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Machine learning classification of SDSS transient survey images


We show that multiple machine learning algorithms can match human performance in classifying transient imaging data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) supernova survey into real objects and artefacts. This is a first step in any transient science pipeline and is currently still done by humans, but future surveys such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will necessitate fully machine-enabled solutions. Using features trained from eigenimage analysis (principal component analysis, PCA) of single-epoch g, r and i difference images, we can reach a completeness (recall) of 96 per cent, while only incorrectly classifying at most 18 per cent of artefacts as real objects, corresponding to a precision (purity) of 84 per cent. In general, random forests performed best, followed by the k-nearest neighbour and the SkyNet artificial neural net algorithms, compared to other methods such as naive Bayes and kernel support vector machine. Our results show that PCA-based machine learning can match human success levels and can naturally be extended by including multiple epochs of data, transient colours and host galaxy information which should allow for significant further improvements, especially at low signal-to-noise.


du Buisson, L.; Sivanandam, N.; Bassett, Bruce A.; Smith, M.


Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Paper Publication Date

December 2015

Paper Type


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