WiseView

This week, I’m excited to present this guest post from two of our users, Dan Caselden and Paul Westin.  They wrote their own tool for viewing the WISE data, called “WiseView”.  It provides some useful options you won’t find at the backyardworlds.org site.  Enjoy!

Marc Kuchner


As you may know, the images at ByW: P9 all ultimately come from a database called unWISE, which is a project that reprocesses WISE single exposures to generate coadded images with improved clarity. Since we citizen scientists with ByW: P9 are always eager to know more about our subjects, we found ourselves often visiting the unWISE site to obtain different views of our favorite patches of sky.

However, we felt that unWISE’s packaging could stand to be a little more user friendly. So, after a while, we decided to add a friendly wrapper, to make this data easier to examine, and share it with you. We’re a far cry from User Interface/User Experience professionals, but, hey, it’s a start!

image2

Our tool, wiseview (http://byw.tools/wiseview), displays two sets of cutouts (i.e., portions of larger images of the sky). At the top, wiseview flashes coadded imagery from the WISE satellite. These cutouts come from unWISE.  unWISE currently contains coadded images for three data sets: AllWISE, NeoWISE-R1, and NeoWISE-R2. unWISE coadds are full-depth. That is, unWISE NEO1 also incorporates the single exposures used by unWISE AllWISE, and unWISE NEO2 also incorporates the single exposures used by unWISE NEO1 and unWISE AllWISE. Consequently, particularly high proper motion options will appear to stretch, or even fade in one position and appear in another.

Since ByW: P9 participants are on the hunt for things that move in WISE data, unWISE images are a natural resource for further investigation. After identifying coordinates of a pattern possibly indicative of proper motion, participants can zoom in with wiseview to see a closer representation of the underlying data from the flipbooks. The “field of view” parameter selects what size cutouts to display, in arcseconds, and the zoom slider blows up the unWISE cutouts. WISE W1 and W2 bands can be isolated with the WISE band field (W1 for W1, W2 for W2, and W1+W2 for both), and the “Speed” slider changes how quickly the cutouts flash.

The second cutout is a composite image from PanSTARRS-1, created in the same way as the default PanSTARRS-1 cutouts: band y colors red, band i colors green, and band g colors blue. PanSTARRS-1 cutouts are great for comparison versus unWISE because many unwanted sources and some of the brighter and/or earlier brown dwarfs show distinguishably.

unWISE Post-Processing

unWISE cutouts are normalized with astropy.visualization.AsinhStretch, and mapped to a colormap with matplotlib. The following images show AsinhStretch applied to a greyscale gradient with differing values of ‘a’. The ‘Linear’ parameter in wiseview is directly passed through to this parameter in AsinhStretch. ‘Linear=1.0’ applies a purely linear normalization to the image, which has no effect.

Images3-5

Lower values highlight lower intensity pixels, which is useful for observing faint sources, or those obscured by other, brighter, sources. For example, The images below show Ross 458C  with varying values of ‘Linear’.

Images6-8

However, purely AsinhStretch normalization can make modest proper motions difficult to discern. Observationally, the normalization appears to lose dynamic range at the edges of sources, which is where the eye seems to most perceive motion in these images.

The three modes, ‘fixed’, ‘percent’, and ‘adapt’, attempt to compensate for this by capping intensity ranges before AsinhStretch normalization. ‘fixed’ caps the maximum intensity to an absolute number supplied by the slider ‘Trim Bright’. ‘percent’ caps the maximum intensity to a percentile within the image, again using the slider ‘Trim Bright’. ‘adapt’ is very much a work in progress that (poorly!) attempts to find a good intensity range automatically.

Why wiseview?

We wrote wiseview to improve our accuracy (and sate our curiosity!) when classifying candidates in the ByW: P9 flipbooks. With wiseview, curious participants can investigate their subjects to show whether their candidates demonstrate proper motion. For particularly challenging candidates that are not easily distinguishable in other available imagery like 2MASS, comparing unWISE coadds can be our only option to demonstrate proper motion.

