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Early-time searches for coherent radio emission from short GRBs with the Murchison Widefield Array

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2022

J. Tian*
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
G. E. Anderson
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
P. J. Hancock
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
J. C. A. Miller-Jones
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
M. Sokolowski
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
A. Rowlinson
Anton Pannekoek Institute, University of Amsterdam, Postbus 94249, 1090 GE, Amsterdam, The Netherlands ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, Oude Hoogeveensedijk 4, 7991 PD, Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
A. Williams
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
J. Morgan
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
N. Hurley-Walker
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
D. L. Kaplan
Department of Physics, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1900 E. Kenwood Boulevard, Milwaukee, WI 53211, USA
Tara Murphy
Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
S. J. Tingay
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
M. Johnston-Hollitt
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
K. W. Bannister
Australia Telescope National Facility, CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, PO Box 76, Epping, NSW 1710, Australia
M. E. Bell
University of Technology Sydney, 15 Broadway, Ultimo, NSW 2007, Australia
B. W. Meyers
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Corresponding author: J. Tian, email:


Many short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) originate from binary neutron star mergers, and there are several theories that predict the production of coherent, prompt radio signals either prior, during, or shortly following the merger, as well as persistent pulsar-like emission from the spin-down of a magnetar remnant. Here we present a low frequency (170–200 MHz) search for coherent radio emission associated with nine short GRBs detected by the Swift and/or Fermi satellites using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) rapid-response observing mode. The MWA began observing these events within 30–60 s of their high-energy detection, enabling us to capture any dispersion delayed signals emitted by short GRBs for a typical range of redshifts. We conducted transient searches at the GRB positions on timescales of 5 s, 30 s, and 2 min, resulting in the most constraining flux density limits on any associated transient of 0.42, 0.29, and 0.084 Jy, respectively. We also searched for dispersed signals at a temporal and spectral resolution of 0.5 s and 1.28 MHz, but none were detected. However, the fluence limit of 80–100 Jy ms derived for GRB 190627A is the most stringent to date for a short GRB. Assuming the formation of a stable magnetar for this GRB, we compared the fluence and persistent emission limits to short GRB coherent emission models, placing constraints on key parameters including the radio emission efficiency of the nearly merged neutron stars ( $\epsilon_r\lesssim10^{-4}$ ), the fraction of magnetic energy in the GRB jet ( $\epsilon_B\lesssim2\times10^{-4}$ ), and the radio emission efficiency of the magnetar remnant ( $\epsilon_r\lesssim10^{-3}$ ). Comparing the limits derived for our full GRB sample (along with those in the literature) to the same emission models, we demonstrate that our fluence limits only place weak constraints on the prompt emission predicted from the interaction between the relativistic GRB jet and the interstellar medium for a subset of magnetar parameters. However, the 30-min flux density limits were sensitive enough to theoretically detect the persistent radio emission from magnetar remnants up to a redshift of $z\sim0.6$ . Our non-detection of this emission could imply that some GRBs in the sample were not genuinely short or did not result from a binary neutron star merger, the GRBs were at high redshifts, these mergers formed atypical magnetars, the radiation beams of the magnetar remnants were pointing away from Earth, or the majority did not form magnetars but rather collapse directly into black holes.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Astronomical Society of Australia

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