UK Travelogue

UK Travelogue

[Note: This post was written over three days] My second morning in Oxford can perhaps best be described as a series of directions: around the circle, through the campus, over the hill, past the castle, down the hill, dash at the bridge. I’m currently sitting with my computer on a train on my way out to the Rutherford-Appleton Station where I’ll be talking with Chris Davis about STEREO and other missions. Getting to the train was one of those experiences that led me to believe there is a certain calculus of foot directions that needs to be applied when getting walk times from people taller than I am. Twice now on this trip I’ve received directions that included the friendly phrase: “It is a 15-minute walk” Both these declarations were...

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AAVSO/BAA Day 1: Lost in Translation

After the talk on spectral work by amateurs I fled across campus to the Pathology building and a room of Naked Scientists. More exactly, one of our wonderful fans e-introduced Chris Smith and I and said we should meet, and she was right. Chris Smith is the originator of perhaps the first online/online radio science show. Each week, he and his team bring a wide range of topics to BBC radio, iTunes, and essentially the world. Quite coincidently, this week’s show was on stars, and he interviewed me about the AAVSO, my pro-am collaboration, and how all these things work together. I then dragged him to a pub where we met with a couple fans of the show, and several other AAVSO members, and he got to use his “Carry it everywhere” portable rig to...

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AAVSO/BAA Day 1: Chasing Rainbows (or Spectra)

One of the hardest things you can observationally do in astronomy is spectroscopy. You have to guide really well to keep the light on the slit. You have to calibrate the sensitivity across you chip (flat fielding like you do in imaging), the sensitivity as a function of wavelength (using a hot standard star as a continuum source), and how the wavelengths are spaced (diffracted) as a function of wavelength (this is done with a standard lamp). If any step is screwed up, you are hosed. For this reason many people consider spectroscopy far to hard for any but the profs. They are wrong. Anyone with a penchant for details and a love of science can do spectroscopy with a telescope (12inch works, bigger is better). Currently I’m listening to a talk showing amatuer...

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AAVSO/BAA: Reaching Out Effectively

As well as blogging this meeting as best I can, I’m also here try very hard to suck as many people into communicating astronomy as I can. To that end, I gave a talk on a project to create a Speaker’s Bureau, a Writer’s Bureau and an archive of publicly available presentations. Led by Mike Simonsen, with significant contributions by Donn Starkey and Kate Davis and emailing by me, this suite of outreach activities seeks to supply astronomy clubs and associations with a list of eager speaker’s who are willing to travel to their meetings and give talks (we state how far they will travel on their own dime, and how much farther they’ll go if the association covers their costs). If it is at all possible, we want to get an variable star talk...

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AAVSO/BAA Day 1: Remote Observing

So, if you’re like, you may not own a telescope (story later, because I know you’ll ask). Like me, you may love looking through telescopes, taking images through telescopes, and just being able to intellectually get your hands dirty doing observational astronomy. If you are like me, you just can’t quite afford the scope you want. My personal way of handling this empty space in my life that a telescope could fit into is to find skilled amateurs to take data for me and to thief (or at least legally download) data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. When I’m lucky, I get to look through other peoples scopes. There are other options though, and a very humorous presenter, Martin Nicholson,  is giving a great presentation on his use of Global...

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