Star catalogs are critical to astronomy research. However, they’re only as reliable as the methods used to create them. As telescopes probe further and fainter regions of the sky, how can we ensure that our methods of catalog creation extract as much information as possible from the returned images?
The “first light” image from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. This is a good example of an astronomical research image, featuring the distortion of star shapes and crowded regions. The crosses typically accompany bright stars and are caused by the instrument doing the imaging. The object on the right is the Large Magellanic Cloud and the bright star on the left is R Doradus. [NASA/MIT/TESS]
To Get to the Point
The start of any star catalog is an image taken by a telescope. These images typically look like black and white photographs of the night sky, and the wavelengths of light used to make them are set by a filter, also known as a band. To make a catalog, you just need to identify stars in an image.
This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, though! Stars, which would ideally appear as points, look like distorted circles due to atmospheric effects ...