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Keywords:

  • techniques: image processing;
  • catalogues;
  • stars: flare;
  • pulsars: general;
  • supernovae: general;
  • radio continuum: general

ABSTRACT

We describe a 22-yr survey for variable and transient radio sources, performed with archival images taken with the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST). This survey covers 2776 deg2 of the sky south of δ < −30° at an observing frequency of 843 MHz, an angular resolution of 45 × 45 cosec | δ |   arcsec2 and a sensitivity of 5σ≥ 14 mJy beam−1. We describe a technique to compensate for image gain error, along with statistical techniques to check and classify variability in a population of light curves, with applicability to any image-based radio variability survey. Among radio light curves for almost 30 000 sources, we present 53 highly variable sources and 15 transient sources. Only three of the transient sources, and none of the variable sources, have been previously identified as transient or variable. Many of our variable sources are suspected scintillating active galactic nuclei. We have identified three variable sources and one transient source that are likely to be associated with star-forming galaxies at z≃ 0.05, but whose implied luminosity is higher than the most luminous known radio supernova (SN1979C) by an order of magnitude. We also find a class of variable and transient source with no optical counterparts.