Although we originally wrote wiseview for use with ByW: P9, its applications are more general; anyone searching near-infrared for objects in the solar neighborhood may find it helpful. In fact, multiple ByW: P9 participants discovered candidates in side projects using wiseview.

By the way, if you’re interested in unWISE, another great resource is legacysurvey.org’s Sky Viewer. For getting a quick big picture of what’s going on in a portion of the sky and disambiguating sources, their tool is invaluable. It also provides other image sets and catalog overlays, like DECaLS and SDSS, if your coordinates are lucky enough to fall within those surveys. Very nice!

Thank you!

We are Dan Caselden and Paul Westin, two computer security researchers from California with absolutely zero background in Astronomy. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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First Observing Proposal of the Season

Fall is just around the corner here in the northern hemisphere, so it’s the time of year when we write observing proposals!  And last week, we submitted the first Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 proposal of the season–to follow up some of our brown dwarf candidates using the Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC) 3.5 meter telescope at Apache Point Observatory.  We asked for half a night of time on Near-Infrared Camera & Fabry-Perot Spectrometer (NIC-FPS), to perform J band photometry of 10 objects.  Photometry means you take a picture of the object and sometimes a picture of a reference star, and you use the image to figure out how bright your object is.  J band corresponds to a wavelength of light of about 1.25 microns, about the size of a virus or a particle of soot.

Image result for apache point observatory arc 3.5
ARC 3.5 meter telescope at Apache Point Observatory, New Mexico.

Here’s why we we need these brightness measurements (the photometry).  While many of our brown dwarfs have infrared photometry from surveys like 2MASS and Pan-STARRS, the reddest, coldest, and probably the most interesting objects are too faint for these surveys!  2MASS went as faint as about 16th magnitude in J band.  Pan-STARRS data goes down to about 21st magnitude in y band (a wavelength of around 1.02 microns). But ultracool brown dwarfs are faint, faint, faint. So we need to make our own measurements.

Once we have the new photometry, we will be able to do two new things.  First, we will be able to get much better estimates of the spectral types of these objects. As you may recall, the spectral type of the coldest brown dwarfs is Y.  Only 25 Y dwarfs are presently known.  T dwarfs are the next coldest, but hundreds of T dwarfs are have already been discovered, so Y dwarfs are much more exciting.  So far, all we know about the targets we have in mind is that they have WISE colors that are similar to those of Y dwarfs (i.e. brighter in W2 than W1 by at least 2.5 magnitudes).  But they might still turn out to be late T dwarfs. The near infrared photometry will help make that distinction.

Second, we will be able to apply for time on still larger telescopes to get their near-infrared spectra.  The photometry will tell us what instrument we will need, and how long we need to keep the shutter open while were are collecting the spectra.  These spectra will tell us for sure what the spectral type is (Y or T?), and maybe even lead to a big discovery.

Here’s a link to the full proposal, if you are curious: APO_BWs The final target list is not set yet, but the 10 targets that meet our cutoff of W1-W2 > 2.5 were found by Guillaume Colin, Sam Goodman and Dan Caselden.   Nice work, guys!

I’m sure we’ll be writing several more telescope proposals over the next month—stay tuned!

Marc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Guide to Classifying on Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 from the Point of View of a Citizen Scientist

@karmeliet

Enjoy this guest post by one of our moderators, Michaela Allen, featuring a video by Guillaume Colin!

Hello newcomers to Backyard Worlds: Planet 9! Or maybe you are a returning citizen scientist to this project… whatever the case, welcome! My goal for this post is to give you a basic beginner’s guide to classifying objects on BW (Backyard Worlds: Planet 9). I am in NO way an expert, but I’d like to share what I have learned so far so that maybe you can learn something too!

A little about me first… My name is Michaela Allen, (@mallen33 on Zooniverse) and I am a current college undergrad student studying physics and astronomy. I’ve been helping classify objects on BW since the project launched, and I’ve learned so much since then! Going into this project I had no idea what it entailed—I was just excited at the prospect of potentially finding something that hadn’t been discovered before!

