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  • A team of researchers led by Ashish Mahabal, an astronomer and the lead computational and data scientist at the Center for Data Driven Discovery, California Institute of Technology, has developed an app named ZARTH that allows anyone with a smartphone to ‘hunt’ for transients.

  • The app uses the open-source Sky Map and adds data daily from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF)’s robotic telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California. 

  • Palomar is also home to one of the oldest, largest, and most powerful telescopes in the world: the 200-inch Hale reflector. 

  • The ZTF scans the entire northern sky every two days and uses the data to make large area sky maps that have important applications in tracking near-earth asteroids and studying supernovae.

  • The new app, called ZARTH, short for ‘ZTF Augmented Reality Transient Hunter’, is built along the lines of the augmented reality mobile game Pokemon Go. 

  • Its USP is that it allows the user to do serious science while playing a game. 

  • Students from the Indian Institutes of Technology at Mandi and Gandhinagar were also involved in developing ZARTH.

  • Based on Pokemon Go, the team developed a prototype game in which players had to “catch” transients instead of fantastic creatures such as ‘poke balls’ (devices used in the online game to catch a Pokemon). 

  • Once a player catches a transient, ZARTH shares more information about it, earn points, and go on to collect more transients.

  • Tracking down transients on ZARTH is easy: the app is loaded daily with transients detected in real-time by the ZTF, an incredible 100,000 every night. 

  • These include, apart from supernovae, flaring stars (variable stars that flare up for a short while), white dwarf binaries (burnt remains of dead stars that orbit one another and often merge and explode in supernovae), active galactic nuclei, and several other types.

  • ZARTH puts only around 200 of these on the app so that the phone doesn’t get cluttered with the data.

  • The player can touch any transient to “catch” it and move up on the leaderboard. 

  • The maximum credit limit depends on the number of transients you catch in one night. 

  • The idea is to pick a transient which has had the most number of spectra taken by astronomers to study its characteristics, which decides its importance or rarity.

  • ZARTH ranks transients by their rarity and importance, and players can compete with each other to score points and earn daily credits, which are duly listed on the leaderboards. 



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: ZARTH UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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