We Have LIFTOFF!

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After the scrubbed launch on Monday, my wife helped convince me to stay the extra two days in Florida to see the next attempt... and on Wednesday last week I was privileged to watch one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!

Check out this week's vlog for a personal look at TESS launching on a SpaceX Falcon 9:

Rocket Launch?

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I've never had the chance to see a real rocket launch - until now! I was invited to come watch the launch of TESS, NASA's new exoplanet hunting mission. This is because I was the lead on one of the first "Guest Investigator" programs, which will do all the other science with TESS beyond finding neat planets. This mission will likely be the cornerstone of my research for the next several years!

So now I'm traveling to Florida to watch a telescope get launched in to space!! WOOO!


Alas, the launch was scrubbed on Monday, but is slated now for Wednesday. You can watch the launch live here!

Video: 11 months overdue...

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I finally finished this paper draft I'm working on, the 2nd major paper in my NSF postdoc work... only 11 months behind when I'd hoped!

 Today I'm discussing project timelines, and Daniela and I go checkout some cool stuff on UW's campus. Enjoy Ep. 19 of my Astronomy Vlog! Be sure to subscribe for weekly updates!

Cherry Blossoms, Ethics, and a Selfie from OUTER SPACE!

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In this week's Astro Vlog episode I get to attend a super interesting talk about Data Science and Ethics, and give a short/fun talk about the WaveAtKepler selfie of Earth (that I discussed in a previous post) at the Seattle "Astronomy on Tap" monthly event!

Since it's spring, the beautiful cherry blossoms are also out at UW!

Check it out...



Be sure to subscribe for more weekly videos about life as an astronomer!

Video: Problems with Academia

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This wasn't the video I wanted to shoot. I had planned to talk about workflow and writing, but instead I spent the day saddened and outraged by what happened to a colleague...

What follows are some thoughts for them, and about systemic problems of racism and equity in academia we must address. Further, as a person who has been privileged, fortunate, and blessed beyond anything that is reasonable in this life, I have a moral duty to be an agent of this change.

Coffee Time: David Hogg

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Another edition of "Coffee Time" on my Astro Vlog!

This time we're taking a few minutes out of the TESS.ninja Sprint in NYC to talk with David Hogg about Hack/Sprint Weeks, the future of astronomy, and the upcoming Gaia Sprint in June.

Hogg traces these events back to .Astronomy, an "unconference" focused on Astronomy and the web. I attended "Dot Astro" 6 in Chicago in 2014, and it was an exciting meeting full of quickly made projects, long discussions, new ideas... For anyone in astronomy interested in how we communicate and interact on the web, I would honestly recommend attending a .Astro meeting!



I think these Hack/Sprint events are a major change for our field, which is why I continue to attend the AAS Hack Together Day, and these Sprints. Projects I typically work on are well thought out (i.e. leading directly to a paper/result), and can take months (or years!) to complete. Most importantly for me, these hack/sprint events provide a time and space to exercise a different mode of working on science: to speculate, experiment in new domains, learn quick, and fail fast.

As Hogg points out in the video below, for many meetings/conferences the "best" parts are the coffee breaks (or dinners, drinks, hallway chance encounters, etc). Science is a human endeavor, and when we spend the time and money to gather I believe we should maximize the human interaction.

Thanks to the Simons Foundation for hosting TESS.ninja at Math for America and the Flatiron Institute. It was a great week full of productive hacks, new ideas, and has me even more excited for the upcoming TESS launch!!

Science and a NYC Snow Storm!

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Two days of hacking/coding/sprinting at the TESS.ninja Sprint in NYC! The weather in New York City turned from sunny and beautiful to sorta snowy. Similarly, my project ideas went from well defined to vague and unfocused -- and then back again! Best for me: great break-out sessions and conversations with people.

I didn't vlog the whole TESS Sprint, but this video covers two days and shows the highs and lows of my time at the meeting. The meeting was a huge success (wrap-up slides here). I had some good science results, learned some new tools, fixed/improved some old ones, and am even more excited for TESS!



In other news, I'm hoping to get to attend the TESS launch next month! If that works out, I'll definitely be vlogging it.

Video: Traveling to NYC for the TESS Sprint

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A short vlog, including a red-eye flight from Seattle to NYC, and the beginning of the TESS.ninja Sprint!

This week I'll be working on flares, musing about "Boyajian's Star", tinkering with images from Kepler/K2.




In other news, NASA has published an official release about the #WaveAtKepler image! (featured in a previous vlog episode, and my Medium writeup here). Very cool!

Coffee Time: Meredith Rawls

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Last week I grabbed coffee with a good friend, and fellow UW Astronomer, Meredith Rawls! We talked about open source software, learning to code, LSST, and our hopes for the future.

Also I drank some great coffee at my favorite Seattle cafe (Solstice!)

Check it out, and be sure to subscribe!

Kepler's Selfie from Outer Space

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Yesterday I received a picture that I've been waiting for over 2 years to see! I posted a longer article about this image in late November, but in short: as part of the normal operations for the Kepler space telescope's "K2" mission, the Earth was going to be in the field of view for a few days in January! Erin Ryan and I petitioned NASA (i.e. wrote an observing proposal) for them to capture this moment as an iconic image that symbolizes the entire Kepler mission. Though we weren't funded, NASA agreed to take the image!