The first thing I want to share with everyone is a YouTube video made by fellow citizen scientist Guillaume Colin (@karmeliet on Zooniverse) all about his method of analyzing flipbooks on BW. This is a great video where he talks about the basics of BW, SIMBAD, and IRSA. He also goes through the steps of filling out the Think-You’ve-Got-One Form, which can be tricky to find all of the information needed for the form. Seriously, go check it out, and thanks to Guillaume for making this video!

Now, for the rest of this post, we going to look at some of my favorite subjects on BW. So let’s get started!

When you first go on BW, you get to go through a tutorial that shows you all kinds of examples of dipoles, movers, artifacts, etc. You also have a handy field guide on the right of the screen that shows examples of these as well. The tutorial and the field guide are great references to go back and look at– do not forget to use them! I still reference back to them all the time. While those are great examples to get started with, classifying your first subject can still be kind of overwhelming! I’d like to give y’all a few more examples of types of objects and subjects you may encounter while classifying.

In terms of fast movers, I haven’t come across any (yet!). The example in the field guide of Y Dwarf WISE 0855-0714 is what I still go off of. And remember, a true fast mover will appear in all four frames of a subject.

This subject contains a type of artifact called a ghost—it only appears in two frames. These ghosts are not movers and do not need to be submitted to the Think-You’ve-Got-One form.

Other mover “imposters” to look out for is extra noise surrounding the area of declination of the South Atlantic Anomaly. This is in the -25 degrees region of declination, give or take a few arcminutes. This anomaly, which Marc talks more about in his Fast Movers post, tends to cause more noise in the subjects—and the noise can often look a lot like fast movers. For example, take a look at this subject.

There are a few orange dots visible throughout the frames that do look deceivingly like fast movers, but they are just noise. The area of declination and the often sporadic movement of these dots give away that these are not movers.

In terms of dipoles or slow movers, I have seen many! Some are definitely easier to spot than others. A dipole is an object that is moving but in a different way to all of the other objects in the subject. This subject is one of the first subjects I classified on BW, and it has a dipole! See if you can find it.

There it is at RA 151.99, dec 25.51 . I think this one is a great example of a lot of the dipoles I have seen. It isn’t super bright, but it’s not too faint either. It immediately stuck out to me, so I commented on the TALK page and asked for other opinions– don’t forget to comment on the talk pages too! If you’re ever unsure about anything, TALK about it (pun intended)! Sure enough, some people commented back, and I had found my first dipole!

Now, they aren’t all as easy to spot as this one. Faint dipoles take a little more effort. And remember, the fainter a dipole, the better of a chance it has of not being discovered! See if you can find the faint dipole in this subject.

This one is at RA 161.21, dec 13.79— to the right of that artifact. In terms of bigger and brighter dipoles, most of them I have seen have been in SIMBAD and are high proper motion stars. But just because it is bigger and brighter doesn’t mean it is going to be in SIMBAD! Always check to make sure!

Now sometimes you may find multiple objects of interest in a subject, which is great! You have to be careful of misalignment errors sometimes, though. These errors, caused by slight movements of the telescope, make the subjects seem like there are multiple dipoles. We talked about this subject, mentioned by another citizen scientist, @Chrismkemp, in one of the BW hangouts. She had seen seven or eight dipoles in this one subject and was wondering if that was even possible. I’ve come across subjects like these a few times, and they can be pretty tricky to classify. Do you see how the “dipoles” seem to kind of elongate? Marc calls them petals. Unfortunately, they can’t actually be classified as dipoles. If you ever have a subject that seems as if it has multiple dipoles, look for this “petal effect”. There was one real dipole in this subject, though. See if you can spot it!

That real dipole is at RA 349.77 dec -53.63 . This object one doesn’t seem to grow petals like all of the other imposter “dipoles” do in this subject.

