The Starchive: An open access, open source database of the nearest stars and beyond

by Guest on April 27, 2015

Angelle Tanner is an assistant professor at Mississippi State University with interests in multiple methods of exoplanet detection and characterization.

Situation 1:You make a preliminary list of target stars using SIMBAD and then follow up with a tedious search through Vizier and individual papers for all the additional observational data you need to motivate a proposal, prepare for an observing run or complete a table for a paper.

Situation 2: You are pondering writing a telescope proposal to collect AO images of a set of nearby stars with known infrared excesses but you are not sure which of your target stars may have already be observed since people are slow to publish their collection of non-detection statistics.

While current archives like SIMBAD and Vizier are a valuable resource for stellar observable and physical parameters the data is incomplete and difficult to accumulate into a single table which is customized for a particular research topic or observing goal. With the Starchive we wish to utilize the power of community access to populate a database initially containing all known stellar, sub-stellar and planetary objects within 25 parsecs. Because the original science goal of the Starchive was to compliment or support exoplanet research for the first year we will focus on both the objects within 25 parsecs as well as the nearest young stars (<50pc). The database will be designed to be expandable in both stellar content (larger volume) and parameter content as both stellar and exoplanet fields evolve.

The database will contain observable meta-data like photometry, vsini, radial velocities, distances, proper motions, metallicities, etc. as well as derived physical parameters such as mass, radii, luminosity, age and effective temperature. If multiple values of a parameter are available then all will be shown and there will be a “preferred” value that will be chosen by the science users group. The database will also contain high contrast images, infrared and optical spectra and light curves. The database will allow users to download data in multiple formats and will have its own suite of plotting tools.

Similar to the website used for the Kepler Community Follow-up Observing Program, verified Starchive contributors will be able to upload data ranging from meta-data to images and spectra. While anyone will be allowed to download data from the archive, only verified users will be allowed to upload any data. A fidelity team will monitor the accuracy of uploaded data and those who contribute the most to the archive will be highlighted on the main page. In an effort to not reinvent the wheel, we plan to utilize existing programs such as those found on exoplanets.org and the Kepler CFOP. We also plan on interfacing the front end of the archive with github so that the community can develop additional plotting tools to interface with the database. Therefore by allowing the community to contribute to the database we are open access and by encouraging people to down load and contribute code we are open source.

Feel free to check out starchive.org in a few months to check out our progress. The project currently employs a couple MSU undergrads and we are searching for a postdoc to fill a three year position at MSU. Finally, we are also looking for members to form science, user and fidelity committees. Contact Angelle Tanner for further inquiries.

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