. This monitoring data, together with VLBI monitoring data, shows that a small fraction of these sources, ∼10%, vary. Their variability falls into several categories: sources whose spectral classification is, at best, ephemeral on a timescale of years; sources with a stable GPS classification that vary, but retain their classification; and a small number of sources that exhibit interstellar scintillation, but that maintain a mean GPS spectrum. Existing data on GPS sources with higher frequency peaks, ≥3 GHz, reveals that many such sources vary. However, the majority of these sources possess a GPS spectrum only during outbursts, and hence should perhaps be classified as ephemeral GPS sources. In addition, significant levels of circular polarisation have been found in a number of GPS sources, both amongst the variables and non-variables. Remarkable amongst these is PKS 1519–273, which possesses strong and variable circular polarisation, and which exhibits IDV in all Stokes parameters.
The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) will give us an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the transient sky at radio wavelengths. In this paper we present VAST, an ASKAP survey for Variables and Slow Transients. VAST will exploit the wide-field survey capabilities of ASKAP to enable the discovery and investigation of variable and transient phenomena from the local to the cosmological, including flare stars, intermittent pulsars, X-ray binaries, magnetars, extreme scattering events, interstellar scintillation, radio supernovae, and orphan afterglows of gamma-ray bursts. In addition, it will allow us to probe unexplored regions of parameter space where new classes of transient sources may be detected. In this paper we review the known radio transient and variable populations and the current results from blind radio surveys. We outline a comprehensive program based on a multi-tiered survey strategy to characterise the radio transient sky through detection and monitoring of transient and variable sources on the ASKAP imaging timescales of 5 s and greater. We also present an analysis of the expected source populations that we will be able to detect with VAST.
We report the results of a successful 7-hour 1.4 GHz Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) experiment using two new stations, ASKAP-29 located in Western Australia and WARK12M located on the North Island of New Zealand. This was the first geodetic VLBI observing session with the participation of these new stations. We have determined the positions of ASKAP-29 and WARK12M. Random errors on position estimates are 150–200 mm for the vertical component and 40–50 mm for the horizontal component. Systematic errors caused by the unmodeled ionosphere path delay may reach 1.3 m for the vertical component.
The line of sight towards the compact, radio loud quasar PKS 1257–326 passes through a patch of scattering plasma in the local Galactic ISM that causes large and rapid, intra-hour variations in the received flux density at centimetre wavelengths. This rapid interstellar scintillation (SS) has been occurring for at least 15 years, implying that the scattering “screen” is at least 100 AU in physical extent. Through observations of the ISS we have measured microarcsecond-scale “core shifts” in PKS 1257-326, corresponding to changing opacity during an intrinsic outburst. Recent analysis of VLA data of a sample of 128 quasars found 6 sources scintillating with a characteristic time-scale of < 2 hours, suggesting that nearby scattering screens in the ISM may have a covering fraction of a few percent. That is an important consideration for proposed surveys of the transient and variable radio sky.
PKS 1257—326 is one of three quasars known to show unusually large and rapid, intra-hour intensity variations, as a result of scintillation in the turbulent Galactic interstellar medium. We have measured time delays in the variability pattern arrival times at the VLA and the ATCA, as well as an annual cycle in the time-scale of variability for this source. Results of the two-station time delay observations are presented here. Implications for the scintillation of this source are discussed in the light of these results, together with results from two years of monitoring with the ATCA.
The accumulation of evidence now strongly favours interstellar scintillation (ISS) as the principal mechanism causing intra-day variability (IDV) at cm wavelengths. While ISS reduces the implied brightness temperatures, they remain uncomfortably high. The distance to the scattering screen is an important parameter in determining the actual brightness temperature encountered. The high brightness temperatures, the presence of strong and variable circular polarization and the observed lifetimes of a decade or more for several IDV sources, pose significant problems for synchrotron theory.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Intra-day variability (IDV) of active galactic nuclei (AGN) has been detected from gamma-ray energies to radio wavelengths. At high energies, such variability appears to be intrinsic to the sources themselves. However, at radio wavelengths, brightness temperatures as high as 1018 to 1021 K are encountered if the IDV is intrinsic to the source. We discuss here the accumulating evidence showing that, at radio wavelengths where the highest brightness temperatures are encountered, interstellar scintillation (ISS) is the principal mechanism causing IDV. While ISS reduces the implied brightness temperatures, they still remain uncomfortably high.
We present results of the ATCA IDV Survey of southern extragalactic radio sources. We discuss briefly the properties of the 22 new intraday variable sources discovered in the Survey. The follow-up observations of a few extreme examples of strong intraday variability are presented. We find that the characteristics of the total flux density fluctuations at different wavelengths are consistent with intersteller scintillations (ISS) of the microarcsecondsize soorten components. However, the scintillating components of a few extreme IDVs are characterized by the brightness temperatures far exceeding the TB = 1012 K limit. The relativistic beaming invoked in such sources would require Doppler factors up to as high as δ ~ 103.
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