Rapid and automated telescope triggering – the future of transient astronomy

CI: – Dr. G. Anderson

We request ADACS support to develop a more robust, stable, and interactive system for triggering automated observations of transients with the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) and the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA). As we approach the upcoming LIGO/Virgo/KAGRA O4 gravitational wave (GW) observing run, the Australian astronomical community is poised to provide unprecedented multi-wavelength support to search for electromagnetic counterparts to binary neutron star and neutron star – black hole mergers. Currently, ATCA and MWA are capable of triggering on VOEvents (XML packets, which are the transient alert standard), allowing them to repoint and begin observing within seconds to minutes of a transient discovery. Using these systems we can perform radio follow-up of GW events to provide the earliest localisations, detect relativistic jets, and investigate possible associations with fast radio bursts from their exotic merger remnants.
We request assistance in developing three components for this project. (1) End-to-end triggering software for parsing and filtering VOEvents and sending triggers to the target telescopes. This software would focus on creating a standardised structure for each VOEvent, filter events using a decision tree that reflects multiple use cases, and front-end code that triggers target telescopes. This is all to be dockerised for deployment on a virtual cloud machine. (2) Communication software, which transmits SMS and emails when the triggering software identifies a VOEvents of interest that has either been flagged for further inspection by the user and/or has triggered the target telescopes. (3) An interactive website that allows users to monitor the code and keep track of VOEvents and telescope triggers.
Assistance from ADACS to improve the functionality, stability, and usability of the ATCA and MWA triggering systems will ensure Australia remains a world leader in this technology for the O4 GW observing run and beyond by delivering high-impact science.