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Title: A matched-filter approach to radio variability and transients: searching for orphan afterglows in the VAST Pilot Survey

Radio transient searches using traditional variability metrics struggle to recover sources whose evolution time-scale is significantly longer than the survey cadence. Motivated by the recent observations of slowly evolving radio afterglows at gigahertz frequency, we present the results of a search for radio variables and transients using an alternative matched-filter approach. We designed our matched-filter to recover sources with radio light curves that have a high-significance fit to power-law and smoothly broken power-law functions; light curves following these functions are characteristic of synchrotron transients, including ‘orphan’ gamma-ray burst afterglows, which were the primary targets of our search. Applying this matched-filter approach to data from Variables and Slow Transients Pilot Survey conducted using the Australian SKA Pathfinder, we produced five candidates in our search. Subsequent Australia Telescope Compact Array observations and analysis revealed that: one is likely a synchrotron transient; one is likely a flaring active galactic nucleus, exhibiting a flat-to-steep spectral transition over 4 months; one is associated with a starburst galaxy, with the radio emission originating from either star formation or an underlying slowly evolving transient; and the remaining two are likely extrinsic variables caused by interstellar scintillation. The synchrotron transient, VAST J175036.1–181454, has a multifrequency light curve, peak spectral luminosity, and volumetric rate that is consistent with both an off-axis afterglow and an off-axis tidal disruption event; interpreted as an off-axis afterglow would imply an average inverse beaming factor $\langle f^{-1}_{\text{b}} \rangle = 860^{+1980}_{-710}$, or equivalently, an average jet opening angle of $\langle \theta _{\textrm {j}} \rangle = 3^{+4}_{-1}\,$ deg.

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Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 4029-4048
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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