The HUNt for Dynamic and Explosive Radio transients with meerKAT
The South African SKA Project is currently building MeerKAT, a precursor radio telescope to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). MeerKAT will consist of an array of 64 antennas (pictured above) and will be the most sensitive cm-radio telescope in the southern hemisphere. MeerKAT will be incorporated into the SKA1-MID component of the SKA around 2020, when the SKA1-MID array will be extended to around 200 antennas spread over a maximum baseline of 150 km.
In 2010, 10 MeerKAT Large Survey Projects (MLSPs) were selected in areas of key scientific interest closely related to the SKA science case. ThunderKAT is the MeerKAT LSP for image-domain (explosive) radio transients. A nominal 3000 h of time have been awarded to ThunderKAT over a 5 year period (2017-2021) of MeerKAT science operation. In addition, ThunderKAT will have commensal data access to all MeerKAT LSPs to search for synchrotron radio transients in real-time, effectively increasing the discovery-space of rare radio transients by a factor of 10.
The associated and innovative MeerLICHT project ensures that for each radio transient detected in real-time on MeerKAT, multi-filtered optical data at the same location and at the same time will be available. Commissioning of MeerLICHT is scheduled around the same time as early science on MeerKAT with array release 2 (Semester 1 of 2017).
ThunderKAT on MeerKAT, the LOFAR Transient Key Science Project on LOFAR, and VAST on ASKAP form part of a global radio transient network.