For you data nerds out there, you can play with this image too. Warning: the entire image is over 400mb (it's a monster digital camera), and it's still in a very raw form. The Kepler GO office put a smaller file up here, which only contains the channel with the Earth on it, and Geert Barentsen tweeted how to make your own version of the image in Python!

I have a TON more to say about this image, what it means to me personally, why it's technically interesting, and why I think it's valuable... but for now, here's another installment of my Astro Vlog featuring the Kepler Selfie:



If you're digging these videos showing life as an astronomer, be sure to support me and subscribe on YouTube! I have a LOT of science trips planed this spring/summer, and am looking forward to bringing my camera (and you all) along for the ride.

Video: Making connections between projects

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New episode of the Astro Vlog for the week, thinking about the connections between projects and people. One of the most important things for scientists to do is just talk to each other! This is how we learn about data/missions/ideas/skills that might compliment things we're doing.

In my case, at least 6 times in recent memory I've found myself telling people about the WISE mission, and some of the amazing data that is available. I'm not paid to do it, or even officially involved with WISE, but it's data I've been interested in for years. My friend Ethan and I are even toying with ideas on how to find planets with WISE (GitHub repo here), even though the current WISE mission is looking for Near Earth Asteroids!

Video: Tea and Procrastination

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I've posted a new Astro Vlog, this time introducing a new segment: Coffee Time! (we're drinking tea today... but that's OK, we're beverage agnostic here!)

These are intended to be short conversations with interesting people I get to visit with.


Today I'm chatting with my colleague, fellow DIRAC Fellow, Daniela Huppenkothen. We're talking about tea, workflow, and procrastination. This is a serious topic for "knowledge workers", who have to be self-motivated to write or produce their content.

In astronomy, especially in the early years of our careers, daily schedules can be very unstructured. I typically don't teach, and I try to keep very few weekly meetings or phone-cons scheduled. Also I travel a lot, which makes me an unreliable officemate at times.

At the same time, many projects take several years to complete! (Though I've been convinced for many years this doesn't need to be our normal workflow - thus my involvement in HackDays/Weeks, etc) Procrastination naturally arises from this environment of slow, complex work with little structure. AND THAT IS OK! Junior people, listen to the wisdom of Daniela: you do not need to be a productivity machine!

Video: Talking about SETI

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Last week I gave a talk (slides here) about SETI with ZTF and LSST at the "VASCO Workshop".

Here's a video with a short story about how I originally had this idea over 10 years ago, and how it shaped the scientist that I am today.



For those who are interested, here's the April Fools paper I mention, and the writeup I did on THIS blog at the time. Oh, and a little media coverage it received a couple years later!

Video: HOW TO VLOG

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After my AAS 231 daily vlog series, there were lots of questions about how I produced these videos.

Since it may be interesting to some people, I shot a short "how to vlog" video. Check it out!



Of course, the real answer is: steal ideas from smarter people than myself! In particular, I learned a TON from my brother-in-law, whose vlog is here.

Daily Vlog at the AAS 231 Meeting!

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As I mentioned in my previous post, at AAS 231 this year I shot a vlog. The idea (and minimum goal for declaring "success") was to shoot a video about the Hack Together Day. I'm proud to say I beat that goal and


I shot and posted a VLOG about AAS 231 every day!

Topics discussed include:

  • science & astronomy
  • data visualization/sonification
  • conference swag & free food
  • conference experiences
  • self care
  • the hack day!


Here is the first video in that series, a short travel day vlog:


My favorite episode is probably the one from Day 4 on "Self Care", i.e. surviving the week-long marathon that these big meetings can be!

Here is the entire YouTube Playlist for your viewing pleasure.

This was my first time doing any youtube vlogging, and it was a ton of fun. People at AAS were very supportive and willing to give me their time to help make the project a success. I'd hoped, amongst other things, to show an "insiders" view of what it's like to attend this conference, and I think I did!

If you want to see what it's like to be at AAS, give these a watch!

Also, this project generated some excitement back home, so subscribe on Youtube for more videos in the coming weeks giving a view of what life as an astronomer is like.

Video: my AAS231 hack day project

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AAS 231 is less than a week away! I'm super excited, since it has been almost 2 years since I was at a AAS meeting. Longtime readers of this blog will know this is a meeting where I get lots of inspiration, and carry out new side-projects (e.g. the Gender in Astro Talks survey!)

This year is no different, and I will be doing a new Hack Day project: creating a AAS/Hack Day vlog!

As a long-time blogger, I know to not promise too much in terms of specific output (the best laid plans...), but my hope is to shoot several videos documenting what it's like to attend the worlds largest* annual astronomy meeting. Here is a short video explaining the project, and how you can help!


I'm hoping these videos will capture some of the synthesis moments, the conversations between scientists that give rise to new ideas and projects. I'll be documenting heavily the Hack Together Day itself, and trying to film conversations between myself and other astronomers throughout the week. If you're a junior scientist or student and have a poster and want me to help promote your work, I would love to chat! Hit me up!

Twitter Bonus: I'll also be running the AstroTweeps twitter account (@astrotweeps) during that week, so I'll be posting poster pics/live-tweets of talks, and insights into the meeting there!

Since this website has often focused on data visualization, I'll of course try to highlight awesome plots/graphics/maps, and especially animations I'm seeing.


See you all in DC at #AAS231 soon!


*largest annual meeting, probably not the largest single meeting
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