Ice Investigators: FAQ
|The Science||The Mission||The Team|
This page tries to answer all those little (and big!) questions you ask us in emails, hangouts, and on the forums.
Looking for something not listed here? Try asking on the forums.
This is a living document, so check back often for updates!
How many times do the images get seen?
Our software is designed to show 15 people each image. If 8 or more people click "Done Working" the image is then removed from the system and considered done. If too few people work on the image, it is put back into the system. This means each image is viewed by a minimum of 15 people and clicked on by a minium of 8 people.
It feels like I keep seeing the same image over and over. Am I?
Many of the images in the system look very similar, so while it may seem like you're seeing the same image over and over, in reality, your seeing different images of the same part of the sky over and over (and sometimes over and over). Since we're looking for objects that are moving against the background stars, multiple images of the same region are taken. These images are then combined in different ways that 1) remove the stars, and 2) help make moving objects like KBOs stand out even better against the background. In some instances, you may see several different sets of subtracted images of the same region, or several images that are designed to help you see images moving at different rates. By looking at all these different combinations, the chances of finding real objects is increased.
How do our markings get confirmed
Object confirmation is a two-step process.
- Any object that is marked by 3 or more people is considered confirmed by other users.
- The science reviews each of the marks and identifies a) Things that don't move as variable stars, b) things that do move as possible KBOs. Once they have all the moving things sorted out, they can start to look for things that appear across 3 or more images to move in a distinctive way, and then calculate orbits.
Please note, in addition to being searched by this software, the images are being searched by software, and by team scientists. It's only through these three different means that we can hope to find everything.
How do the results get published?
- Kuiper Belt Objects: All discovered KBOs will be submitted to the Minor Planet Center. The submission will be led by the scientists who are making all the observations, reducing the data, and calculating all the orbits. Within the submission, the name of every person who marked a discovered KBO will be listed. We will also maintain a catalogue on this site of all the discovered objects and all the discovery makers. Please note: Due to the restrictions on how things can get submitted, we can only include real last names and initials. We cannot use online alias.
- Variable Stars: All discovered variable stars will be catalogued and submitted for publication in a to be determined journal. The submission will be led by team scientists and each object will be listed with the names of the individuals who discovered them.
- Asteroids: Most of the objects noted by this project do not have sufficient data to calculate orbits. If sufficient data is achieved for any of our asteroids, they will be submitted to the Minor Planet Center and the discovery team will be allowed to name the object.
Where did the images come from?
Teams of astronomers have been traveling to observatories all around the world to collect data seen on this site. From Subaru Telescope, to Gemini, to CFHT, and many places in between.
The images look like... well, they look bad. Why?
These aren't normal images. They are the difference between two images. These are pairs of images that are subtracting from one another. In an ideal situation, the two images will have identical focus, and identical sky quality, and all the non-moving objects that stay the same brightness will politely disappear. All that should be left after image subtraction are things that aren't constant, like our moving KBOs and asteroids. You can read more about this on the tutorial page.
You haven't answered my email!
Sorry. Really, we're sorry. The team is growing, but is still small and busy, and we're rushed off our feet making the most of your results and developing CosmoQuest.
Can I name the objects I find?
Maybe? In general, astronomers are very fond of catalogue numbers and the variable stars and Kuiper Belt Objects you find will all be assigned numbers that are sadly quite boring. It may be possible, however, for you to name the asteroids you find - provided you're the first to find them (so start looking, and be the early bird to get the worm asteroid).
I keep seeing Black Streaks and Black Transients. Should I mark them?
When you see black streaks (likely asteroids) or black transients (KBOs or variable stars) it is because they were subtracted from the image. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, so let me explain.
If we have 4 images that we want to search for transients and streaks, we'll use the sharpest image as the comparison frame and subtract it from the other 3. If the images are A, B, C, & D, and B is the sharpest image, we'll than do A-B, C-B, D-B. This will subtract stars nicely (Star in A - Star in B = weird halo where they weren't identical). BUT if there were any transients or streaks in B, they will appear as black things all three of those images. In order to "detect" those objects we'll also take the second clearest image (say, image D) and subtract it from B, (so now we also have B-D), and use that to mark the now white transients from B (of course anything in D now appears black).
This system may sound odd, but if used consistently, it will allow us to detect all the objects.
I Want A Back Button! Can I have one?
The simple answer is: No.
While most of you will only rarely use the back button when to go back to that blob or you streak only at the moment you press submit, we know there are those among you who will recheck and recheck and recheck and... you get the picture. We to keep you moving forwards, working through the images as a team. Many people look at every image, and through your combined efforts we trust you together find everything there is to find.
Who gets to name the Asteroids?
We only get to name those asteroids that we have enough data from to calculate orbits. Most of the time, this project doesn't get sufficient data to do that. If it does happen, we'll contact the discovery team and brainstorm a name, voting on what seems best.
We will keep tables of all our discoveries. You never know when one of our objects just might happen to be a lost asteroid or a future target of great interest.
I think I found a comet! Is it a comet?
If you think you found something with a tail or that looks like a pretty, blurry comet image, then you probably found an image artifact that is a good impressionist. While there could be comet cores in these images, at the magnitude we're looking, any comet bits would look no different then an asteroid. If a comet with a tail had been in the region of the sky where these images were taken, it would have been avoided.
Dust, reflections, bad subtractions... These can all add up to something that makes your brain think comet. This is an effect called pareidolia.