Zwicky Transient Facility Achieves First Light

First Light

On Nov. 14, the Zwicky Transient Facility, a powerful new astronomical sky survey, announced that it had achieved first light and taken its first detailed images of the night sky.

When fully operational in 2018, the ZTF will scan almost the entire northern sky every night. Based at the Palomar Observatory in southern California and operated by Caltech, the ZTF’s goal is to use these nightly images to identify “transient” objects that vary between observations — identifying events ranging from supernovae millions of light years away to near-Earth asteroids. University of Washington, along with seven other institutions, is a member of the ZTF Partnership who will make use of ZTF’s data.

At DIRAC, our team is developing new methods to identify the most scientifically interesting of the millions of changes in the sky that the ZTF will detect each night and alert scientists. That way, these high-priority transient objects can be followed up in detail by larger telescopes, such as the Apache Point Observatory 3.5-meter telescope. DIRAC scientists are also exploring new approaches to handling large time series databases in order to find rare and exotic variable objects, as well as novel asteroid discovery techniques in preparation for the LSST.

ZTF First Light Gallery

The ZTF is funded by the National Science Foundation and its partner institutions. The UW’s participation with the ZTF was made possible by funds provided by the College of Arts & Science, the DIRAC Institute and the Washington Research Foundation. The DIRAC Institute is funded in part by the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences.

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