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Efforts are underway to magnetically confine electron–positron pair plasmas to study their unique behaviour, which is characterized by significant changes in plasma time and length scales, supported waves and unstable modes. However, use of conventional plasma diagnostics presents challenges with these low-density and annihilating matter–antimatter plasmas. To address this problem, we propose to develop techniques based on the distinct emission provided by annihilation. This emission exhibits two spatial correlations: the distance attenuation of isotropic sources and the back-to-back propagation of momentum-preserving 2$\gamma$ annihilation. We present the results of our analysis of the $\gamma$ emission rate and the spatial profile of the annihilation in a magnetized pair plasma from direct pair collisions, from the formation and decay of positronium as well as from transport processes. In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of annihilation-based techniques, we tested them on annular $\gamma$ emission profiles produced by a $\beta ^+$ radioisotope on a rotating turntable. Direct and positronium-mediated annihilation result in overlapping volumetric $\gamma$ sources, and the 2$\gamma$ emission from these volumetric sources can be tomographically reconstructed from coincident counts in multiple detectors. Transport processes result in localized annihilation where field lines intersect walls, limiters or internal magnets. These localized sources can be identified by the fractional $\gamma$ counts on spatially distributed detectors.
The recent increase in well-localised fast radio bursts (FRBs) has facilitated in-depth studies of global FRB host properties, the source circumburst medium, and the potential impacts of these environments on the burst properties. The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) has localised 11 FRBs with sub-arcsecond to arcsecond precision, leading to sub-galaxy localisation regions in some cases and those covering much of the host galaxy in others. The method used to astrometrically register the FRB image frame for ASKAP, in order to align it with images taken at other wavelengths, is currently limited by the brightness of continuum sources detected in the short-duration (‘snapshot’) voltage data captured by the Commensal Real-Time ASKAP Fast Transients (CRAFT) software correlator, which are used to correct for any frame offsets due to imperfect calibration solutions and estimate the accuracy of any required correction. In this paper, we use dedicated observations of bright, compact radio sources in the low- and mid-frequency bands observable by ASKAP to investigate the typical astrometric accuracy of the positions obtained using this so-called ‘snapshot’ technique. Having captured these data with both the CRAFT software and ASKAP hardware correlators, we also compare the offset distributions obtained from both data products to estimate a typical offset between the image frames resulting from the differing processing paths, laying the groundwork for future use of the longer duration, higher signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) data recorded by the hardware correlator. We find typical offsets between the two frames of
arcsec in the low- and mid-band data, respectively, for both RA and Dec. We also find reasonable agreement between our offset distributions and those of the published FRBs. We detect only a weak dependence in positional offset on the relative separation in time and elevation between target and calibrator scans, with the trends being more pronounced in the low-band data and in Dec. Conversely, the offsets show a clear dependence on frequency in the low band, which we compare to the frequency-dependent Dec. offsets found in FRB 200430. In addition, we present a refined methodology for estimating the overall astrometric accuracy of CRAFT FRBs.
Light curves of photospheric radius expansion (PRE) bursts, a subset of type I X-ray bursts, have been used as standard candles to estimate the ‘nominal PRE distances’ for 63% of PRE bursters (bursters), assuming PRE burst emission is spherically symmetric. Model-independent geometric parallaxes of bursters provide a valuable chance to test models of PRE bursts (PRE models) and can be provided in some cases by Gaia astrometry of the donor stars in bursters. We searched for counterparts to 115 known bursters in the Gaia Early Data Release 3 and confirmed 4 bursters with Gaia counterparts that have detected (
, prior to zero-point correction) parallaxes. We describe a generic approach to the Gaia parallax zero point as well as its uncertainty using an ensemble of Gaia quasars individually determined for each target. Assuming the spherically symmetric PRE model is correct, we refined the resultant nominal PRE distances of three bursters (i.e. Cen
) and put constraints on their compositions of the nuclear fuel powering the bursts. Finally, we describe a method for testing the correctness of the spherically symmetric PRE model using parallax measurements and provide preliminary results.
