DRAFT

Zwicky Transient Facility Opens Its Eyes to the Volatile Cosmos

November 14, 2017

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A new robotic camera with the ability to capture hundreds of thousands of stars and galaxies in a single shot has taken its first image of the sky.

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IMAGES AND GRAPHICS

Full "First Light" Image

ZTF took this "first-light" image on Nov. 1, 2017, after being installed at the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory. The full-resolution version is more than 24,000 pixels by 24,000 pixels. Each ZTF image covers a sky area equal to 247 full moons. The Orion nebula is at lower right. Computers searching these images for transient, or variable, events are trained to automatically recognize and ignore non-astronomical sources, such as the vertical "blooming" lines seen here.

Credit: Caltech Optical Observatories

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ZTF Camera

The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) camera at a laboratory at Caltech.

Credit: Caltech

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Orion Flame-Horsehead Closeup

The Horsehead nebula can be seen in this portion of the "first-light" image from ZTF. The head of the horse (middle) faces up toward another well-known nebula known as The Flame. Violet to green wavelengths detected by ZTF are represented as cyan, while yellow to deep red wavelengths are shown as red. Computers searching these images for transient, or variable, events are trained to automatically recognize and ignore non-astronomical sources, such as the vertical "blooming" lines seen here.

Credit: Caltech Optical Observatories

Download original (2048 x 2048 JPG, 7.5 MB)

ZTF Image in Orion Constellation

The "first-light" image from ZTF is shown here (inset) within the Orion constellation. The Orion nebula can be seen within the ZTF image. Each ZTF image covers an area of sky equivalent to 247 full moons. Such large images will enable the camera to scan the sky quickly to discover objects that move or change in brightness, such as asteroids and supernovas, even when rare and short lived.

Credit: Caltech Optical Observatories

Download original (2000 x 2000 JPG, 444.3 KB)

ZTF at Palomar

The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) instrument installed on the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory. The large-format CCD camera at the heart of ZTF is located inside the telescope tube, at the focus of the primary mirror.

Credit: Caltech Optical Observatories

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Fritz Zwicky (1930s)

Fritz Zwicky at the 18-inch Schmidt telescope at Palomar Observatory in the 1930s.

Credit: Edison R. Hoge Photograph Collection/Caltech Archives

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Filter Inspection

Technical lead Roger Smith, of Caltech Optical Observatories, inspects one of the three wide-field optical filters used for the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) science survey.

Credit: Caltech Optical Observatories

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Inside the Telescope

Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) team members install the 605-megapixel, wide-field camera at the prime focus of the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory.

Credit: Caltech Optical Observatories

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VIDEO

Zwicky Transient Facility Opens Its Eyes to the Volatile Cosmos (5:10)

A new robotic camera with the ability to capture hundreds of thousands of stars and galaxies in a single shot has taken its first image of the sky, an event astronomers refer to as "first light." The recently installed camera is part of a new automated sky-survey project called the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), based at Caltech's Palomar Observatory located in the mountains near San Diego. Every night, ZTF will scan a large portion of the Northern sky, discovering objects that erupt or vary in brightness, including exploding stars (also known as supernovas), stars being munched on by black holes, and asteroids and comets.

Credit: Caltech

Download MP4 (590.6 MB) or ProRes (no text or music; 3.9 GB)

Roger Smith on Palomar's 48" Schmidt Telescope (7:09)

In this virtually uncut interview excerpt, the Principal Electronics Engineer for Palomar Observatory describes how the original Schmidt 48-inch telescope was designed and operated at Palomar, and how the engineering team retrofitted it to accommodate the ZTF instrument—an array of CCD sensors that rapidly scans the night skies for cosmic events.

Credit: Caltech

Download MP4 (831 MB)

Dead Stars Orbiting Each Other Every Seven Minutes (0:34)

This artist's animation depicts an "eclipsing binary" called ZTF J1530+5027, in which two extremely dense objects known as white dwarfs orbit each other roughly every seven minutes. Time has been sped up such that one second represents two minutes of real time. The smaller white dwarf is slightly larger than Earth, and is the heavier of the two, weighing 60 percent as much as the sun. Its larger companion weighs only around 20 percent as much as the sun. The orbital separation of these objects is shrinking by about 26 centimeters per day due to the emission of gravitational waves, depicted in green near the end of the movie.

Credit: Caltech/IPAC/R. Hurt

Download MP4 (37 MB)