New Comet Hunters Data Available!

Thanks to everyone who has helped out with Comet Hunters so far.  As noted in a previous blog post, with your help, we’ve completed the first batch of images from launch and have compiled a preliminary list of potential comet candidates based on your classifications, and are currently in the process of vetting those candidates.

We are pleased to announce that new data is now available!  We’ve fixed some issues with our data processing software (in particular, a bug that led to a large number of off-center asteroids that many of you noticed), and so this new set should be easier to analyze and classify.  With the newly uploaded batch of brand-new images as well as some re-processed images that we’ve shown before, we hope to identify many more main-belt comet candidates with your help.  Good luck and happy hunting!

2 responses to “New Comet Hunters Data Available!”

  1. Sanchita Abrol says :

    If a comet hunter is able to discover a comet, how will they be informed about it? Also, please let me know where can we check that the comet we spotted is a newly discovered one.


    • hhsieh00 says :

      Hi Sanchita,

      We rely on having multiple users identify potential comets, so generally it will never be just a single comet hunter who “discovers” a comet…it’s more of a team effort! Also, any of the “comets” that users might find are really just comet *candidates*, meaning they need to undergo a verification process that involves looking for other archived data of the asteroid, and possibly obtaining new observations, so it is not an instantaneous process. So far, most of the candidates we have looked through turn out to be cases where an asteroid is overlapping a faint background star or galaxy, making it look like it has a tail even though it really doesn’t. While disappointing, this is definitely important information to know, especially since a future survey (the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST) will use a telescope similar in size as the Subaru telescope (which we use for Comet Hunters), and much larger than any currently running dedicated survey telescope, to also search for comets (among many other tasks). As such, it will be very important for us to understand how important it will be to be able to filter out overlaps when using such large telescopes (which can pick up such faint background objects). Of course, we do have a few known comets in the database that we show on occasion to make sure people can pick them up (this helps us understand how effective we are at finding comets that we already know about, which then helps us understand if we are missing some potential unknown comets, allowing us then to try to figure out the reasons). For these, if you click on Talk (the blue button that appears when you’ve completed your classification), you will find a note that identifies that subject as a #knowncomet.

      At some point, we plan to write and publish a paper about our preliminary results and will certainly post it here and on one of the boards in Talk on the Comet Hunters website (and also acknowledge all of our hard-working citizen scientists!), and this paper will definitely include a report on the new comets (if any) that have been discovered (and likely the users that helped discover it).



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