Cleaning the USNO-B catalog through automatic detection of optical artifacts

Jonathan T. Barron, Christopher Stumm, David W. Hogg, Dustin Lang, Sam Roweis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The USNO-B Catalog contains spurious entries that are caused by diffraction spikes and circular reflection halos around bright stars in the original imaging data. These spurious entries appear in the Catalog as if they were real stars; they are confusing for some scientific tasks. The spurious entries can be identified by simple computer vision techniques because they produce repeatable patterns on the sky. Some techniques employed here are variants of the Hough transform, one of which is sensitive to (two-dimensional) overdensities of faint stars in thin right-angle cross patterns centered on bright (<13 mag) stars, and one of which is sensitive to thin annular overdensities centered on very bright (<7 mag) stars. After enforcing conservative statistical requirements on spurious-entry identifications, we find that of the 1,042,618,261 entries in the USNO-B Catalog, 24,148,382 (2.3 percent) are identified as spurious by diffraction-spike criteria and 196,133 (0.02 percent) are identified as spurious by reflection-halo criteria. The spurious entries are often detected in more than two bands and are not overwhelmingly outliers in any photometric properties; they therefore cannot be rejected easily on other grounds, i.e., without the use of computer vision techniques. We demonstrate our method, and return to the community in electronic form a table of spurious entries in the Catalog.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)414-422
    Number of pages9
    JournalAstronomical Journal
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


    • Astrometry
    • Catalogs
    • Methods: statistical
    • Standards
    • Techniques: image processing

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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