Extreme astrophysical events such as relativistic flows, cataclysmic explosions and black hole accretion are a key area for astrophysics in the 21st century. The extremes of physics, density, temperature, pressure, velocity, gravitational and magnetic fields experienced in these environments are beyond anything achievable in any laboratory on Earth, and provide a unique glimpse at the laws of physics operating in extraordinary regimes.
Nearly all such events are associated with transient radio emission, a tracer of the acceleration of particles to relativistic energies and their interaction with the local magnetic field. By studying radio bursts from these phenomena we can pinpoint the sources of explosive events, probe relativistic accretion, and understand the budget of kinetic feedback by such events in the ambient medium. The combination of a wide field of view, wide frequency coverage with sub-band capabilities and excellent sensitivity makes MeerKAT the most powerful southern hemisphere radio telescope to study the transient sky.
ThunderKAT on MeerKAT will tackle all aspects of transient emission associated with accretion and explosive events. Through a comprehensive and complementary programme of surveying and monitoring Galactic synchrotron transients (across a range of compact accretors and a range of other explosive phenomena) and exploring distinct populations of extragalactic synchrotron transients (microquasars, supernovae and possibly yet unknown transient phenomena) – both from direct surveys and commensal observations – we will revolutionise our understanding of the dynamic and explosive transient radio sky