Exploring Citizen Science Use Cases with the Lasair transient alert broker

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics

Abstract

Astronomy will enter the petabyte era with the first light of the 8.2-m Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Equipped with a wide-field camera covering an area 40 times the size of the full Moon, LSST will effectively make the largest movie of the night sky. Every three nights LSST will survey the entire visible night sky. This enables an unprecedented study of cosmic and Solar System transients: variable stars, moving Solar System objects, Solar System bodies exhibiting cometary activity, supernovae, and other astrophysical explosions. LSST will identify ten million transient/variable sources per night Using present day LSST precursor datasets, we will explore how we can maximise LSST transient science by combining citizen science/crowd-sourcing and automated routines to better search for the astronomical needle in a haystack. In particular, we will focus on how the Lasair alert stream broker concept can be leveraged with the Zooniverse platform, which hosts the largest collection of people-powered projects in the world, to efficiently and effectively sift through the LSST alert stream in real time to identify transient sources worthy of rapid follow-up with other ground-based and space-based telescopes.

Technical Summary

The 2020s will see time domain astronomy enter a new era with the first light of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). LSST is wide-field 8.2-m optical telescope under construction in Chile. Starting in 2022, LSST will generate 15 terabytes of images nightly, approximately 40 times larger than present-day wide-field astronomical surveys produce today. LSST will radically transform our view of the transient and variable sky. Each night, LSST is expected to produce up to ten million identifications of transient sources per night, identifying large numbers of novae, supernovae, gravitational lensing, rare astrophysical explosions, Solar System moving objects, and variable stars. LSST will also provide an unprecedented window into time-domain transient Solar System science. Surveying the sky every 3 nights, LSST will monitor millions of asteroids and tens of thousands of distant Solar System bodies, producing the largest sample of comets and other active small bodies exhibiting comet-like behavior. With such a data deluge, Lasair, the UK LSST alert stream broker concept, is being built to in real time filter and classify future LSST transient detections to enable rapid follow-up observations of unique and interesting sources. We propose to explore citizen science uses cases for exploiting LSST time domain science and in particular how the Lasair alert stream broker can be leveraged with the Zooniverse platform to provide unique transient science when paired with citizen science assessment and machine learning techniques.

Planned Impact

We propose to explore citizen science uses cases for exploiting LSST time domain science and in particular how the Lasair alert stream broker can be leveraged with the Zooniverse platform to provide unique transient science when paired with citizen science assessment and machine learning techniques.

The proposed work will contribute to the Digital Economy, through content creation and consumption. We are exploring new pathways for citizen science to contribute to astronomical time domain and building new tools which link future surveys with the Zooniverse platform. The open source software we build will be made publicly available, enabling all groups proposing and developing LSST community alert stream brokers and present-day LSST precursor surveys to connect their broker to the Zooniverse platform, providing further citizen science opportunities in time domain astronomy. This will extend the functionality and capability of the Zooniverse and the types of citizen science projects that can be developed by researchers utilising the platform. This will directly enhance the Zoonvierse platform's value as a laboratory for the understanding of how a diverse community collaborates in order to cocreate value through data analysis.

Citizen science builds unique and authentic research experiences for the public that directly engage individuals with little or no scientific training or background. Platforms like the Zooniverse, lower the barrier for the public to contribute directly to scientific investigations. Our proposed pilot study has the potential to influence and enhance the types of citizen science projects that can be generated for transient astronomy and will enhance the capabilities of the Zooniverse platform to ingest data from time domain surveys and transient alert brokers. Through these efforts, we will also contribute towards public engagement and outreach.

Publications

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