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Doctoral Defense

April 14, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Modern synoptic sky surveys are typically designed to detect supernovae-like transients, using a tiling strategy to identify objects that evolve on day-to-month timescales. Astrophysical phenomena with sub-hour durations, ranging from galactic stellar flares to optical flashes accompanying gamma-ray bursts, have largely escaped scrutiny. Due to their low intrinsic rates and short durations, surveys for fast transients must simultaneously cover significant fractions of the sky at sub-hour cadences, often by combining multiple telescopes. The Evryscopes represent an extreme of this approach, combining 43 small telescopes to image 38% of the entire sky every two minutes. To investigate bright and fast transients with the Evryscopes, I developed the Evryscope Fast Transient Engine (EFTE), a real-time transient detection and photometric analysis pipeline. EFTE uses a unique direct image subtraction routine suited to continuously monitoring the transient sky at minute cadence. Candidates are produced within two minutes for 98.5% of images, and are internally filtered using VetNet, a machine learning algorithm trained to sort real astrophysical events from false positives, both instrumental and astronomical, including millisecond-timescale reflections, or “glints” from satellites and debris in Earth orbit. Glints are a dominating foreground for astronomical surveys in the extreme time domain. I present the first measurements of the glint rate, noting that it exceeds the combined rate of public alerts from all active all-sky, fast-timescale transient searches, including neutrino, gravitational-wave, gamma-ray, and radio observatories. I further report spectroscopic followup of two stellar flares identified in real-time from the EFTE alert stream using glint-mitigation and science-driven selection metrics. These are the closest spectra relative to peak ever observed for flare stars outside of dedicated starting campaigns on known active stars, and provide unique constraints on the evolution of the flare continuum and temperature. Finally, EFTE is the software test bed for the pipelines of the Argus Optical Array, an upcoming all-sky survey based on the Evryscope concept scaled to the depths of the deepest operating sky surveys and a terabit per second data rate. This work concludes with a description of the Argus prototype series and pipelines, and an overview of fast transient science with the Array.


Title: The Evryscope Fast Transient Engine: Real-time Discovery of Rapidly Evolving Transients with Evryscope and the Argus Optical Array


Hank Corbett

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April 14, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


Phillips 258