The last thing I have to share with y’all is bad frames in some of the subjects. These can range anywhere from stripes across the frame, completely black frames, to half of the frame being cut off like in frame 3 of this subject. While these frames may sometimes look interesting, they do not need to be reported. If you ever come across them, you can always add the #badimage hashtag on the talk page.

Well, I hope that my limited experience has helped some of y’all on classifying objects at Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. Thanks to Marc for letting me share with everyone here! I’ve loved getting to participate in this project, and I’m excited to continue working on it!

See you on TALK, and happy hunting!

-Michaela Allen

Our First Paper: the Discovery of Brown Dwarf WISEA 1101+5400

Our first paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 841, Number 2 on May 24.   Hooray!!   (It may be easier to read here.)

The paper announces the discovery of our first brown dwarf, shows a spectrum we took of the brown dwarf, and describes the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project. There’s a press release from the American Museum of Natural History, a nice NPR story about it featuring Rosa Castro, and several other news stories.

Of course, this paper is already out-of-date.  In the time it took to write the paper, you’ve discovered at least twelve more good brown dwarf candidates.  And we used those discoveries to make an even better estimate of the sensitivity of our search than the one that appears in the paper. But let’s talk more about the paper and our first discovery, a source called WISEA 1101+5400 which we now know is a real brown dwarf, spectral type T5.5.   Here is WISEA 1101+5400’s flipbook.

You may recall that shortly after launch, we were all excited about a faint dipole/mover, which Bob Fletcher had flagged on talk and Tamara Stajic reported on the Think-You’ve-Got-One form.  That’s WISEA 1101+5400.  A few weeks later, science team member Jackie Faherty nabbed a spectrum of it using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility.  Here’s a nice plot of the spectrum, created by science team member Joe Filippazzo comparing the our object’s spectrum (black) to the spectrum of another T5.5 brown dwarf (red).  It’s a great match! The extra wiggles in our spectrum are simply noise.

Figure3.cropped

The quality of the match demonstrates that WISEA 1101+5400 is indeed a brown dwarf, and tells us that its temperature is in the range 900-1500 Kelvin (1200 – 2200 degrees Fahrenheit).  We can tell the temperature range by looking at what molecules show up in the spectrum.  The spectrum shows features associated with water, methane, iron hydride, potassium, and molecular hydrogen, labelled above.  If the brown dwarf were hotter or cooler, the relative sizes of the dips in the spectrum from each molecule would be different.

Knowing the brown dwarf’s spectral type also teaches us roughly how bright it is, intrinsically.  And since we know that the brightness of an astronomical object falls off as the inverse distance to it, squared, we can compare our images of WISEA 1101+5400 to those of other brown dwarfs to estimate its distance:  roughly 34 parsecs or about 111 light years.  For comparison, the closest known brown dwarf is the binary Luhman 16AB at 6.59 light years.

So what does this discovery mean for our understanding of brown dwarfs?  Well, there are already a few hundred T dwarfs known–and this new one turns out to be somewhat run-of-the mill.  It’s not super cool, and it’s not in a moving group, for example.  Its infrared colors are close to the average colors for brown dwarfs with this spectral type.  So we haven’t shattered any paradigms or broken any records with this object just yet.

But the discovery is a dramatic proof-of-concept.  Just the fact that we found it, only six days after launch, shows that we’re on the right track toward lots more discoveries.  Also, Zooniverse founder Chris Lintott tells me that our paper now holds the record for fastest publication from a Zooniverse project.   How cool is that?

This is a moment to celebrate.  Congratulations to us!!   Let’s make some more discoveries and write some more papers together.

Marc

We’re up to twelve brown dwarf candidates now, plus one real verified brown dwarf!

Hey everyone!  It’s proposal season here at NASA.  Every spring, NASA offers astronomers opportunities to apply for grant funding to do their research, and we’ve been busy taking advantage of that, writing proposals.

