Computational analysis techniques using fast radio bursts to probe astrophysics

Doctoral Thesis


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This thesis focuses on Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) and presents computational techniques that can be used to understand these enigmatic events and the Universe around them. Chapter 1 provides a theoretical overview of FRBs; providing a foundation for the chapters that follow. Chapter 2 details current understandings by providing a review of FRB properties and progenitor theories. In Chapter 3, we implement non-parametric techniques to measure the elusive baryonic halo of the Milky Way. We show that even with a limited data set, FRBs and an appropriate set of statistical tools can provide reasonable constraints on the dispersion measure of the Milky Way halo. Further, we expect that a modest increase in data (from fewer than 100 FRB detections to over 1000) will significantly tighten constraints, demonstrating that the technique we present may offer a valuable complement to other analyses in the near future. In Chapter 4, we study the fine time-frequency structure of the most famous FRB: FRB 121102. Here, we use autocorrelation functions to maximise the structure of 11 pulses detected with the MeerKAT radio telescope. The study is motivated by the low time-resolution of MeerKAT data, which presents a challenge to more traditional techniques. The burst profiles that are unveiled offer unique insight into the local environment of the FRB, including a possible deviation from the expected cold plasma dispersion relationship. The pulse features and their possible physical mechanisms are critically discussed in a bid to uncover the nature and origin of these transients.