Prof. Woudt and Diretse were part of a team responsible for tracking the emission of radio waves in the afterglow of GRB 190114C. The team used the new MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa to record the emission. Whilst gamma rays are very high energy photons, radio waves are found at the other energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum. “The rapid response of the MeerKAT telescope to observe this extreme stellar explosion, combined with its excellent sensitivity, has allowed us to detect the radio afterglow within 24 hours of the explosion,” explains Prof. Woudt.
Diretse continues to monitor the radio afterglow of this event using MeerKAT. He says: “The recording of TeV energies for GRB190114C and its continued monitoring with radio telescopes such as MeerKAT helps us to untangle the high energy astrophysics of these exciting transient events. Being part of such a discovery was ecstatic and highly motivating.”
Diretse’s study is supported by a postgraduate scholarship from the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA). The research cloud computing infrastructure of IDIA has contributed towards the fast analysis of the MeerKAT observations of GRB190114C. Prof. Russ Taylor, Director of the IDIA, says: “This amazing scientific achievement underscores the importance of the ability of South African researchers to rapidly analyze large MeerKAT data sets with the data intensive research cloud developed at IDIA.”
Dr Rob Adam, Managing Director of the South African Radio Astronomy says: “Once again we see the potential of the MeerKAT telescope in finding interesting and possibly new astrophysical phenomena, as well as the power of the multi-wavelength approach to the analysis of observations.”
A collaborator on the MeerKAT team, Prof. Chryssa Kouveliotou of George Washington University in the USA, concludes: “MAGIC (the TeV photon detector) opened up a new window on GRB research, and we are looking forward to understanding their physics and true energy release with more detections in the future”.
The findings were announced in the study, Inverse Compton emission revealed by multi-wavelength observations of a gamma-ray burst, published on 21 November 2019 in the international scientific journal Nature (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1754-6).