PREPARING for ADVANCED LIGO: A STAR-GALAXY SEPARATION CATALOG for the PALOMAR TRANSIENT FACTORY

A. A. Miller, M. K. Kulkarni, Y. Cao, R. R. Laher, F. J. Masci, J. A. Surace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

The search for fast optical transients, such as the expected electromagnetic counterparts to binary neutron star mergers, is riddled with false positives (FPs) ranging from asteroids to stellar flares. While moving objects are readily rejected via image pairs separated by ∼1 hr, stellar flares represent a challenging foreground, significantly outnumbering rapidly evolving explosions. Identifying stellar sources close to and fainter than the transient detection limit can eliminate these FPs. Here, we present a method to reliably identify stars in deep co-adds of Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) imaging. Our machine-learning methodology utilizes the random forest (RF) algorithm, which is trained using >3 × 106 sources with Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) spectra. When evaluated on an independent test set, the PTF RF model outperforms the SExtractor star classifier by ∼4%. For faint sources (r' ≥ 21 mag), which dominate the field population, the PTF RF model produces a ∼19% improvement over SExtractor. To avoid false negatives in the PTF transient-candidate stream, we adopt a conservative stellar classification threshold, corresponding to a galaxy misclassification rate of 0.005. Ultimately, ∼1.70 × 108 objects are included in our PTF point-source catalog, of which only ∼106 are expected to be galaxies. We demonstrate that the PTF RF catalog reveals transients that otherwise would have been missed. To leverage its superior image quality, we additionally create an SDSS point-source catalog, which is also tuned to have a galaxy misclassification rate of 0.005. These catalogs have been incorporated into the PTF real-time pipelines to automatically reject stellar sources as non-extragalactic transients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number73
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume153
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • catalogs
  • galaxies: statistics
  • methods: data analysis
  • methods: statistical
  • stars: statistics
  • surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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