We describe here efforts to create and study magnetized electron–positron pair plasmas, the existence of which in astrophysical environments is well-established. Laboratory incarnations of such systems are becoming ever more possible due to novel approaches and techniques in plasma, beam and laser physics. Traditional magnetized plasmas studied to date, both in nature and in the laboratory, exhibit a host of different wave types, many of which are generically unstable and evolve into turbulence or violent instabilities. This complexity and the instability of these waves stem to a large degree from the difference in mass between the positively and the negatively charged species: the ions and the electrons. The mass symmetry of pair plasmas, on the other hand, results in unique behaviour, a topic that has been intensively studied theoretically and numerically for decades, but experimental studies are still in the early stages of development. A levitated dipole device is now under construction to study magnetized low-energy, short-Debye-length electron–positron plasmas; this experiment, as well as a stellarator device that is in the planning stage, will be fuelled by a reactor-based positron source and make use of state-of-the-art positron cooling and storage techniques. Relativistic pair plasmas with very different parameters will be created using pair production resulting from intense laser–matter interactions and will be confined in a high-field mirror configuration. We highlight the differences between and similarities among these approaches, and discuss the unique physics insights that can be gained by these studies.
Gravitational waves from coalescing neutron stars encode information about nuclear matter at extreme densities, inaccessible by laboratory experiments. The late inspiral is influenced by the presence of tides, which depend on the neutron star equation of state. Neutron star mergers are expected to often produce rapidly rotating remnant neutron stars that emit gravitational waves. These will provide clues to the extremely hot post-merger environment. This signature of nuclear matter in gravitational waves contains most information in the 2–4 kHz frequency band, which is outside of the most sensitive band of current detectors. We present the design concept and science case for a Neutron Star Extreme Matter Observatory (NEMO): a gravitational-wave interferometer optimised to study nuclear physics with merging neutron stars. The concept uses high-circulating laser power, quantum squeezing, and a detector topology specifically designed to achieve the high-frequency sensitivity necessary to probe nuclear matter using gravitational waves. Above 1 kHz, the proposed strain sensitivity is comparable to full third-generation detectors at a fraction of the cost. Such sensitivity changes expected event rates for detection of post-merger remnants from approximately one per few decades with two A+ detectors to a few per year and potentially allow for the first gravitational-wave observations of supernovae, isolated neutron stars, and other exotica.
The discovery of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave signal has generated follow-up observations by over 50 facilities world-wide, ushering in the new era of multi-messenger astronomy. In this paper, we present follow-up observations of the gravitational wave event GW170817 and its electromagnetic counterpart SSS17a/DLT17ck (IAU label AT2017gfo) by 14 Australian telescopes and partner observatories as part of Australian-based and Australian-led research programs. We report early- to late-time multi-wavelength observations, including optical imaging and spectroscopy, mid-infrared imaging, radio imaging, and searches for fast radio bursts. Our optical spectra reveal that the transient source emission cooled from approximately 6 400 K to 2 100 K over a 7-d period and produced no significant optical emission lines. The spectral profiles, cooling rate, and photometric light curves are consistent with the expected outburst and subsequent processes of a binary neutron star merger. Star formation in the host galaxy probably ceased at least a Gyr ago, although there is evidence for a galaxy merger. Binary pulsars with short (100 Myr) decay times are therefore unlikely progenitors, but pulsars like PSR B1534+12 with its 2.7 Gyr coalescence time could produce such a merger. The displacement (~2.2 kpc) of the binary star system from the centre of the main galaxy is not unusual for stars in the host galaxy or stars originating in the merging galaxy, and therefore any constraints on the kick velocity imparted to the progenitor are poor.
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.
