Transient astronomy with the DFN

Transient Astronomical Events or ‘transients’ are flickers in space – changes in light that last for seconds, days, weeks or years at a time. These could be caused by supernovae, gamma ray bursts, or asteroids and planets passing in front of their sun.

Hadrien’s doing a PhD with the Fireballs team and working out how to use our Desert Fireball Network cameras to identify new transients for astronomers to study. While the DFN hasn’t been built specifically for detecting transients, Hadrien’s finding ways in which to modify the cameras so that they can ‘recognise’ transients in amongst the many images we collect each night.

A few weeks back he traveled to Santa Barbara, California to share his plans at the fourth Hot-wiring the Transient Universe conference. The biggest topic discussed was just how to deal with astronomy’s data problem. There is just so much data out there! How do we keep up with it all?

Fun fact: The DFN cameras will collectively generate 5TB of data per night when all installed!

Some groups have been turning to citizen scientists to help out. If you’re interested, check out the following programs:

TheSkyNet SourceFinder

Data collected by one of several radio telescopes is sent to your computer as a small data packet ready for processing. Once processing of the data packet has taken place it is sent back and the process begins all over again. By repeating this process across thousands of computers, it is possible to simulate a single powerful machine capable of doing real and relevant scientific research.


  • Find and draw circles on infrared image data from the Sptizer Space Telescope
  • Organise sunspot images
  • Compare infrared and radio data to spot black holes
  • Look for stars that could have planet-forming discs

and heaps more!