Saturday, April 28, 2012

Science Magazines are a "Men's Interest"

Last weekend I was out shopping with my daughter, who loves looking at the children's magazines. So we paused for a while in the magazine section of our local Tesco Express, and I noticed this:

This annoyed me.... so I tweeted it, and to my surprise this is what happened (as a Storify story):

I never expected to get so much response from an off the cuff tweet.

 I'm still waiting to hear back further from Tesco. I was in the same shop on Tuesday afternoon and nothing had changed.

Wondering how widespread this is (in Tesco or other stores). Can we collect evidence of it happening elsewhere?

I'll continue to update.

Friday, April 27, 2012

An Image which is More Beautiful, the Better You Understand It.

I wanted to share the above image, already described in great detail in An Entire Day Represented in One Panoramic Photo. This is an amazing image, and beautiful, but I think it's a great example of an image which is even more amazing and beautiful when you understand what it shows. From an astronomical point of view the main features are the path of the Sun across the daytime sky, and the circular star trails around the North Celestial Pole in the night time sky.

An annotated version is below.

For more beautiful photos of the night sky over Greece visit the photographer Chris Kotsiopoulos's website.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beautiful Galaxy M61

One of my favourite hashtags on Twitter is #bbcstargazing. During the programme I followed this to answer astronomy questions sent to it. Something I enjoyed the challenge of in 140 characters, and would love to continue if you tweet questions tagged #askastronomy.

Now the  #bbcstargazing hashtag is mostly astrophotographers posting their latest image. This morning the image being retweeted (RT) is this one of M61 taken by Daniel Marlow (@drm3107).

M61. Credit: Daniel Marlow
So it seemed like a good time for the next beautiful galaxy post - this one about M61.

Messier 61, is a bright spiral galaxy in the Southern extremity of the Virgo Cluster (our nearest large cluster of galaxies). It's notable astrophysically for having had 6 supernova observed in it, which apparently ties it with M83 as the Messier galaxy with the most observed supernova, but none of the supernova in M61 have been of the Type1a used to measure cosmological distances.

And the distance to M61 is a bit tricky to estimate. Being near the Virgo cluster whose large mass distorts the usual relationship between recessional velocity and distance you can't really just use the redshift of M61 to give it's distance, and other distance measurements listed in NED for M61 range from about 30 million - 90 million light years (10.1-35.5 Mpc). If it's at the distance of the centre of Virgo it's probably about 50 million light years away (16 Mpc).

Assuming that distance the size of M61 is quite similar to the Milky Way, and so is it's morphology. It's historical classification lists it as a weakly barred Sbc galaxy. It also host an actively accreting black hole in its centre.

Here is the Sloan Digital Sky Survey image of it:

M61: Credit SDSS
Another beautiful galaxy.

Links: LookUP on M61; SEDS on M61; NASA Extragalactic Database on M61; Wikipedia on M61.

Pencast about BOSS Galaxies

I decided to play with the pencast again recently (and stay tuned, possible plans afoot with help from @BeesinSpace). Anyway to remind myself how it all works I made the below pencast about my most recent first author paper on the types of galaxies in the Baryon Oscillation Sky Survey. I previously blogged about this project.

Hope you like my attempts to draw both the SDSS survey telescope and the Hubble Space telescope. :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

1000 Followers on Twitter!

Today I get to welcome my 1000th follower on Twitter which is pretty exciting to me.

Until some spam bots unfollow me and I dip below 1000 again, my 1000th follow is @peterdedmonds (who according to his Twitter profile works in publicity for the NASA Chandra satellite). Hello Peter. :)

I try to keep the tweets interesting and generally about astronomy/academic science. :)

 If you don't already you can follow me at this link: @KarenLMasters

 And here's a live update of the above screenshot from

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fun with Twitter Visualizations for NAM2012

I seem to be becoming an advocate of the use of Twitter for researchers (more on that after this year's dotAstro). So it might surprise you to learn I was a massive skeptic at first and only signed up under protest! ;) But the more time I spend on Twitter the more I appreciate the tool it provides to connect people (which in my case are generally astronomers).

 Anyway, one of the fun things about Twitter is the archive/visualizations you can make of a given search term. I did some of this with tweets from the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester last week, which were tweeted with the hashtag #NAM2012.

 By it's nature Twitter is transitory, so some of these visualizations won't last - for example the Graph of People Recently Tweeting #NAM2012 will be blank soon, but you can visit the link and put in the search term of your choosing.

This archive will remain, but I set it up late, so it only represents the last couple of days of NAM - and note to self, to set up such archives early for the next meeting. This service can only collect the last 500 tweets of a hashtag.

(And I should do a shoutout to Doug_Burke, a British astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics for sending me the links to these services which he has previously used to collect AAS tweets).

Because of that limitation I was tempted to get a bit more technical and tried downloading all Tweets with #NAM2012 before they disappeared. Thanks to dotastro I am confident/crazy enough to give this a go. I Googled for help, and found these instructions: Twitter: How to archive event hashtags and create an interactive visualization of the conversation which I followed to set up a Google spreadsheet collecting #NAM2012 tweets. This could get the last 1500 (which is Twitters limit, nothing to do with the code), which on Thursday meant tweets back to about Tuesday night at NAM (so not all, but most of them). I then set it up to display them in a NAM2012 visualization at TAGSexplorer. I think this will keep updating until I turn it off which I will do in a couple of days once all the NAM news stories are gone. 

 Hope you enjoy them. Try exploring the tweet timeline for a given users in the last one - hit play for a fun movie. :)