Archive by Author | Meg

Do Something Great with the BBC’s Sky at Night

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Image credit: BBC/Sky at Night http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03xx5pm

A week and a half ago, during a trip to visit Oxford Zooniverse Headquarters, I traveled to Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory outside of Cambridge to meet with the Sky at Night’s co-presenter  Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock. We talked about main-belt comets and how the public could get involved in Comet Hunters to  search for these elusive breed of comets residing in the Solar System’s asteroid belt. In particular, I discussed the new HSC survey data that recently went live on the project. website.

Below is a link to a clip from Maggie encouraging people to join Comet Hunters.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03xx5pm

This is part of the BBC’s Do Something Great Campaign, which promotes and encourages ways for everyone to get involved in volunteering and doing good. We’re thrilled to be involved in this effort with the Sky at Night.

Help astronomers find main-belt comets today at http://www.comethunters.org and if you’re based in the UK check out the Sky at Night’s latest episode on iPlayer.

Introducing the Hyper Suprime-Cam Survey Main-belt Comet Search

As of today, Comet Hunters has a new dataset and a new look. You’ll notice there’s now a button called ‘HSC Survey Search’ on the front page of the website.  We are thrilled to announce the incorporation of data from the Hyper Suprime-Cam Subaru Strategic Program. Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) is the largest field-of-view camera ever stuck on an 8-10-m class telescope. HSC covers nine times the size of the full moon in a single pointing!

What makes this so exciting is that the asteroid images you can review now on Comet Hunters from this survey are as from as close to right off the telescope as we can get. This means we can follow-up and try to catch the asteroid still in the act if Comet Hunters spots a tail. No one has ever looked at these images for main-belt comets before. Your eyes will be one of the first to view these images. Who knows what we’ll find!

The old Comet Hunters classification interface you know and love is still around. It’s now under the ‘Archival Data Search’ on the Comet Hunters front page. Looking for main-belt comets in the archival Suprime-Cam data is still extremely useful, and we’ll be keeping that classification interface going in parallel to the HSC Survey Search. You’ll notice the HSC images are a bit different than the Archival Data Search. There’s a tutorial and help buttons that will show you how find tails in the HSC images. You can also find more information on the Research and FAQ pages as well.

Dive into the HSC Survey data and help search for main-belt comets today!

Meet the Team: Shiang-Yu Wang

Today we have the next post in our Meet the Comet Hunters Team series. This time we’re featuring Shiang-Yu Wang from the science team.

 

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Name: Shiang-Yu Wang

What is your current position and where/institution?

Research fellow at Academia Sinica, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics

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

I was born and grew up in Taipei, Taiwan.

What is your role in Comet Hunters?

My role is to provide some ideas of how to make the project better and to find the budget to support the activities

Beyond Comet Hunters, what else do you work on?

I work on large astronomical instruments and telescope systems.

In 3 lines explain your PhD thesis?

It is for a new kind of IR detectors. With artificial solid state quantum structure, you can detect the low energy IR photons. My thesis is focused on the new structures to improve the performance.

Why are you interested in main-belt comets?

It is a fairly new discovery and it might tell us more about the water on Earth.

Name one hobby of yours?

Birdwatching

What is the latest book you have read?

Le Capital au XXI siecle (Chinese version)

Who is your favorite singer/band/musical artist?

Genesis

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

I am pretty lazy.

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Red wine

Dome Opening

I found this online today, and thought I’d share. The engineers for Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Subaru Telescope put together a video of the Subaru dome opening during twilight, You can find the original video here on a blog about the commissioning of Hyper Suprime-Cam, Subaru’s newest wide-field camera (Note:  the blog is in written in Japanese).

When you’re observing you don’t often get this view as sunset is one of the busiest times when you’re an astronomer getting ready for the start of your night (likely of one or a handful that semester) on the telescope. The data you currently review on Comet Hunters is the public archival data from Subaru’s Suprime-Cam. Each of those nights when the weather was good, something like below happened as the observatory prepared to start the nightly calibrations.