Phased VLA observations of the Galactic center magnetar J1745-2900 over 8-12 GHz reveal rich single pulse behavior. The average profile is comprised of several distinct components and is fairly stable over day timescales and GHz frequencies. The average profile is dominated by the jitter of relatively narrow pulses. The pulses in each of the four profile components are uncorrelated in phase and amplitude, although the occurrence of pulse components 1 and 2 appear to be correlated. Using a collection of the brightest individual pulses, we verify that the index of the dispersion law is consistent with the expected cold plasma value of 2. The scattering time is weakly constrained, but consistent with previous measurements, while the dispersion measure DM = 1763+3−10 pc cm−3 is lower than previous measurements, which could be a result of time variability in the line-of-sight column density or changing pulse profile shape over time or frequency.
We observed an area of sky located within the SDSS Stripe 82 field at 1.6 GHz with the European VLBI Network (EVN). There are fifteen mJy/sub-mJy radio sources within the primary beam of a typical 30-m class EVN radio telescope. Our aim was to obtain information on compact radio structures of all VLBI-detectable sources within this primary beam area. The source of particular interest is the recently identified radio quasar J222843.54+011032.2 (J2228+0110) at z = 5.95. The data correlation was performed at the EVN software correlator at JIVE (SFXC). Three targets (J2228+0110, J222851.45+011203.4, J222941.76+011428.5) were detected, all three with position offsets not exceeding the 3σ accuracy of the original low-resolution radio surveys. The detection rate of 20% is consistent with other wide-field VLBI experiments carried out recently (e.g. Middelberg et al. 2013). The project presented here demonstrates the ability of EVN in multiple-phase-centre experiments and paves the way for future large-scale EVN surveys of compact structures in extragalactic radio sources using the multiple-phase-centre VLBI technique.
For over a decade, the structure of the inner “hole” in the transition disk around TW Hydrae has been a subject of debate. To probe the innermost regions of the protoplanetary disk, observations at the highest possible spatial resolution are required. We present new interferometric data of TW Hya from near-infrared to millimeter wavelengths. We confront existing models of the disk structure with the complete data set and develop a new, detailed radiative-transfer model. This model is characterized by: 1) a spatial separation of the largest grains from the small disk grains; and 2) a smooth inner rim structure, rather than a sharp disk edge.
The future of centimetre and metre-wave astronomy lies with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a telescope under development by a consortium of 17 countries that will be 50 times more sensitive than any existing radio facility. Most of the key science for the SKA will be addressed through large-area imaging of the Universe at frequencies from a few hundred MHz to a few GHz. The Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) is a technology demonstrator aimed in the mid-frequency range, and achieves instantaneous wide-area imaging through the development and deployment of phased-array feed systems on parabolic reflectors. The large field-of-view makes ASKAP an unprecedented synoptic telescope that will make substantial advances in SKA key science. ASKAP will be located at the Murchison Radio Observatory in inland Western Australia, one of the most radio-quiet locations on the Earth and one of two sites selected by the international community as a potential location for the SKA. In this paper, we outline an ambitious science program for ASKAP, examining key science such as understanding the evolution, formation and population of galaxies including our own, understanding the magnetic Universe, revealing the transient radio sky and searching for gravitational waves.
We are developing a purely commensal survey experiment for fast (<5 s) transient radio sources. Short-timescale transients are associated with the most energetic and brightest single events in the Universe. Our objective is to cover the enormous volume of transients parameter space made available by ASKAP, with an unprecedented combination of sensitivity and field of view. Fast timescale transients open new vistas on the physics of high brightness temperature emission, extreme states of matter and the physics of strong gravitational fields. In addition, the detection of extragalactic objects affords us an entirely new and extremely sensitive probe on the huge reservoir of baryons present in the IGM. We outline here our approach to the considerable challenge involved in detecting fast transients, particularly the development of hardware fast enough to dedisperse and search the ASKAP data stream at or near real-time rates. Through CRAFT, ASKAP will provide the testbed of many of the key technologies and survey modes proposed for high time resolution science with the SKA.
Motivated by recent discoveries of isolated, dispersed radio pulses of possible extragalactic origin, we are performing a commensal search for short-duration (ms) continuum radio pulses using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The geographically separated antennæ of the VLBA make the system robust to local RFI and allow events to be verified and localised on the sky with milli-arcsec accuracy. We report sky coverage and detection limits from the experiment to date.
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