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July 2010  •  Volume 3 Number 2

Transient Events iPhone App

The Universe? There’s an App for that. V1.04 of the LSST Transient Events iPhone App was released in mid-July, delivering alerts of selected celestial events directly to subscribers’ phones. As a pre-cursor to alerts issued by LSST during operations, astronomers and citizen scientists can use the App to learn about objects of interest and plan follow-up observations.

Most people have a sense that their local sky changes throughout the year. What isn’t realized is how dynamic the universe really is at all distances and timescales, from variable stars to stellar explosions to the mergers of compact stellar remnants. LSST will enable discovery of these transient and variable objects, tens of thousands of them per night, when it sees first light in the next decade.

Until then, the three telescopes of the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey (CRTS) are uncovering our lively universe, and LSST is bringing those discoveries to your pocket with the free iPhone App Transient Events. The NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), led by University of Arizona astronomer Ed Beshore, pushes out some 500 survey images on 125 patches of sky per night per telescope and sends the data to CRTS for processing. CRTS automated programs then mine through the ~60GB of data looking for changes that warrant closer inspection. Researchers at Caltech, led by George Djorgovski and Andrew Drake, categorize the events and broadcast the findings through Transient Events hooks into the CRTS event stream available via Skyalert and filters them according to user-set preferences, sending notifications of events about 30 minutes after a discovery is made.

Initially the CSS searched only for asteroids and other near-Earth objects. As CRTS reexamined the data, they discovered much more, showing how a single data set can address questions in many areas of astronomy. To date, CRTS has located 1,662 optical transients including more supernovae than any other survey in 2009. The data flood from LSST will be massive, some 30 terabytes of data per night, roughly 500 Catalina Sky Surveys a night. Mining the database for known and unknown objects is perhaps the most exciting aspect of LSST, for professional astronomers and citizen scientists alike.

Even for a casual user, the Transient Events App is a way to appreciate our dynamic universe. The July 2010 update includes data from Mt. Lemmon (Arizona), Mt. Bigelow (Arizona), and Siding Springs Observatory (New South Wales, Australia) as well as a short user survey. You can find Transient Events in iTunes.

Transient Events was built by iPhone developer/optical engineer Bruce Truax in collaboration with LSST’s Don Sweeney and Suzanne Jacoby. Jonathan Meyers, a software developer/computer scientist at NOAO/LSST, maintains the server side functions of Transient Events.

Article written by Adrienne Gauthier and Suzanne Jacoby


LSST is a public-private partnership. Funding for design and development activity comes from the National Science Foundation, private donations, grants to universities, and in-kind support at Department of Energy laboratories and other LSSTC Institutional Members:

Adler Planetarium; Brookhaven National Laboratory; California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Chile; Cornell University; Drexel University; George Mason University; Google Inc.; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Institut de Physique Nucléaire et de Physique des Particules (IN2P3); Johns Hopkins University; Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University; Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Inc.; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Los Alamos National Laboratory; National Optical Astronomy Observatory; Princeton University; Purdue University; Research Corporation for Science Advancement; Rutgers University; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Space Telescope Science Institute; Texas A&M University; The Pennsylvania State University; The University of Arizona; University of California, Davis; University of California, Irvine; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Pittsburgh; University of Washington; Vanderbilt University

LSST E-News Team:

  • Suzanne Jacoby (Editor-in-Chief)
  • Anna Spitz (Writer at Large)
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  • Emily Acosta (Design & Production: PDF/Print)
  • Sidney Wolff (Editorial Consultant)
  • Additional contributors as noted

LSST E-News is a free email publication of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Project. It is for informational purposes only, and the information is subject to change without notice.

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