Fund Me Maybe?

What better thing to do at a conference than make informative videos for the community, and have some fun in the mean time? That’s what Niall Deacon and Emily Rice did at the January AAS in Long Beach, and here’s the result. Great stuff :-)


Sign up for .Astronomy 5!

Today I signed up for the 5th edition of .Astronomy 5, which will take place in Cambridge, Massachussettes from 16 to 18 September 2013. I can’t believe it’s the 5th edition already – I was just a little baby postdoc of 27 when I travelled to Cardiff for the first edition – and I’m excited to be part of it now.

It’s the first time .Astronomy is crossing the pond to North America, and our local hosts in 2013 will be the Seamless Astronomy group at Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics, in particular Alyssa Goodman and Gus Muench. Several of the group’s members are .Astro alums, and with all the fascinating work they do, the links they have with the VO community and ADS, there’s no one better to organise the first US-based .Astro. The conference venue is Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center (MS NERD) – a perfect hub for a few days of hacking and unconferencing.

The sign up form is here, so if you’d like to come along, tell us here why and what you hope to contribute. As always we’ll be limiting participant numbers to around 50, so do tell us why the conference needs you!

As an aside, it’s super to see that two “.Astro-style” hack days have taken place in the US in recent months: there was one in New York, and this week a 2nd at the AAS conference in Long Beach. I’ve been very jealous to read all the excited tweets flying around, and I wish I’d been able to join! Whenever I talk about .Astronomy in the community, I always encourage people to organise their own events – a hack days requires very little organisation or money and is a good way of finding your local kindred hacky spirits, networking, generating new ideas or finding solutions for problems you’ve been working on. Excellent to see that happening!

American Astronomical Society Meeting, Austin


This week I’m at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, TX. I’m excited to be here for a number of reasons, first and foremost that I’ve never been to a AAS meeting before. It’s one of the biggest gatherings of astronomers, so there’s lots of people to meet, including some old friends and colleagues I haven’t seen in a while. And of course there’s the talks, the posters, and the wonderful city of Austin:


I’m planning to organise a meet-up for DotAstronomy alumnae/i and enthusiasts this evening, so keep an eye on twitter for details of that.

As always there’s a big media presence at AAS so expect some astronomy stories in the papers and online this week. AAS have a list of blogs and twitter accounts covering the meeting (mine’s not on there but if I hear interesting talks I’ll certainly write something about it). I’ve had lots of discussions recently about science reporting, peer review, blogging and such, so I was interested to read Blogging & Tweeting guidelines in the printed programme. A few selections:

[…] Please do not publicly report private conversations – only scheduled presentations and public comments are fair game for blogging, tweeting, etc.

Remember that many presentations at AAS meetings concern work that has not yet been peer reviewed. So think twice before posting a blog entry or tweet that is critical of such work. It is helpful to receive constructive criticism during the Q&A after your talk or while standing next to your poster, but it is hurtful to be raked over the coals online before your session is even over and with no easy way to respond. […]

That’s quite sensible really – it’s not trying to stop people from writing or commenting, just to be balanced, fair and take the status of the work into account. There’s also an embargo policy for the meeting:

When meeting abstracts are available publicly, either electronically or in print, they are not embargoed.Abstracts reflect the situation at the time of submission and often do not correspond exactly to the paper that is ultimately presented, usually months later. Reporters should note that preparing a story based exclusively on an abstract is ill-advised.Some results to be presented at AAS or Division meetings are also the subject of papers whose manuscripts are available via preprint servers such as or that have already been published in scholarly journals. Such publicly available results are not embargoed.Interviews with presenters, as well as graphics, animations, and other information to be presented for the first time at the meeting, are embargoed until the time of presentation, where “time of presentation” means the start time of the oral or poster session in which the paper will be given, or the start time of the corresponding press conference (if any), whichever comes first.For more information, see

If you’re a blogger/twitter friend, please come say hello!



Milky Way Project at AAS

Last week, the American Astronomical Society held the first of its big jamboree-style meetings of 2011 in Seattle. At these meetings, the great and the good of US astronomy gather and present their work, to each other and to the press – you may have noticed  the uptick of astronomy-related stories in the press. There was news on supermassive black holes, Milky Way satellites, first results from the flying telescope SOFIA,  distant protoclusters, a massive new Sloan Digital Sky Survey map and much, much more.

Several members of the Milky Way Project science team were also in attendance, and Rob Simpson presented a very nice poster on the progress of the project – I thought I’d share it here (via Slideshare – use the buttons below the image to enlarge, view full screen or share). Rob informs me that the numbers are already outdated, that we’ve now had around 12,000 volunteers draw bubbles. Great stuff!