In the meantime, you’ve been hard at work, discovering stuff.  We’re up to twelve brown dwarf candidates now plus one real verified brown dwarf.  Holy smoke!  We can estimate their spectral types based on their relative flux in the WISE 1 and WISE 2 bands (3.5 and 4.6 microns), and it looks like we have 7 new candidate L dwarfs and five new candidate T dwarfs. We’re going to try to get spectra for as many of these as we can.

In the meantime, did I mention we’ve been writing proposals? Well in a proposal, you try to make predictions about what you’re going to be able to learn or discover. You also try to show how your work compares to other work in the field. So we started by taking all thirteen objects and putting them on a plot, showing their proper motions and magnitudes in the WISE 2  (W2) band. Those are the red stars on the plot below, which was made by science team member Jonathan Gagne.

PM_relW2_BYW

Then, as you can see, we plotted lots of other interesting stuff on here.   For starters, we did our best to add all the brown dwarfs that were previously known.  The little blue dots show every other brown dwarf in this database, which is every brown dwarf we could find in the literature.  You can see right away that our discoveries, the red stars, fall towards the bottom of the cloud of blue dots made by the other discoveries.  So our discoveries are fainter than average.

Next, we plotted some lines indicating the detection limits of some other recent surveys, by Adam Schneider et al and by Davy Kirkpatrick et al. (That’s Adam Schneider from our science team.) Those are the two biggest brown dwarfs searches made using WISE before we began ours. The survey done by Schneider et al. only detected brown dwarfs that fall above the orange dashed line. The survey done by Kirkpatrick et al only detected brown dwarfs that fall above the black dash-dot line.  Those lines slant upward to the right because the WISE images they used were not divided into as fine time slices as ours, so some faster moving objects got blurred out.

Finally, we added some green lines showing what we think are the limits of Backyard Worlds: Planet 9.  Now this part is harder since our survey, of course, isn’t complete yet. But we do know more or less what the shapes of the curves should be.  We know that they slant up on the left side of the plot because that’s where the motion is too slow and the images of a moving object start self-subtracting.  And we know that the objects we have already detected, the red stars, must lie above the lines.  So we draw the curves and shift them around till they hug the bottom of the cluster of red stars—and that’s our best guess at our detection limits.

Note that there are two green lines.  That’s because WISE spent more time making images at higher latitudes (here the symbol, beta, means latitude), so our survey is a bit more sensitive there.  There’s only one brown dwarf candidate that’s up at a high latitude where this effect comes into play, though—it’s the one sitting on the lower green line.

So there we have it: a prediction for the sensitivity of our search.  We will spot any brown dwarfs that fall above the green lines (pick the right one based on latitude).  And we are the first to make an all-sky survey of the region above the green lines and below the orange and black lines.  (A few brown dwarfs are already known in this region, but they came from surveys that only covered relatively small portions of the sky).

Now, remember that this plot uses logarithmic scales!  Each of the big ticks on the x axis is a factor of 10. Each magnitude  (the y axis) represents a factor of about 2.512. So that space on the plot could contain lots of brown dwarfs and other interesting objects, especially at high proper motions.  Good luck!

Marc Kuchner

 

More Discoveries: New Candidate L Dwarfs!

Good work, everybody!  You’ve submitted at least five good newly discovered candidate L dwarfs on the Think-You’ve-Got-One form.

Let’s talk about L dwarfs.  The L spectral type contains object with temperatures in the range of about 1400-2200 Kelvin.  It was first established in 1999 by Kirkpatrick et al.. They chose the letter “L” because it is next to “M” in the alphabet; M was the coolest spectral type in the literature at the time, and “N” was already taken to describe a class of evolved stars.  Amazingly, L dwarfs are about twice as common as main sequence stars. They are just harder to spot because they are so much more faint and red.

