Sky & Telescope and the SuperNova Early Warning System (SNEWS) are conducting a test of the AstroAlert system. If this message were being issued as a result of a real detection of neutrinos, you would receive a message much like this one, except that it would NOT be identified as a test.

The full test message is as follows (preceded and followed by solid lines):

This Sky & Telescope AstroAlert is being issued [as a test] in support of the SuperNova Early Warning System (SNEWS). We seek your assistance in pinpointing the location of a possible supernova explosion. Neutrino detectors give the target’s approximate coordinates (equinox 2000.0) in the constellation Boötes, as follows:

Right ascension: 13h 38m
Declination: +8.1°
Uncertainty radius: 13°
Expected magnitude: unknown

Please check this region of the sky as soon as possible using your naked eyes, binoculars, a telescope, or a camera. You are looking for a starlike point of light that does not appear on star atlases or prior photographs of the region. You can expect it to show no motion against the stars, and perhaps to be rising in brightness (with fluctuations, over several days). HOWEVER, it is most urgent to identify a suspect so that professional instruments can swing into action. You should not wait for a second night to confirm the object’s behavior. Rather, spend an hour or so convincing yourself that the object is not a normal star, measure its position by whatever means you have at your disposal, and report what you find by filling out our AstroAlert Report Form.

Thanks, and good luck!

We ask that you treat the above message as if it were a real alert. That is, you should actually go out and scrutinize the indicated region of the sky and fill out the online report form we have provided.

Consider the test to be under way from the moment you receive this message until February 18, 2003, at 0 hours Universal Time. Whatever observations you can make between now and then will help us evaluate the efficiency of the AstroAlert system. We are not just testing you (the recipients of this alert), but also testing ourselves!

Finally, please don’t consult variable-star catalogs or software dealing with known transient events! This is a test of your observing skill and ability to recognize a suspicious object and report it properly. You do not get any points for circumventing the rules of the game. For this particular test, there really is something in the target region that we think you ought to catch. But there may not be anything to see in future tests; the "right answer" could well be nothing.

Within a week or two, we will summarize the results of this test in another message to recipients of this AstroAlert.

Roger W. Sinnott
Senior Editor
Sky & Telescope


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