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Great Surveys: Spectral and Temporal Frontiers Adam Aaardvark-Zulkarni, Department of Astronomy or Adam Zulkarni-Aardvark, Department of Physics, California Institute of Technology Some Well known Adages

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great surveys spectral and temporal frontiers

Great Surveys: Spectral and Temporal Frontiers

Adam Aaardvark-Zulkarni, Department of Astronomy


Adam Zulkarni-Aardvark, Department of Physics, California Institute of Technology

some well known adages
Some Well known Adages
  • Science progresses through funerals (Max Planck?)
  • Given a telescope/instrument with entirely new capabilities even a sufficiently idiotic astronomer can make a sufficiently great discovery (Kulkarni)
  • Those who can think creatively do. Those who have have gone past that point (or never had it) do surveys (name with held by request)
  • Catalog of the Sky
    • Palomar Sky Survey
  • Search for variables
    • Harvard Sky Patrol
  • Explore the Sky (New Bands)
    • Early Cambridge Surveys
    • UHURU (classical X-rays)
    • IRAS (long wavelength IR)
    • ROSAT All Sky Survey (soft X-rays)
  • Storage: Physical Medium
    • Glass plates (Palomar Sky Survey)
    • Journals (Hat Creek HI surveys)
  • Access:
    • Basic access (e.g. NVSS)
    • Reduced data (e.g. IRAS, ROSAT)
digital surveys
Digital Surveys
  • 2MASS
    • Defined the gold standard for imaging surveys
  • Sloan Digital Sky Survey
    • Defined the gold standard for a complex survey/experiment
  • Parkes Multibeam Survey
    • Found more pulsars than the entire world output since t=0
experiments quests
Experiments & Quests
  • CMB astronomy brought rigorous experimental planning to astronomy
  • Large number of experiments are now geared up to attack
    • Cosmography (Ia SN, WL, BAO)
    • Cosmology (EOR)
    • Large scale structure (Clusters, WL)
  • Quests: Extra-solar planets
    • Transit experiments, COROT, Kepler
  • Technology
    • Semi-conductor industry (Moore’s law)
      • Optical Astronomy
      • Radio Astronomy
    • Detectors (e.g. IR, sub-mm)
  • Build the next instrument
    • To Acceptable Cost
    • To Aspiration
the world has become upside down
Capital cost: Software

Running costs: hardware

Data: inexpensive

Analysis: very expensive

The World has become Upside Down
full sky surveys
Full Sky Surveys
  • This decade will see full sky surveys from radio through GeV
  • Basic Issue:
    • Basic Access
    • Cross-catalog Access
    • Sophisticated Queries
  • Falls squarely in the VO framework
exponential growth synergy accelerating returns
Exponential Growth+Synergy=Accelerating Returns
  • Moore’s law: performance is exponential
  • Kurzweil claimed that the performance of electronics (over 100 years) was accelerating (decreasing e-fold timescale)
  • Broadly speaking: what happens when two exponentially technologies are applied to the same problem ?

Law of accelerating returns

exciting possibilities
Exciting Possibilities
  • New avenues for discovery (data mining)
  • Possibilities for discoveries that lie at the interface of previously poorly connected subjects (e.g. LIGO and EM astronomy, UHECR and regular astronomy)
  • Holistic approach
    • Complete SEDs
  • High quality statistics
    • deeper insight including numerical astrophysics
  • Rare Objects
are we ready
Are we ready?
  • Poor tools
    • No efficient tools to intelligently analyze multiple data bases
  • Community not well trained
  • Poor incentive for developing tools
  • Deep concerns about career paths for software astronomers
followup shortage
Followup: Shortage
  • Followup is the key for surveys (as opposed to self-contained experiments)
  • Spectroscopy is usually critical
  • Transient objects: need light curves
  • Radio: a major bottleneck (cf GRB astronomy)
projects soon and proposed
Projects: Soon and Proposed
  • Optical Imagers: Raptor, PanStarr, Palomar Transient Factory, SkyMapper, VST, One degree Imager,HyperSuprimeCam, Dark Energy Camera, PS4, LSST, JDEM
  • IR Imagers: UKIRT, VISTA, Subaru
  • Spectroscopic Surveys: SDSS, LAMOST, WFMOS
  • Radio: ATA, EVLA, LOFAR, EOR1, EOR2, …, LWA, ASKAP
  • Sub-millimeter: Scuba-2, SPT, WISE, LMT, CCAT
reality check
Reality Check
  • Aspirations far exceed fiscal reality
  • Astronomers must identify cost-savings
    • Data reduction pipelines
    • Standard Archiving
    • Eliminate multiple surveys for similar objectives
why is this field interesting
Why is this field interesting?
  • Transients have traditionally played a major role in the history of astronomy
    • Algol, Cepheids, Supernovae
  • Explosion in GRB astronomy is a direct demonstration of accelerating returns
  • Phase space for discovery is extremely large (rare objects, fast events)
transients experimental planning is necessary
Transients: experimental planning is necessary
  • All surveys claim to provide value to other areas of astronomy
    • Mostly the claims are dubious
    • Will likely fail for transient object astronomy
  • Community focus has been on discovering events (cf LSST, PanStarrs).


    • Payoff is really in filtering and followup
    • Long term value is in rates and statistics
  • Needs experiment planning
critical issues
Critical Issues
  • Sociology
    • Reward Structure
  • Software
  • Structure of Surveys

How do we make progress?

balance between surveys and pi science
Balance between Surveys and PI science
  • Big difference between astronomy and physics
    • Cf Fermi-Dirac
    • Astronomy is the art of what is possible
  • We should sharply distinguish great questions (physics) and great quests (astronomy)
  • The balance is dangerously poor
  • Train to be a jaguar and eat up all the hedgehogs and outrun the fox
the mother of all surveys
The Mother of All Surveys
  • All telescopes around the world to observe four regions of the sky for an entire year
  • The cadence, filter choices etc are designed to minimize operating costs
  • Resulting survey will serve all areas of astronomy (thanks to the diversity of the approaches)!