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Transient Astronomy in Coming Decade: Chasing All Bumps in the Night
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will make unprecedented movies of the night sky, detecting hundreds of thousands of new objects per night. Identifying and studying these new sources poses unprecedented challenges, both in terms of the astrophysics and the engineering.
I am interested in developing capabilities, particularly in Arizona, to monitor and characterize astrophysical transients with networks of small, automated telescopes. There is a pressing need, as we advance toward LSST and other future experiments, to capitalize on large data sets of new sources via ground-based followup. I will base this discussion around my own background in the study of Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs), and particular on their usage as probes of the Early Universe and Cosmology. Currently, I am leading the effort to commission the Reionization and Transients InfraRed camera (RATIR). This is a simultaneous optical/NIR multi-band imaging camera which is 100% time-dedicated to GRB followup. The camera is mounted on the 1.5-meter Johnson telescope on Sierra San Pedro Martir in Baja California. With rapid slew capability and autonomous interrupt capabilities, the system will image GRBs in 6 bands (i, r, Z, Y, J, and H) within minutes of receiving a satellite position, detecting optically faint afterglows in the NIR and quickly alerting the community to potential GRBs at high redshift (z>6-10).