The Alpha List

We have recently added a new feature to the Stardust@home website to help make our candidate selection process more transparent, called the Alpha List.

The Alpha list is a list of focus movies that show the most promise in being a candidate stardust particle track. The alpha list movies are chosen from the top scoring focus movies as determined by all of the Stardust@home Dusters. The alpha list also contains some movies that were mentioned in the forums and promoted by the Stardust@home team as being promising. Other alpha list movies have been promoted to the list by members of our Red Team.

We have recently formed a so-called “Red Team” for Stardust@home, consisting of 29 of the most experienced Dusters. Red Teams at NASA are used to evaluate and improve projects. Our Red Team evaluates the top candidates by rating the alpha list movies and making comments about them. The Red Team members were selected based on their experience in the project, they are some of the highest scorers from Phases 1 and 2 as well as some of our Dustmods from the forums. You, too, can join the Red Team. You qualify to join by scoring in the top 23 of the Phase 2 rankings.

The Red Team and the Stardust@home team have been reviewing the alpha list and giving each movie on the list a rating on a 10-point scale where 0 is not likely at all to be an interstellar dust impact, and 10 is the highest likelihood. The ratings you see on the alpha list page are the average of the ratings given to each movie by the Red Team and the Stardust@home team.

We start off with millions of movies. Dusters are the only technology we have to identify movies of interest. Once enough Dusters have identified a movie, it is then promoted to the alpha list. The alpha list is then refined by the Red Team. Finally, the Science Team prioritizes the alpha list for extraction and analysis.

Now that we are extracting candidates from the collector, we will be learning a tremendous amount about the features that the Stardust@home “dusters” have identified. The contrast between the images taken while the track is still in the aerogel tile in the collector, and in the
keystone extracted from the collector, (see the blog) shows how important it is to do extractions. We will all be learning together!