Real-time triggering capabilities for Fast Radio Bursts at the MeerKAT telescope

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are enigmatic radio pulses of roughly millisecond duration that come from extragalactic distances. We use the MeerKAT telescope array in the Karoo desert in South Africa to search for and localise those bursts to high precision in real-time. Our overall aims are to localise FRBs to their host galaxies and, thereby, to understand how they are created. However, the transient nature of FRBs presents various challenges, e.g. in system design, raw compute power and real-time communication, where the real-time requirements are reasonably strict. Namely, our GPU-based software instrument running on the MeerTRAP supercomputer must search the data streams, candidate events need to be clustered and classified, and genuine FRB detections must be communicated to other systems within only a few seconds. These requirements are essential to allow us to retain high-resolution data of the bursts, to localise them to high precision, and to minimise the delay for follow-up observations.

In my contribution, I will give a brief overview of the MeerTRAP search instrument and will then focus on how we have implemented real-time triggering capabilities. For that, we use standard VOEvents to prompt internal high-resolution voltage data dumps, as well as optical data retention by the co-pointed MeerLICHT telescope. I will touch on how we aim to update FRB localisation parameters, how the instrument could be triggered by external events that are in the field of view of the telescope and how our software ties into external services, such as the IAU transient name server.

Theme – Time-Domain Ecosystem