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Making a Discovery with Slooh

Supernova hunting member Emmanuel Conseil would have difficulty counting how many supernovae he has imaged with Slooh's telescopes over the years, but he estimates it's nearly 4,000 images.

Many of us keep watch on the schedule for any missions booked by Emmanuel (EmmanuelC.121015), as we know there'll usually be a new supernova (SN) to see in the resulting images.

Emmanuel is one of the most prolific supernova observers both in and out of Slooh, and his hard work has been rewarded not only with many SN confirmation images, but also his own nova discovery earlier this year (2014- 03-02).

With so many observations, Emmanuel keeps superb records to keep track of his work and discoveries. Here is a sample from his Slooh mission logs:

His nova discovery using the Canary Islands T2 telescope on the 2nd March 2014: PNV J01330051+3033479 :

Confirmation of his own supernovae discoveries taken with the Slooh telescopes:

PSN J13560419-4335099 : SN 2013dm = PSN J13505285-3017097 : SN 2013ai = PSN J06161835-2122329 :

First or early supernovae confirmation images taken with the Slooh telescopes:

ASASSN-14ew : ASASSN-14ep :

ASASSN-14eo : ASASSN-14em : SN 2014by = PSN J14274900+1133400 : SN 2014bu = PSN J01505845+2159598 : PSN J02160910-1156026 : SN 2013fa = PSN J20435357+1230517 : SN 2013ev = PSN J18531845+3303527 : SN 2013bu = PSN J22370217+3424052 : SN 2012fr = PSN J03333599-3607377 : 60800_20121027_025939_1_8921_l.png Nova confirmation image taken with the Slooh telescopes: PNV J23052314-0225455 :

That makes 13 with the Slooh telescopes now. And a near-miss that lead to a scientific paper because I was the first to have a 3-color set of images with T1 :

Citing the paper: "The Slooh observations are extremely important since they provide information on both the brightness of the SN and the color shortly after discovery"The telescopes are doing a good job with exploding transients.

Watch Emmanuel be interviewed during a Slooh Star Party:

Why Does Emmanuel Use Slooh? When explaining why he uses Slooh for this work, Emmanuel said "What's nice with Slooh is that it is possible to react rapidly to a supernova announcement".

This is born out by some of his earliest confirmation images that allowed him to image supernova candidates within hours of their announcements: ASASSN-14ew (0.34 day) : SN 2013bu (0.41 day) :

Emmanuel went on to say, "What I usually do to react rapidly is that I schedule one mission at the beginning of the night, one around midnight, one at dawn and the others when there's an available reservation. So if I am warned there's a supernova to confirm, I have the choice to use the reservation that best fits the part of the sky I need to look at. If not, I use them for personal research".

This tactic has been used to good effect over the years, which is demonstrated by his large number of confirmations and even discoveries! Emmanuel is happy to share his knowledge and tips with other Slooh members. He suggests that anyone interested in taking follow-up and confirmation images should keep watch on the "Transient Objects Confirmation Page" (TOCP) maintained by the "International Astronomical Union" (IAU). Emmanuel provides links to the TOCP, and advice on how-to read the information there, in the Clubhouse here: %3A+the+place+for+new+supernovas+candidates

Over the years, Emmanuel has also built up a formidable reputation and network of both professional and other amateur astronomers hunting for, and studying, supernovae. This hard-won reputation has itself led to better opportunities to take the first confirmation images. He said "I sometimes have astronomers ask me to confirm a supernova candidate before the discovery announcement is published".

A good example of this is his confirmation of supernova candidate ASASSN- 14ew, where his confirmation image predates the public announcement of the candidate! ( Members Well Equipped for Discoveries

When it comes to astronomical discoveries, there is no substitute for hard work and obstinate determination. Of course there are always examples of good luck - we broadcast a show this year where I interviewed the English group of students who discovered a supernova in the "Exploding Galaxy" by chance. A fortuitous image as it was the only area of sky clear of clouds that night!

