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Published September 2011 | public
Journal Article

Discovery, classification, and scientific exploration of transient events from the Catalina Real-time Transient Survey


Exploration of the time domain - variable and transient objects and phenomena - is rapidly becoming a vibrant research frontier, touching on essentially every field of astronomy and astrophysics, from the Solar system to cosmology. Time domain astronomy is being enabled by the advent of the new generation of synoptic sky surveys that cover large areas on the sky repeatedly, and generating massive data streams. Their scientific exploration poses many challenges, driven mainly by the need for a real-time discovery, classification, and follow-up of the interesting events. Here we describe the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey (CRTS), that discovers and publishes transient events at optical wavelengths in real time, thus benefiting the entire community. We describe some of the scientific results to date, and then focus on the challenges of the automated classification and prioritization of transient events. CRTS represents a scientific and a technological testbed and precursor for the larger surveys in the future, including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).

Additional Information

© 2011 Astronomical Society of India. Received 2011 September 12; accepted 2011 October 9. Submitted on 1 Nov 2011. We wish to thank numerous collaborators who have contributed to the survey and its scientific exploitation so far. CRTS is supported by the NSF grant AST-0909182, and in part by the Ajax Foundation. The initial support was provided by the NSF grant AST-0407448, and some of the software technology development by the NASA grant 08-AISR08-0085. The analysis of the blazar data was supported in part by the NASA grant 08-FERMI08-0025. Education and public outreach activities are supported in part by the Microsoft Research WorldWide Telescope team. The CSS survey is supported by the NASA grant NNG05GF22G. Some VOEvent related work was supported by NSF grant OCI-0915473. We are grateful to the staff of Palomar, Keck, and other pertinent observatories for their expert help during our follow-up observations. Event publishing and analysis benefits from the tools and services developed by the U.S. National Virtual Observatory (now Virtual Astronomical Observatory).

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