SuperWASP Variable Stars: Classifying Light Curves Using Citizen Science

SuperWASP is the most successful ground-based survey for transiting exoplanets, having discovered >200 hot Jupiters to date. However the capabilities of SuperWASP extend beyond exoplanet detection. The SuperWASP photometric archive contains more than 30 million light curves of bright stars (V<15) with a high cadence and long baseline. A recent reanalysis of the entire archive has detected almost 1.6 million possible unique objects with detectable photometric periodicities on timescales from hours to years (Norton 2018).

The SuperWASP Variable Stars Zooniverse project is using citizen science to classify these 1.6 million light curves. Citizen scientists are asked to classify light curves as simplified variable star types: eclipsing binary stars, pulsating stars, rotationally modulated stars, or simply junk or unknown, and are asked whether the period is correct, incorrect, or half the correct period.

The classification of periodic variables based solely on the shape of the photometric light curve does not always provide a conclusive and unique variable type. However, it can be a good indication of the most likely type and it is useful for identifying interesting candidates which are worth following up.

We present the first data release from the SuperWASP Variable Stars Zooniverse project. It contains over 1 million classifications, corresponding to over 500,000 unique objects. The first data release consists of 4.5% pulsating stars, 5.3% detached eclipsing binary stars, 6.4% contact eclipsing binary stars, 9.9% rotating stars, 7.3% unknown & 66.6% junk. The project was launched on 05 Sep 2018 and has had engagement from ~4500 volunteers to date.

We demonstrate that the SuperWASP Variable Stars project can be used for population studies of individual variable types, as well as identifying candidates for follow up. We present the initial findings on various unique and extreme variable objects in the data release, including very short and very long period binaries, cepheids in eclipsing binary
systems, and extreme amplitude pulsators.

We propose to develop a UI similar to the ASAS-SN Catalogue of Variable Stars, in order that other researchers can easily access the outputs of this project.


Theme – Citizen Science Projects in Astronomy