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Paper: Axes of Discovery: The Time Domain and the Radio Synoptic Survey Telescope
Volume: 395, Frontiers of Astrophysics: A Celebration of NRAO's 50th Anniversary
Page: 225
Authors: Cordes, J.M.
Abstract: As Heraclitus might have said, “You don’t observe the same universe twice,” and in modern times we recognize the time domain as an important dimension in the overall phase space of variables that characterizes the observable universe. Examples abound across the electromagnetic spectrum and in non-photonic regimes (neutrinos, gravitational waves, cosmic rays). However, while we can glimpse the richness of time-domain phenomena at radio wavelengths, the radio sky is largely unexplored in any comprehensive sense, especially when compared to the successes of wide-field surveys at high energies. Known radio transients are as short as 0.4 ns with an equivalent brightness temperature of 1042 K (Hankins & Eilek 2007) related to the coherent nature of pulsar radiation; others with incoherent emission extend to hour and longer time scales with thermal brightness temperatures. Some time-domain properties are intrinsic to sources while others are imposed by multi-path propagation through intervening plasma. This paper discusses both known and speculative aspects of the radio transient sky, with an emphasis on discoveries that can be made with new, appropriately designed instrumentation and telescopes. A generalized survey figure of merit is presented that takes into account the rate and duration of transient celestial events. The key for expanding discovery space is a wide field of view (FoV) combined with adequate sensitivity and high-resolution sampling in time and frequency. I discuss implementation of time-domain studies as an integral part of synoptic survey modes and the potential for cross-wavelength and joint photonic/non-photonic studies. In particular, I make the case for designing and operating the mid-frequency-range Square Kilometer Array as a Radio Synoptic Survey Telescope.
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