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Published July 14, 2014 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

The Zwicky Transient Facility Observing System


The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) is a synoptic optical survey for high-cadence time-domain astronomy. Building upon the experience and infrastructure of the highly successful Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) team, ZTF will survey more than an order of magnitude faster than PTF in sky area and volume in order to identify rare, rapidly varying optical sources. These sources will include a trove of supernovae, exotic explosive transients, unusual stellar variables, compact binaries, active galactic nuclei, and asteroids. The single-visit depth of 20.4 mag is well matched to spectroscopic follow-up observations, while the co-added images will provide wide sky coverage 1.5 – 2 mag deeper than SDSS. The ZTF survey will cover the entire Northern Sky and revisit fields on timescales of a few hours, providing hundreds of visits per field each year, an unprecedented cadence, as required to detect fast transients and variability. This high-cadence survey is enabled by an observing system based on a new camera having 47 deg^2 field of view – a factor of 6.5 greater than the existing PTF camera - equipped with fast readout electronics, a large, fast exposure shutter, faster telescope and dome drives, and various measures to optimize delivered image quality. Our project has already received an initial procurement of e2v wafer-scale CCDs and we are currently fabricating the camera cryostat. International partners and the NSF committed funds in June 2014 so construction can proceed as planned to commence engineering commissioning in 2016 and begin operations in 2017. Public release will allow broad utilization of these data by the US astronomical community. ZTF will also promote the development of transient and variable science methods in preparation for the seminal first light of LSST.

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© 2014 SPIE.

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