SuperWASP Blog

An update on “Real or Junk?”

26 November 2021, by Adam McMaster in Variable Stars

We recently added a big new batch of subjects to our Real or Junk? workflow, so I thought this was a good time to give you an update on our progress with that and what we’re planning to do next.

Real or Junk? is the new way to classify that we added to our Zooniverse project earlier this year. Rather than asking you to tell us what type of star you’re looking at, it simply asks you to help us sort light curves into two categories to help us separate the real variable stars from the noise. The results of that are then fed into the main light curve classification workflow so that we show people fewer bogus light curves when they’re classifying types of variable stars. This two-step process is quicker overall than keeping the junk light curves mixed in with the rest.

You can get to the Real or Junk? workflow via the project home page (under “get started”) and you can also find it in the Zooniverse mobile app on iOS and Android. It has been running for 11 months now and in that time we’ve managed to get though roughly half of the total data set. That’s fantastic progress and we want to keep that momentum going so that we can finish the rest in 2022.

Earlier this month we added roughly 400,000 new subjects to the Real or Junk? workflow. This is the biggest single batch of subjects we’ve added so far, and when these are finished we’ll be about three quarters of the way though the data set. So why have we added all these subjects at once? And why now? The answer relates to some work I’m doing with Mira variables.

As we teased in the above Tweet, I’m currently comparing our period search results to catalogues of known Mira variables. My plan is to see if the pulsation behaviour of any of them has changed and also to identify any new Miras that aren’t in the current catalogues. To do that I’m going to need Zooniverse classifications for all the potential Miras that SuperWASP observed. Mira variables are long-period pulsating stars, so as a first step I’d like to pre-filter all the long-period candidates identified in our search to remove the junk light curves. That’s the 400,000 subjects I’ve just made live in Real or Junk? and I’m hoping we can filter all of these by early next year.

We’re expecting the percentage of junk light curves to be higher in the long-period subjects than in the shorter ones (based on our earlier results), so once the junk filtering is complete we should have a few tens of thousands of subjects to classify by their variable star type. Watch this space for more on that!


The SuperWASP project is currently funded and operated by Warwick University and Keele University, and was originally set up by Queen’s University Belfast, the Universities of Keele, St. Andrews and Leicester, the Open University, the Isaac Newton Group, the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, the South African Astronomical Observatory and by STFC.

The Zooniverse project on SuperWASP Variable Stars is led by Andrew Norton (The Open University) and builds on work he has done with his former postgraduate students Les Thomas, Stan Payne, Marcus Lohr, Paul Greer, and Heidi Thiemann, and current postgraduate student Adam McMaster.

The Zooniverse project on SuperWASP Variable Stars was developed with the help of the ASTERICS Horizon2020 project. ASTERICS is supported by the European Commission Framework Programme Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation action under grant agreement n.653477

VeSPA was designed and developed by Adam McMaster as part of his postgraduate work. This work is funded by STFC, DISCnet, and the Open University Space SRA. Server infrastructure was funded by the Open University Space SRA.