Ural Federal University: Scientists Created Complete Radiation Source Database in Distant Space

Scientists from Ural Federal University, the Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow), and the Joint Institute for RSDB ERIC (the Netherlands) have created the most comprehensive and convenient online database of water masers, the cosmic sources of microwave radiation. This will allow discovering new patterns of star formation regions, identifying and investigating the most promising objects in our galaxy. An article describing the base was published by colleagues in The Astronomical Journal.

Masers in star-forming areas (mainly of three types: water, methanol, and hydroxyl) are frequently encountered in our galaxy, and they are variable: their emission is brighter, then weaker. Therefore, studies of masers require reference to data on their former state, while the volumes of information are growing at a great speed.

“Our database of water masers in the Galaxy is the most substantial. It covers 95% of all observations of water masers in star-forming areas, published since 1989, and almost 100% of the sources. The database is constantly being updated and will soon concentrate all the information on water masers in star-forming areas. The database contains full observational characteristics of masers: position, radiant velocity, emission intensity and other”, says Dmitry Ladeishchikov, the project manager and senior researcher at the Kourovka Astronomical Observatory of the Ural Federal University.

As source material, the developers used data from more than 140 articles, from which they extracted not only numerical data, but also images (spectra) and text descriptions of maser sources. The researchers divided the article into several categories: general maser studies, maser variability studies, maser flare studies, etc. In addition, data in the infrared, millimeter and other wavelength ranges are made available through the database. This is especially important for a comprehensive study of maser sources.

The database is equipped with modern technological solutions for selecting sources, presenting information online, and has a user-friendly interface. It is possible to select and analyze data directly in the user’s browser. New data is entered semi-automatically with the support of a specialized information system developed by Dmitry Ladeishchikov.

“In this way, the database opens up the possibility of quick and convenient access to almost the entire corpus of observational archives. Previously, maser researchers had to find and analyze a large amount of heterogeneous data scattered in different articles on their own. Now the comprehensive information is systematized and the search process takes a few seconds. This makes it much faster to analyze the data and draw conclusions from it,” emphasizes Ladeishchikov.

Thus, based on the previously created database on methanol masers and comparing them with water masers, scientists at the Kourovka Astronomical Observatory of UrFU confirmed that water masers are among the earliest indicators of star formation processes.

The database on water masers is part of a large project that has been underway at the Kourovka Astronomical Observatory for the past five years. The goal of the project is to accumulate comprehensive data on observed masers of all types. Previous work performed by Ural Federal University astronomers was devoted to creating a similar database on methanol masers, as well as on masers in circumstellar sources. There are plans to create a database on hydroxyl masers. According to Dmitry Ladeishchikov, statistical analysis of the information collected, including machine learning methods, will make it possible to predict the location of previously unknown masers and effectively plan future observations.

In 2020, the Bureau of the Scientific Council on Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences included the project to create a database on maser sources in the list of the most important achievements of astronomical research in the Russian Federation.

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