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Published May 1, 2009 | Published
Journal Article Open

First Results from the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey


We report on the results from the first six months of the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey (CRTS). In order to search for optical transients (OTs) with timescales of minutes to years, the CRTS analyses data from the Catalina Sky Survey which repeatedly covers 26,000 of square degrees on the sky. The CRTS provides a public stream of transients that are bright enough to be followed up using small telescopes. Since the beginning of the survey, all CRTS transients have been made available to astronomers around the world in real time using HTML tables,RSS feeds, and VOEvents. As part of our public outreach program, the detections are now also available in Keyhole Markup Language through Google Sky. The initial discoveries include over 350 unique OTs rising more than 2 mag from past measurements. Sixty two of these are classified as supernovae (SNe), based on light curves, prior deep imaging and spectroscopic data. Seventy seven are due to cataclysmic variables (CVs; only 13 previously known), while an additional 100 transients were too infrequently sampled to distinguish between faint CVs and SNe. The remaining OTs include active galactic nucleus, blazars, high-proper-motions stars, highly variable stars (such as UV Ceti stars), and transients of an unknown nature. Our results suggest that there is a large population of SNe missed by many current SN surveys because of selection biases. These objects appear to be associated with faint host galaxies. We also discuss the unexpected discovery of white dwarf binary systems through dramatic eclipses.

Additional Information

© 2009. The American Astronomical Society. Received 2008 September 3; accepted 2009 February 12; published 2009 April 20. We thank J. Greaves and members of the CVNet for the contributions and discussions about CVs. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant CNS-0540369. The CSS survey is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grant NNG05GF22G issued through the Science Mission Directorate Near-Earth Objects Observations Program. The PQ digital sky survey is a collaborative venture between California Institute of Technology (Caltech) andYale University. The data are obtained at the Samuel Oschin telescope at Palomar Observatory, and processed at the Center for Advanced Computing Research (CACR) at Caltech, using techniques developed in part for the U.S. National Virtual Observatory (NVO). The PQ survey is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under grants AST-0407448 and AST-0407297. Support for M.C. is provided by Proyecto Basal PFB-06/2007, by FONDAP Centro de Astrof´ısica 15010003, and by a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. This research has made use of the SIMBAD database, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France. This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive and NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), which are operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute ofTechnology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. GALEX is a NASA Small Explorer, operated for NASA by California Institute of technology under NASA contract NAS- 98034. Funding for the SDSS and SDSS-II has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Japanese Monbukagakusho, the Max Planck Society, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The SDSS web site is http://www.sdss.org/.

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