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Award Abstract #1440341


Division Of Astronomical Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: August 15, 2014
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Latest Amendment Date: August 15, 2014
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Award Number: 1440341
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Richard E. Barvainis
AST Division Of Astronomical Sciences
MPS Direct For Mathematical & Physical Scien
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Start Date: September 1, 2014
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End Date: August 31, 2019 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $8,980,021.00
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Investigator(s): Shrinivas Kulkarni srk@astro.caltech.edu (Principal Investigator)
George Helou (Co-Principal Investigator)
Richard Dekany (Co-Principal Investigator)
Thomas Prince (Co-Principal Investigator)
Bryan Penprase (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: California Institute of Technology
1200 E California Blvd
PASADENA, CA 91125-0600 (626)395-6219
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Program Reference Code(s): 1207, 7697
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Program Element Code(s): 1257


This award will support construction, operation, and data management/distribution for the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), a camera upgrade and renovation for the 48-inch Oschin Schmidt telescope on Mt Palomar. The telescope will conduct wide-area sky surveys with a goal of identifying new types of rare, rapidly varying astronomical sources at locations ranging from inside our own Solar System to significant fractions of the distance "across" the universe. Broader impacts of the work include hands-on training of students and early career scientists developing instrumentation for large area sky surveys. Expertise will be developed in STEM fields and will lead to skills important for NSF's major new project, the LSST. The ZTF will conduct an annual time-domain summer school open to students throughout the US, and will share the excitement of the Dynamic Sky with the public via an outreach program at the Palomar Observatory Visitors' Center.

The facility will conduct a synoptic survey for high-cadence time-domain astronomy with the goal of identifying rare, fast-varying sources. These sources will include supernovae, exotic explosive transients, unusual stellar variables, compact binaries, active galactic nuclei, and asteroids. The ZTF survey will cover the entire Northern Sky, revisiting fields on timescales of a few hours and providing hundreds of visits per field each year. This shallow-wide-fast cadence is well suited to detecting fast transients and probing rapid variability. The single-visit depth of 20.4mag is well-matched to current spectrographs on 4-m class telescopes, while the final co-added images will provide wide sky coverage that is about two magnitudes deeper than that of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The new camera will have a 47 square degree field of view, larger than the original Palomar Sky Survey which was recorded on glass plates using this same telescope almost 60 years ago. The proposing team has substantial experience in this field, having run the similar but less powerful Palomar Transient Factory for a number of years previous to this. The project is leveraged by contributions from a number of partner institutions, including Caltech (lead), the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), the Oskar Klein Centre (Sweden), DESY (High Energy Astronomy, Germany), Los Alamos National Laboratory, TANGO (Taiwan), the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Intra-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (India), and Pomona College.


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