Video credit: Yousuke Utsumi

Blends, Blends Blends

The science team is working on incorporating data from the Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) survey into Comet Hunters.  We started with the archival Suprime-Cam data first to get a better understanding of what are the false positives and challenges for identifying Main-Belt Comets (MBCs) in data from 8-10-m class telescopes. We’ll continue with both datasets as there’s more Suprime-Cam asteroids, but when we have the chance we’ll move to reviewing the new HSC observations hopefully a few days after they’re taken.Most previous asteroid detection surveys are using 1-3-m class telescopes, so there are bound to be surprises that we wanted to know about before we developed the decision tree for the HSC snapshots on to the site. So we launched Comet Hunters with the archival Suprime-Cam images first. Now that things are going smoothly, we can turn our attention to the HSC data.

We combined your classifications from the first batch of Suprime-Cam images and had 125 candidates in need of further vetting. Thanks to volunteer Tadeáš Cernohous who on Talk went through our list comparing repeat images of the asteroid at slightly different positions in the same batch of subjects. What we learned that all of the candidates are unfortunately blends with stationary background sources. There are lots of faint background blobs that the asteroid moves on top of overlapping in the images creating very tail-like features. All of these images the science team would have had said has a tail.

A few examples are below (all blends with faint background sources):

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Looks like a candidate tail, but a blend with a background source. We’d want this marked as ‘has a tail’ in the classification interface.

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Looks like a candidate tail, but a blend with a background source. We’d want this marked as ‘has a tail’ in the classification interface.

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Looks like a candidate tail, but a blend with a background source. We’d want this marked as ‘has a tail’ in the classification interface.

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Looks like a candidate tail, but a blend with a background source. We’d want this marked as ‘has a tail’ in the classification interface.

There’s a lot more blends than we had anticipated given some of the team’s past experience with 2-m asteroid survey data. It’s still very much worth digging into the rest of the Suprime-Cam archive to look for MBCs. There might be many blends, but there could still be undiscovered MBCs too! Knowing that the background blends rate is much higher  because of the increase in the photon collecting bucket is extremely useful. From the candidates, we could see the blends are faint blobby structures that would be likely hard to get a source extractor to pick up in all cases.  Because of the quality of the HSC data and the repeat observation cadence we can try and take this into account possibly by checking the image of the asteroid and the repeat image of the same position take later on in the same night (not all Suprime-Cam images will have that and are taken in all types of sky conditions).

Now the Comet Hunters team is thinking about how best to develop a classification interface for the HSC data to include this. In the meantime, there are new Suprime-Cam images in need of review at http://www.comethunters.org if you have a minute or two to spare.

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?

Baking


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

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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 asiaa.sinica.edu.tw 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.

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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!

 

Meet the Team: David Shonfield

Today we have the next post in our Meet the Comet Hunters Team series. This time we’re featuring David Shonfield (@Avanti), one of our Talk moderators.

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Image credit: David Shonfield

Name

David Shonfield

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

London

What drew you to Comet Hunters?

Probably the Rosetta mission. Seeing a comet from close up was a revelation. Followed by the New Horizons mission, which has provided so many surprises and shown how supposedly dead worlds can be alive.

What is your role as a Comet Hunters Talk moderator?

I’m yet to find out! But I’m hoping to help build a group that works well collectively and makes an intelligent contribution to identifying these elusive objects.

Name one hobby of yours?

Gardening

What is the most recent tv show you have watched?

Wolf Hall (I don’t watch much TV!)

What is your favorite movie?

Equal favourites: Trading Places and Solaris (the Tarkovsky one rather than the remake).

What is the latest book you have read?

Fighters in the Shadows, A new history of the French Resistance, by Robert Gildea

Who is your favorite singer/band/musical artist?

Miles Davis

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

Caruso/Lucio Dalla

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing/ Ella Fitzgerald

Haja o que houver/ Madredeus

Senza giacca e cravatta/Nino D’Angelo

Because the night/Patti Smith

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

I have a weakness for cartoons, in particular Pinky and the Brain: Pinky is my alter ego.

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Negroni Sbagliato

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