Supernova Project Retires
This post, from project lead Mark Sullivan of Oxford, is one of three marking the end of this phase of the Galaxy Zoo : Supernova project. You can hear from Joey Richards of PTF here, and from the Zooniverse team here.
Since August 2009, Galaxy Zoo Supernovae has been helping astronomers in the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) find exploding stars, or supernovae, in imaging data taken with a telescope in Southern California. This project has been tremendously successful – Galaxy Zoo Supernovae has uncovered hundreds of supernovae in the PTF data that would otherwise have been missed. These discoveries have directly resulted in scientific publications, with many more in the pipeline, and have been observed on telescopes all over the world, including the 4.2-metre William Herschel Telescope. For example, my colleague Dr. Kate Maguire’s paper, includes 8 supernovae found by the Zoo, which were subsequently observed using the Hubble Space Telescope. This allowed her to examine the ultraviolet properties of several thermonuclear ‘type Ia’ supernovae, the same type as those used in the original discovery of dark energy and the accelerating universe. The ultraviolet is a probe of the composition of the exploding star, and allowed her to test whether type Ia supernova properties change with time as the universe ages and becomes enriched with heavy elements.
But – all good things must come to an end. One of the goals of Galaxy Zoo Supernovae was to use the Zoo classifications to improve the algorithms that surveys such as PTF use to find supernovae automatically. And the good news is that, after two years of hard work, we have managed to do just that. The full details are explained in a separate blog posting by Dr. Joey Richards at the University of California at Berkeley.
I’d like to take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone involved with PTF, to thank you all for your time and effort in classifying these supernovae for us. We realise how much effort you’ve put in, and it has been very much appreciated.
For those of you who have become addicted to supernovae, don’t panic – there may be further supernova-related projects in a few months time. In the mean-time, watch this space for more publications based on Galaxy Zoo Supernovae discoveries!