A very large array search for 5GHz radio transients and variables at low galactic latitudes

E. O. Ofek, D. A. Frail, B. Breslauer, S. R. Kulkarni, P. Chandra, Avishay Gal-Yam, M. M. Kasliwal, N. Gehrels

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We present the results of a 5GHz survey with the Very Large Array (VLA) and the expanded VLA, designed to search for short-lived (≲ 1day) transients and to characterize the variability of radio sources at milli-Jansky levels. A total sky area of 2.66deg2, spread over 141 fields at low Galactic latitudes (b≅6-8deg), was observed 16 times with a cadence that was chosen to sample timescales of days, months, and years. Most of the data were reduced, analyzed, and searched for transients in near real-time. Interesting candidates were followed up using visible light telescopes (typical delays of 1-2hr) and the X-ray Telescope on board the Swift satellite. The final processing of the data revealed a single possible transient with a peak flux density of f ν≅2.4mJy. This implies a transient's sky surface density of κ(f ν > 1.8 mJy) = 0.039+0.13, +0.18 - 0.032, -0.038 deg-2 (1σ, 2σ confidence errors). This areal density is roughly consistent with the sky surface density of transients from the Bower etal. survey extrapolated to 1.8mJy. Our observed transient areal density is consistent with a neutron star's origin for these events. Furthermore, we use the data to measure the source variability on timescales of days to years, and we present the variability structure function of 5GHz sources. The mean structure function shows a fast increase on 1day timescale, followed by a slower increase on timescales of up to 10days. On timescales between 10 and 60days, the structure function is roughly constant. We find that ≳ 30% of the unresolved sources brighter than 1.8mJy are variables at the >4σ confidence level, presumably mainly due to refractive scintillation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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