Cosmic Extremes: Probing Energetic Transients With Radio Observations
Alexander, Kate Denham
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AbstractWith the advent of sensitive facilities like the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array and planning well underway for vastly more powerful wide-field interferometers like the Square Kilometer Array, the study of radio astrophysical transients is poised for dramatic growth. Radio observations provide a unique window into a wide variety of transient events, from gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) to supernovae to tidal disruption events (TDEs) in which a star is torn apart by a supermassive black hole. In particular, GRBs and TDEs have emerged as valuable probes of some of the most extreme physics in the Universe. In these high-energy laboratories, the longer timescale of radio emission allows for extensive followup and characterization of the event energies and the densities of surrounding material. In this thesis, I present high-cadence broadband radio studies of GRB afterglows and TDEs undertaken with the goal of learning more about their physical properties, the physics underlying the formation and growth of relativistic jets and outflows, and the environments in which these events occur. Our observations confirm that only a small fraction of TDEs produce relativistic jets but reveal low-luminosity, non-relativistic outflows in two nearby TDEs, allowing us to begin constraining the bulk of the TDE population. Our GRB radio observations reveal both intrinsic variability (reverse shocks) and extrinsic variability (interstellar scintillation). I also present early radio observations of GW170817, which revealed a relativistic jet in the first binary neutron star merger detected by Advanced LIGO/Virgo. The insights derived from these studies will be invaluable for designing and interpreting the results from future radio transient surveys.
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