First results from the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey

A. J. Drake, S. G. Djorgovski, A. Mahabal, E. Beshore, S. Larson, M. J. Graham, R. Williams, E. Christensen, M. Catelan, A. Boattini, A. Gibbs, R. Hill, R. Kowalski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1058 Scopus citations


We report on the results from the first six months of the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey (CRTS). In order to search for optical transients (OTs) with timescales of minutes to years, the CRTS analyses data from the Catalina Sky Survey which repeatedly covers 26,000 of square degrees on the sky. The CRTS provides a public stream of transients that are bright enough to be followed up using small telescopes. Since the beginning of the survey, all CRTS transients have been made available to astronomers around the world in real time using HTML tables, RSS feeds, and VOEvents. As part of our public outreach program, the detections are now also available in Keyhole Markup Language through Google Sky. The initial discoveries include over 350 unique OTs rising more than 2 mag from past measurements. Sixty two of these are classified as supernovae (SNe), based on light curves, prior deep imaging and spectroscopic data. Seventy seven are due to cataclysmic variables (CVs; only 13 previously known), while an additional 100 transients were too infrequently sampled to distinguish between faint CVs and SNe. The remaining OTs include active galactic nucleus, blazars, high-proper-motions stars, highly variable stars (such as UV Ceti stars), and transients of an unknown nature. Our results suggest that there is a large population of SNe missed by many current SN surveys because of selection biases. These objects appear to be associated with faint host galaxies. We also discuss the unexpected discovery of white dwarf binary systems through dramatic eclipses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-884
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2009


  • BL Lacertae objects: general
  • Galaxies: general
  • Novae, cataclysmic variables
  • Stars: flare
  • Supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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