Exploring the optical transient sky with the palomar transient factory

Arne Rau*, Shrinivas R. Kulkarni, Nicholas M. Law, Joshua S. Bloom, David Ciardi, George S. Djorgovski, Derek B. Fox, Avishay Gal-Yam, Carl C. Grillmair, Mansi M. Kasliwal, Peter E. Nugent, Eran O. Ofek, Robert M. Quimby, William T. Reach, Michael Shara, Lars Bildsten, S. Bradley Cenko, Andrew J. Drake, Alexei V. Filippenko, David J. HelfandGeorge Helou, D. Andrew Howell, Dovi Poznanski, Mark Sullivan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) is a wide-field experiment designed to investigate the optical transient and variable sky on time scales from minutes to years. PTF uses the CFH12k mosaic camera, with a field of view of 7.9 deg2 and a plate scale of 1″ pixel-1, mounted on the Palomar Observatory 48 inch Samuel Oschin Telescope. The PTF operation strategy is devised to probe the existing gaps in the transient phase space and to search for theoretically predicted, but not yet detected, phenomena, such as fallback supernovae, macronovae, .Ia supernovae, and the orphan afterglows of gamma-ray bursts. PTF will also discover many new members of known source classes, from cataclysmic variables in their various avatars to supernovae and active galactic nuclei, and will provide important insights into understanding galactic dynamics (through RR Lyrae stars) and the solar system (asteroids and near-Earth objects). The lessons that can be learned from PTF will be essential for the preparation of future large synoptic sky surveys like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. In this article we present the scientific motivation for PTF and describe in detail the goals and expectations for this experiment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1334-1351
Number of pages18
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number886
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
National Science Foundation0540352, 0507734, 0540369


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