Archive | March 2016

First Set of Images Complete but More Coming Soon

You might have noticed the blue banner currently on the Comet Hunters website. That’s because thanks to your help, we’ve completed the classifications needed to retire all the images that were live on the site. The team has been working to process a new batch of asteroid images. We’ve taken our time to improve on some of the data reduction issues you might have noticed in the launch images (streaked asteroids, more off center asteroids images, and some bad quality images). By having people spot and comment on these features in the images, we’ve been able to refine the data processing pipeline for this next batch of images. We will have those images live ASAP. Stay tuned to this space.

Most of the Comet Hunters science team  chatted today, and we’ve decided to put on Talk our top comet candidates based on your classifications. As we’ve found thanks to your classifications and Talk comments, overlaps with background sources are a huge source of false positives for 8-m class telescope images of asteroids when you’re searching for comet-like tails. If you’re interested, we could use your help to review other images to see if the potential tail is a background galaxy or star when you view the same area after the asteroid has moved. More details here.

Meet the Team: Meg Schwamb

Today we have the next post in our Meet the Comet Hunters Team series. This time we’re featuring Meg Schwamb from the science team.

Photo credit: Sundar Srinivasan

Photo credit: Sundar Srinivasan

Name: Meg Schwamb

What is your current position and where/institution?

Postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

Long Island, New York on the Northeast cost of the United States

What is your role in Comet Hunters?

I’m a member of the science team and serve as project scientist. I help organize the science team efforts and the day-to-day logistics of the project.

Beyond Comet Hunters, what else do you work on?

I work on studying small bodies in the outer Solar System in the Kuiper belt and beyond. I’m part of the ColOSSOS (Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey) project to study the surfaces of ~13o Kuiper belt objects. I’m also currently involved in the Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains Zooniverse projects to study the seasonal processes on Mars’ south pole.

In 3 lines explain your PhD thesis?

Studying the icy bodies orbiting past Neptune, in the region known as  the Kuiper belt and beyond. I used a wide-field survey to look for more objects like dwarf planet-sized Sedna, whose highly distant and eccentric orbit  cannot be explained by the current architecture of the Solar System. I  was able to place constraints on the size and properties of these populations.

Why are you interested in main-belt comets?

This is one of the newest reservoirs of water in the Solar System. I’m interested to learn how this population may have delivered water to the Earth, and what main belt comets can tell us about the Solar System’s birth and evolution.

Name one hobby of yours?


What is the most recent tv show you have watched?

House of Cards (US version)

What is your favorite movie?

Batman Returns

What is the latest book you have read?

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

Who is your favorite singer/band/musical artist?

Nine Inch Nails/How to Destroy Angels

What are five of the top ten most played songs on your iTunes/spotify/etc playlist?

Warriors by Imagine Dragons

Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

Of the Night by Bastille

Breathe by Alexi Murdoch

Silhouettes by Of Monsters and Men

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I saw Star Trek: Nemesis in the movie theater  four times

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Champagne/sparkling wine

Opportunity for a Summer Student to Work on Comet Hunters Data


Image credit: ASIAA

Many of the Comet Hunters science team are based at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA)  in Taiwan. As part of the 2016 ASIAA Summer Student Program, we’re looking for an undergraduate or masters student to come to Taipei for July and August to help work on Comet Hunters. Over the summer, the student will help develop a suite of tools to help quickly vet and validate candidate Main belt comet  discoveries identified by Comet Hunters.

ASIAA operates in English, and all research will be conducted in English.  The description of the project can be found here. You can find the requirements,rules, and restriction of the program here.

Apply by March 25th. If you have questions or if you would  like to know more, you can contact me via email at  mschwamb AT or post in the comments below.

Suggested Comet Hunters Talk Hashtags

After classifying the asteroid image in the main interface, you’re presented with an option to discuss the image you’ve seen in Comet Hunters Talk, if you hit the ‘Talk’ button.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 3.33.10 PM

Comet Hunters Talk is a place where you can discuss the images with other volunteers and with the science team. You can also label then image you’ve classified with descriptive hashtags like #tail.

Thanks to our Talk moderators, we now have a list of preferred hashtags (see below) we’d like suggest you use on Talk to help flag images in ways above and beyond what we can learn from the classification interface and the questions we ask you there.

We aim to also do a search using these preferred hashtags later on in the year to search for comet candidates and identify false positives.

#tail – see a very clear and definite tail. Currently many people use this for any sign of a tail, but we’d like you to use this for anything you’re very sure of it. If you think there’s any chance it might a faint background star or galaxy then use the #possible tag. (example)

#possible – maybe has a tail, but not sure if it’s real or if it could be an overlap with a found background star or galaxy (example)

#overlap – asteroid is overlapping another star or galaxy (example)

#elongated – asteroid appears to be elongated/elliptical compared to the reference stars (example)

#offcentercandidate – you see a tail but it’s on a source not in the center of the crosshairs

#nearbyobject – where there is an asteroid visible in the center of the crosshairs,  but there is a  nearby  detached faint object that’s not a tail (example)

#badrefstars – one or both of the reference stars are bad (looks like a galaxy or isn’t visible) or it’s hard to see one or both of the reference stars (example, example)

#poorimage – the asteroid image is of bad image (example)

These are suggestions. Talk enables flexible labeling, so if you don’t find any hashtags from the list above that matches what you see, definitely create a new one!


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