TOM Workflow


Targets are the central entity of the TOM Toolkit. Most functionality in the toolkit requires a target as they are the object of study. A target represents an astronomical object (star, galaxy, asteroid, etc) and is usually represented using coordinates on the sky along with other meta data.

Creating Targets

The TOM Toolkit provides a variety of methods for importing astronomical targets into the TOM:

  • The Alert Module provides the functionality to create targets from alert brokers such as MARS <>__ and ANTARES <>__. These brokers generally provide alerts from transient phenomena as soon as they happen, and a scientist who is interested in studying these phenomena can import these alerts as targets into their TOM to study in real time.

  • Online catalogs such as SIMBAD and the JPL Horizons contain information on millions of existing astronomical objects. If a scientist wishes to study one of these existing objects, they can query these catalogs directly from the TOM and use the returned data to create TOM Targets.

  • Manual entry/bulk upload allows a scientist to create targets that aren’t known by any of the existing catalogs or use more precise information that they know of.


After creating targets, the scientist needs to collect data on these targets. The TOM Observing module provides an interface to several observatories for which observations can be requested.

Requesting Observations

Using the TOM Observation module, scientists can request observations of their targets to one or many different observatories. Since the observing module has access to targets stored in the TOM database it can automatically fill in many of the observing parameters required by observing facilities, greatly reducing the workload of the scientist. The observing module also provides a common interface, removing the need of the scientist to navigate many different online systems to request observations.

Observations can also be requested in a completely automated manner, which is particularly useful for rapid response time domain follow-up programs.


Observation Status

Once an observation for a target is created it’s status is kept up to date within the TOM. When the status of an observation request at an observatory changes (failed, completed, postponed, etc) the scientist may be notified by the TOM.


The ultimate goal of the TOM toolkit is to collect and organize data. The TOM data module provides several methods for obtaining data, the most obvious being from completed observations. Scientists can also upload any data they’d like to associate with their targets as well.

Data Processing

The TOM toolkit provides a framework to write custom code to interact with the data the TOM obtains (among other things). These are called “hooks” and they can be used by scientists to write custom image pipelines, data quality checks, or to hook into entirely different systems. For example: if a scientist has existing code that checks images of microlensed stars for exoplanets, they may hook the code into the TOM toolkit directly to run whenever new data is acquired.

Downloading Data

Data is stored in the TOM toolkit by default, but many scientists may want to download the data somewhere else to do offline processing. Scientists can easily download data to their local machines, and the data module by default stores all it’s data on a local file system. However, it can be customized to store data on cloud services, like Amazon S3, when desired.