The HUNt for Dynamic and Explosive Radio transients with meerKAT
The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) is operating MeerKAT, a precursor radio telescope to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). MeerKAT consists of an array of 64 antennas and is the most sensitive cm-radio telescope in the southern hemisphere. MeerKAT will be incorporated into the SKA1-MID component of the SKA around 2022, when the SKA1-MID array will be extended to around 200 antennas spread over a maximum baseline of 150 km.
In 2010, a number of 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. Following a review in 2016, four components of ThunderKAT were approved for scheduling on MeerKAT between 2018 and 2022, namely: X-ray binaries, Cataclysmic Variables, short Gamma-Ray Bursts and Supernovae type Ia. In addition, ThunderKAT will have commensal access to all MeerKAT LSP data 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. MeerLICHT was opened in May 2018.