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DRAGNET Report Summary

Project ID: 337062
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Netherlands

Mid-Term Report Summary - DRAGNET (DRAGNET: A high-speed, wide-angle camera for catching extreme astrophysical events)

DRAGNET stands for Dynamic Radio Astronomy of Galactic Neutron Stars and Extragalactic Transients. The projects goals are two-fold 1) to discover new types of astrophysical transients that point the way to the extremes of nature, and probe strong gravity and dense matter and 2) to unravel the mystery of radio pulsars, which host some of the strongest magnetic fields known in the universe.

To date, DRAGNET has discovered two new types of astrophysical transient. First, using the Arecibo telescope, we have discovered the first repeating fast radio burst FRB121102. This discovery solidifies the astrophysical nature of this phenomenon and the repeats indicate that not all fast radio bursts originate in cataclysmic astrophysical events. Rather, whatever is producing the FRB121102 bursts must survive the energetic processes that create the bursts themselves. Second, using a multi-wavelength array of facilities we have discovered and characterized a new class of "transitional" millisecond pulsars, which switch between rotation- and accretion-powered states and provide a unique and powerful new laboratory for studying accretion onto strong magnetic fields.

In terms of studying radio pulsars, their magnetospheres, and the pulsar emission mechanism, we have used LOFAR in conjunction with the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory to investigate in detail how the famous mode-switching pulsar B0943+10 changes its radio and X-ray properties in unison. This unique observational campaign shed important light on the pulsar emission mechanism, showing that the radio pulses are not merely a by-product of magnetospheric microphysics but rather a powerful tracer of sudden magnetospheric changes, perhaps global in nature.

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