Publications Projects

Current Research Projects


  • 1. Large Synoptic Survey Telescope
  • The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)  is a wide-field 8m telescope that will survey the southern sky over a period of 10 years. To maximize the time which the telescope is taking useful images (not blocked by clouds or atmospheric phenomena), we are implementing an all-sky camera pipeline that will take photos of the sky every minute and return quantitative information about cloud cover to be used in informing the LSST “scheduler,” which decides what pictures are taken and when, of where potentially good and bad directions are. I am also performing characterization tasks related to the LSST camera. During the past several years, one of my main research interest areas has been building, testing and using the collimated beam projector. I have focused its use on the ongoing LSST project, already having made  more than 10 trips to CTIO in Chile. I have also used it at the United States Naval Observatory in Arizona and the Pan-STARRS telecope at Haleakala on Maui, Hawaii. Most recently at Chile, we used a projector using a tunable laser source.

  • 2. Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory

    We use data from the LIGO and VIRGO interferometers in order to search for stochastic background of gravitational waves and long-duration gravitational-wave transients lasting from seconds to weeks. I have developed a novel gravitational-wave algorithm called ``seedless clustering'' which I have applied to the searches for long-duration gravitational-wave transients. I also provided support for the characterization of the LIGO detectors, both seismic and magnetic noise sources.

3. Electromagnetic follow-up of gravitational-wave events

I pursue studies in relation to the EM follow-up of GW events with wide-field survey telescopes, including Pan-STARRS, PTF/ZTF, and LSST. I continue to work with Pan-STARRS1 to optimize the search for EM counterparts as well as join the effort to accomplish the same. Potential improvements to current EM follow-ups are two-fold. The first is to implement an optimal strategy for the detection of GW optical counterparts using wide-field telescopes. Many factors determine the probability of detecting a transient with a telescope, including internal factors such as the exposure time, filter, field of view, and limiting magnitude, and external factors such as seeing and sky conditions. By making assumptions about the event rate and sky localization abilities of the GW detectors, follow-up imaging can be significantly improved. The second is to discriminate the optical transient associated with the GW event from other astrophysical transients. Pre-existing deep template images in the sky localization region can be used to improve the detection rate over searches without prior template images. Kilonovae can be robustly separated from other known and hypothetical types of transients by utilizing cuts on color and rise time. An implementation of this kind will improve searches for these transients. This work is essential to image sources emitting both EM radiation and GWs, and the observation of the GWs in coincidence with EM observations could give new insight about the source.
Copyright (c) 2018 Michael W. Coughlin, All rights reserved.