Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 June 2021
Here we present stringent low-frequency (185 MHz) limits on coherent radio emission associated with a short-duration gamma-ray burst (SGRB). Our observations of the short gamma-ray burst (GRB) 180805A were taken with the upgraded Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) rapid-response system, which triggered within 20s of receiving the transient alert from the Swift Burst Alert Telescope, corresponding to 83.7 s post-burst. The SGRB was observed for a total of 30 min, resulting in a $3\sigma$ persistent flux density upper limit of 40.2 mJy beam–1. Transient searches were conducted at the Swift position of this GRB on 0.5 s, 5 s, 30 s and 2 min timescales, resulting in $3\sigma$ limits of 570–1 830, 270–630, 200–420, and 100–200 mJy beam–1, respectively. We also performed a dedispersion search for prompt signals at the position of the SGRB with a temporal and spectral resolution of 0.5 s and 1.28 MHz, respectively, resulting in a $6\sigma$ fluence upper-limit range from 570 Jy ms at DM $=3\,000$ pc cm–3 ( $z\sim 2.5$ ) to 1 750 Jy ms at DM $=200$ pc cm–3 ( $z\sim 0.1)$ , corresponding to the known redshift range of SGRBs. We compare the fluence prompt emission limit and the persistent upper limit to SGRB coherent emission models assuming the merger resulted in a stable magnetar remnant. Our observations were not sensitive enough to detect prompt emission associated with the alignment of magnetic fields of a binary neutron star just prior to the merger, from the interaction between the relativistic jet and the interstellar medium (ISM) or persistent pulsar-like emission from the spin-down of the magnetar. However, in the case of a more powerful SGRB (a gamma-ray fluence an order of magnitude higher than GRB 180805A and/or a brighter X-ray counterpart), our MWA observations may be sensitive enough to detect coherent radio emission from the jet-ISM interaction and/or the magnetar remnant. Finally, we demonstrate that of all current low- frequency radio telescopes, only the MWA has the sensitivity and response times capable of probing prompt emission models associated with the initial SGRB merger event.