The first L dwarf discovered was GD 165B, found by Becklin & Zuckerman in 1988.  Curiously, 165B orbits another special kind of astronomical object: a white dwarf.  Nowadays, about 1300 L dwarfs are known.  So discovering one new one doesn’t usually merit a paper on its own.  But when we collect a batch of 50 or so we will definitely want to announce them with a publication, especially if one or more turn out to be in moving groups of young stars.   For example, here’s a recent paper by our own Adam Schneider announcing the discovery of 47 new L dwarfs, including seven that are in young moving groups.  Membership in a moving group is important because it establishes the objects age.

A good clue that you might have an L dwarf is if it doesn’t appear in the DSS images, only in 2MASS and WISE.   That’s because the DSS images were taken in visible wavelengths, and L dwarfs are too cool to shine in visible light, so they only show up in 2MASS and WISE bands, which are infrared.   (T and Y dwarfs may not even show up in the 2MASS images). Just remember, the rule of thumb is that if it’s not in SIMBAD, we want to see it on the Think-You-ve-Got-One form.  There are still interesting objects to find that are in DSS images.

Here’s one of the ones you found.  It’s a great test for the eyes!

Ldwarf.x2.y1

It’s a faint bluish dipole. Can you spot it in this flipbook?  If not, scroll down to the answer key at the end of this article.

Here’s another one.  Remember, each one of these is a real new discovery–not a recovery of an object that was known before!

Ldwarf.x7.y6

Can you see it there?  Here’s a third on to challenge yourself with.

Ldwarf.x4.y1

OK here’s one more for you to test your skill on…

Ldwarf.x6.y4

Ignore that giant blinking blue ghost in the middle!  They are tough to spot.  If you need help, here are the answers, below.  Congratulations to @Andy_Arg,  @karmeliet,  @graham_d,  @stevnbak, and @NibiruX for their exceptional eyesight And keep up the good work, everybody!!

LdwarfFinder

Marc Kuchner

The Colors of Cold Brown Dwarfs

You may have heard of the spectral sequence, OBAFGKM.  What may be less well-known is that new brown dwarf spectral classes have been added in the past few decades. Now the full spectral sequence is OBAFGKMLTY, where the O stars are the most luminous, most massive, and hottest stars, while Y dwarfs are the lowest-mass, faintest, and coldest objects.

While the temperature drops through the MLTY spectral sequence, the chemistry occurring in the atmospheres of theses objects changes dramatically.  This can be seen most clearly when looking at the spectra of these objects.  The figure below shows what happens to the infrared spectra of objects spanning the MLTY spectral classes.  On this figure, we have also marked the positions of the WISE filters (W1 and W2).  Note that how bright each spectral type is in each filter changes. This is seen most dramatically in the Y dwarf, where almost no flux is emitted in the W1 filter and a relatively large amount of flux is emitted at W2.  This is because large amounts of methane are present in the atmospheres of T and Y dwarfs, and methane absorbs light in the wavelength range covered by W1, and there are no absorbing sources at W2.

ModSeq
Spectra of five different brown dwarfs with different temperatures and spectral classes. (credit: Michael Cushing)
We can look at how this difference between W1 and W2 changes as a function of spectral type by finding their “color”.  In astronomy, “color” refers to the difference in brightness of an object at different wavelengths.  So when we look at the W1-W2 color of objects, large values mean that an object is much brighter at W2 than W1.  The next figure shows how WISE colors vary with spectral type.   The coldest objects, T and Y dwarfs, have very distinct WISE colors.
w1w2
Colors of Brown Dwarfs in the two WISE bands we use at Backyard Worlds: Planet 9.
In fact, the WISE filters were built specifically to exploit this color difference in cold brown dwarfs.  Thus, the WISE images of a very cold brown dwarf will show nothing in W1 and a bright point source in W2 (third figure).  This is why some objects look orange in our WISE images. The mover example in the field guide is a good example of an orange-looking brown dwarf.
YdwarfWISE
Cool brown dwarfs can be much brighter in the W2 band.

The WISE colors of Planet 9 have been estimated to be very different than the colors of brown dwarfs.  This is why the point source in the Planet 9 simulation in the field guide looks blue.

Adam Schneider