The first workshop on Gaia Science Alerts, was held in June 2010 in Cambridge. We introduced the Science Alerts concept to a broad group of scientists from the international astronomical community. During the workshop key areas of interest were defined, and potential Gaia contributions to these fields were discussed in detail.
The Gaia Science Alerts stream will be the first Gaia data released to the community, so it is extremely important to produce reliable and robust alerts. To ensure that the released alerts are accurately classified, low in contaminants and contain interesting transient events, the complex data processing pipeline has to be thoroughly tested. The first alerts will need to be verified with an extensive programme of dedicated follow-up observations. These comprise:
- imaging to confirm the presence and brightness of an alerting source,
- continuous photometric monitoring to obtain a detailed light-curve to help fine-tune the classification
- high/intermediate resolution spectroscopy to investigate the real nature of an event.
The verification programme is scheduled to take place in the first three months of operation of the Gaia Science Alert system. To classify as many alerts as possible requires a dedicated network of telescopes and a well-organised team. Now, with the Gaia launch so close, we are approaching a crucial point in time. We need to organise our teams, choose instruments and telescopes, construct observing proposals, and prepare the community for the influx of Gaia alerts. A meeting scheduled for next summer is the best way to achieve our primary goals:
- Familiarisation of potential observers and research groups with Gaia and its alerting system, and the specific requirements of verification.
- A plan of the detailed scope of the alerts verification phase, including how long it should last
- Selection of likely telescopes and instruments
- Identification of key people who will assist with verification
- Confirmation of the scientific requirementss for the follow-up of Gaia alerts, e.g. in the area of supernovae or cataclysmic variables
- Discussion of technical issues related with alert dissemination and follow-up feedback
During the interactive workshop we plan to bring together:
- Experts on the Gaia mission, including Gaia Science Alerts
- People responsible for telescopes around the globe
- Astronomers experienced with observations of transient phenomena
- Scientists and experts active in studying transient phenomena
- Scientists involved in the distribution of alerts, e.g. from skyalert.org
- Individuals interested in the outreach possibilities of Gaia Science Alerts