Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beautiful Galaxy M100

I stumbled across a picture of the galaxy Messier 100 (NGC 4321) this morning, and just felt inspired to share it's beauty. I might share more of these as a way for me to learn the NGC numbers of some classic galaxy examples!

 So here it is - as seen by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

M100 as seen by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
The central region has been observed by HST, which is also worth a look.

The central region of M100 seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.
And I encourage you to do a Google Image Search on Messier 100 to see the vast array of beautiful images of this galaxy (PS. avoid searching on M100 if you're squeamish. Yuck!).

M100 is a classic example of a grand design spiral, meaning it has clear well defined spiral arms. And look how far round they wind - it's lovely. Its classic classification (from the RC3 as listed in NED) is as an Sbc galaxy with a weak bar and an inner ring (SAB(s)bc). Apparently it's a similar size galaxy to our own Milky Way, and has played an important role in the history of extragalactic astronomy. This object is a member of our nearest large cluster of galaxies - the Virgo Cluster, and in 1994 was the first galaxy in the Virgo Cluster to have a distance measured to it using Cepheid Variables (via the Leavitt Law, see Freedman et al. 1994) which was an important step towards a reliable measurement of the Hubble constant.

Oh, and I should put in a plug for the excellent LookUP website, by @astronomyblog (Stuart Lowe). Check out the LookUP entry for M100 - turns out it also has a very interesting black hole - possibly the youngest known, and born in the same year as me. Cool! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Zooniverse of Galaxies

A busy day today - an article on my research I was asked to write for the L'Oreal For Women in Science Blog, Agora appears today.

A Zooniverse of Galaxies.

Practical Tips for Scientists Interacting with the Media (from Will Gater at NAM)

In my opinion one of the best sessions at the UK National Astronomy Meeting held in Llandudno this April was a "Meet the Press" session aimed at giving scientists information on how the press works, what will help them.

 In that session Will Gater presented a list of practical tips for scientists who want to/have to interact with the media. I thought it might be useful to reproduce them here (based on the notes I took in April, so my apologies to Will if I'm misrepresenting what he actually said!).

1. Have a person webpage (my comment about this is that it always surprises me when scientists don't have this as it's so easy to do in a university setting). Will's advice for the website was that it should (a) be kept fresh; (b) list your specialisms/research interests; (c) give clear contact details; (d) have a list of your recent papers; (e) contain information about your career path/biography.

2. Have a head shot ready (should be high resolution).

3. Understand the lead times on publications when thinking about making press releases. For example magazines plan issues 4-5 weeks in advance, while newspapers work on much shorter timescales.

4. Understand how the media find information about science stories. Will listed (a) press releases; (b) tip offs; (c) reading papers on the arXiV; (d) twitter (and he said that this last one was really useful to see the whole process of science, and get a sense of what researchers are talking about).

Will then went on to give some advice on the contents of a good press release. Which from my notes were:

1. Give clear contact details.

2. List the names of people involved in the research.

3. Put the main result in the first paragraph along with who has done it.

4. Have a clear headline (try to write it like an article - since, rightly or wrongly, many online articles will be a verbatim copy of the press release).

5. Clearly list the wider implications.

6. Provide a high resolution image (300 dpi).

For interviewing, he advised that you think about in advance what the questions might be (what do you worry about the most). He suggested that if you talk about how it felt to do the research that will add a lot.

 You can follow Will on Twitter.

Remembering John Huchra at the Boston AAS

One of the things I participated in at the recent American Astronomical Society Meeting in Boston (held in May) was a session on Remembering John Huchra. The slides from the speakers at that session have recently been made public on the AAS Website: Remembering John Slides (available to non-members).

 This reminded me that I took some photos during the session which I wanted to share.

Greg Bothun starts things off talking about John's thesis work on little blue galaxies. 

Jeremy Mould talks about John's work on the Hubble Constant. 

Pauline Barmby (one of John's relatively few former PhD students) talks about the great diversity of science topics he was interested in. 

Pauline Barmby also talked about John's love of observing.

Debra Elmegreen (current AAS President) talks about John's work for the 2010 Decadal Survey where he Chaired the sub-committee on the state of the profession.

Debra talks about how John was quite concerned about the state of the profession especially the large numbers of soft money positions (basically short term contract workers). 

Debra also talked about meeting the Pope with John. 

Things got quite emotional at this point, as Debra talked about how John  so enjoyed their trip to Vatican City. 

Craig Wheeler talked about John's contributions to the AAS as the President in 2010. 

 At this point I gave my talk about John's work on the 2MASS Redshift Survey, and our plans to finish and publish the data - which I have previously blogged about.

After my talk I moved further back in the hall, here's my final shot was of Marc Postman talking about John's influence on his students (official and unofficial) and others he mentored. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

End of the World in 2012? An Infographic

Stumbled across the below infographic from InformationisBeautiful today (with the help of @astrojenny on Twitter). A nice visual summary of the points made by so-called "Mayan Doomsday" prophets clearly set against the actual facts. Looks like a useful resource for astronomers in the next 18 months.

As I have previously stumbled into 2012 debunking (see Karen and 2012, also you can listen to me debate it on The Montel Williams show last year) a lot of this was familiar, but this is a wonderfully clear way to lay it all out.