1. ASIAA, 2. DRAO, 3. JPL/NASA, 4. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, 5. UC Berkeley
Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are mysterious millisecond radio transients that seem to originate from outside of the Milky Way. Despite having discovered roughly 20 FRBs, single-dish radio telescopes have not localized an FRB well enough to associate them confidently with multiwavelength counterparts (e.g., a host galaxy). Thus, fundamental questions about their distance, energetics, and origin remain open. Radio interferometers expand on science capabilities of single-dish radio telescopes by their ability to instantaneously localize sources. However, using interferometers at millisecond timescales ("fast imaging") generates a Terabyte of data per hour, enough to choke typical data analysis pipelines and too large to move via the internet.
To open access to this novel capability of interferometers, we are building realfast, a GPU cluster at the Very Large Array (VLA) that will be dedicated to real-time, fast transient searches. Real-time processing will be used to trigger data recording for those brief moments when millisecond transients occur. Realfast will be integrated with the VLA correlator to search a fast copy of all observations, a fundamentally new capability that will be open to all VLA users. By controlling the output data rate, realfast will observe thousands of hours per year, enough to find and localize dozens of FRBs. I will present early development progress and discoveries from realfast observations.