I have spoken to a number of successful supernovae and comet hunters over the years, and most say it took 1 to 3 years to make their first discovery, but additional discoveries often followed quickly. Bear in mind that when they say 1 to 3 years, they are taking sometimes hundreds of images on every clear night - often resulting in >1,000 hours of observing each year. A group of collaborating Slooh members could easily share this heavy workload. Although requiring dedication and commitment, Slooh members are perfectly placed and equipped to follow a supernovae or comet search campaign. The world-class observatory site in the Canary Islands, protected by the "Sky Law", gives members the number and quality of clear nights that most amateurs (and pros) can only dream of. Members are also armed with superb equipment like the Half Metre telescope with ultra sensitive scientific- grade CCD cameras - well outside of the cost the vast majority of us could personally afford.

With many of the professional all-sky surveys operating in the Northern Hemisphere, Slooh's Chile Observatory opens up the less well observed southern skies to discoveries out-of-reach of many professional and amateur astronomers alike. In fact, professional astronomers have to fight hard to get any time on the over-worked pro telescopes wherever they are!

So what's stopping you? Why not set-up a Slooh supernovae search and monitoring group? There is already a Supernovae topic set-up for it in the Discussion Boards, and we'll provide help and support if required. The principle is simple: 1. Develop of seasonal list of galaxies to be observed - preferably within 90- degrees of the Sun as the all-sky surveys tend to stay clear of that region. They often don't operate over the 5-7 days around Full Moon either. 2. Build a library of reference images of the galaxies to be observed. These will be the comparison images for your new search images. 3. Take your search images in accordance with your campaign schedule, and "blink compare" or "subtract" the reference image from your new image. 4. If you find a candidate, schedule an immediate follow-up observation, or contact so we can interrupt normal missions. 5. If a possible supernova is identified, Slooh will alert the relevant body who will call for follow-up images from other observatories.

6. If the discovery is confirmed, buy a bottle of champagne, or a few beers, or some sparkling rose water, or all the above, and hold a discovery party! 7. Prepare to be on a live Slooh show to be interviewed on how it feels to discover a supernova! 8. If a possible SN isn't found, or a discovery isn't confirmed, doggedly continue item 3 above until you discover one!

Proud to be Amateur Astronomers When I'm visiting Slooh's observatories, I often meet professionam astronomers who have managed to secure a few nights telescope time - often their first in many years. When I show them Slooh's observatory, they are usually surprised (and extremely jealous) at the sophistication and capability of the equipment and systems at members' disposal. With so little time actually observing the night sky, it's no wonder that many of the pros have difficulty identifying many constellations or even visible planets! Many pros tend to be highly specialised, whereas amateurs tend to have a broader astronomical knowledge. This is a bit of a sweeping generalisation, but it really is the case that the only thing separating many amateur and professional astronomers is the fact that the pros get paid for it (although you're unlikely to become rich as a pro astronomer!). Many of us feel rightly proud of being labelled "amateur" astronomers. Astronomy remains the science where the contributions of amateurs are both numerous and valuable. And Slooh is there to encourage and facilitate this amazing contribution!

So Close to a Discovery A few members have come incredibly close to making a supernova discovery over the last eleven years of Slooh. Although not credited with the discovery, Slooh member Christina Feliciano was actually the first person to see the SN. She had imaged the galaxy the night before but didn't report the "new star" that had appeared. In these circumstances, prompt and accurate reporting is key (which is why Slooh handles this kind of reporting). But any images that show the SN that were taken before a discovery report, is called a "precovery" image. And in this case (and others since Slooh's launch in 2003) Christina had the earliest precovery image.

Doing "Real Science" - Monitoring SN Although it's disappointing to miss a discovery, these precovery images are vitally important. These early stages of a SN are important to monitor in order to further our understanding of these cataclysmic stellar explosions. The ongoing monitoring of their brightness is also extremely valuable to aid our understanding of the mechanics and fundamental physics of these massive stars as they blow themselves apart. This branch of astronomy is called "photometry" - which is the measurement of the "flux", or intensity of an astronomical object's electromagnetic radiation (light). Good Hunting.....

So whether it's hunting down a supernova discovery, or contributing observations and measurements that motivates you, supernovae could keep you quite busy for some time! But what better way to use your Slooh missions than to be the first person to witness the dramatic death throws of a massive star in a galaxy far far away?

Well okay....... maybe discovering a comet would be pretty neat too!


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