Angelle Tanner is an assistant professor at Mississippi State University with interests in multiple methods of exoplanet detection and characterization.

Situation 1:You make a preliminary list of target stars using SIMBAD and then follow up with a tedious search through Vizier and individual papers for all the additional observational data you need to motivate a proposal, prepare for an observing run or complete a table for a paper.

Situation 2: You are pondering writing a telescope proposal to collect AO images of a set of nearby stars with known infrared excesses but you are not sure which of your target stars may have already be observed since people are slow to publish their collection of non-detection statistics.

While current archives like SIMBAD and Vizier are a valuable resource for stellar observable and physical parameters the data is incomplete and difficult to accumulate into a single table which is customized for a particular research topic or observing goal. With the Starchive we wish to utilize the power of community access to populate a database initially containing all known stellar, sub-stellar and planetary objects within 25 parsecs. Because the original science goal of the Starchive was to compliment or support exoplanet research for the first year we will focus on both the objects within 25 parsecs as well as the nearest young stars (<50pc). The database will be designed to be expandable in both stellar content (larger volume) and parameter content as both stellar and exoplanet fields evolve.

The database will contain observable meta-data like photometry, vsini, radial velocities, distances, proper motions, metallicities, etc. as well as derived physical parameters such as mass, radii, luminosity, age and effective temperature. If multiple values of a parameter are available then all will be shown and there will be a “preferred” value that will be chosen by the science users group. The database will also contain high contrast images, infrared and optical spectra and light curves. The database will allow users to download data in multiple formats and will have its own suite of plotting tools.

Similar to the website used for the Kepler Community Follow-up Observing Program, verified Starchive contributors will be able to upload data ranging from meta-data to images and spectra. While anyone will be allowed to download data from the archive, only verified users will be allowed to upload any data. A fidelity team will monitor the accuracy of uploaded data and those who contribute the most to the archive will be highlighted on the main page. In an effort to not reinvent the wheel, we plan to utilize existing programs such as those found on exoplanets.org and the Kepler CFOP. We also plan on interfacing the front end of the archive with github so that the community can develop additional plotting tools to interface with the database. Therefore by allowing the community to contribute to the database we are open access and by encouraging people to down load and contribute code we are open source.

Feel free to check out starchive.org in a few months to check out our progress. The project currently employs a couple MSU undergrads and we are searching for a postdoc to fill a three year position at MSU. Finally, we are also looking for members to form science, user and fidelity committees. Contact Angelle Tanner for further inquiries.

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Fabric Conference Posters FTW!

by Guest on March 25, 2015

Emily Rice is an assistant professor at the College of Staten Island and a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History. She is also responsible for those parody songs that get stuck in your head.

Dearest Colleagues, I have printed my last paper conference poster and carried my last poster tube. Forsooth I have discovered the fabric poster, and I will never look back! Fabric posters are high print quality, cheaper than paper posters, and so much easier to transport. The only downside is that you need to order them at least a week in advance for the best product.

Fabric posters are increasingly popular at conferences, and there are many sources online. After being impressed by Caroline Morley’s poster at Cool Stars 18 I was ready to take the plunge for STARtorialist at AAS 225. I did some limited scoping of other fabric posters at AAS 225, and as far as I can tell the clear winner is what I tried: Performance Knit fabric from Spoonflower.

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The poster arrived slightly creased from being folded in the shipping envelope, but the creases disappeared after a short time spread out on the hotel bed. The fabric is light but sturdy, smooth to the touch, and only slightly stretchy. The printed images are vibrant and crisp. Even the smallest fonts I used (24 point native, ~14-16 point in a pasted image), appeared clear and legible. The poster hung easily without drooping (proof), and I even could carry it in my bag during the rest of the conference (the best response to “Sorry I missed your poster” is definitely: “Don’t worry, I have it right here!”). If you’re afraid no one will recognize you at the airport without your trusty poster tube, you can wear your poster as a cape or a scarf! Just make sure to submit a photo to STARtorialist.

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Printing via Spoonflower can be intimidating if you don’t have experience printing or buying fabric, but they have detailed instructions for creating the proper file. The most important thing is to make your file 150 dpi and the size you’d like it to print (higher dpi isn’t better for fabric printing). Fabric is typically sold by the yard (length), and the width is determined by the type of fabric. On Spoonflower the fabric widths vary from 42″ to 58″ (the performance knit is 56” wide). By creating your poster 36” in one dimension you can purchase just one yard of fabric. The AAS poster limit is 44” by 44” so I recommend making the poster 36” wide by 44” tall, then rotate your poster image for printing. If you select “Basic Repeat” under the printing options, you’ll have the top 12” of your poster repeated on the bottom – nice motivation for creating an aesthetically pleasing header. For display at AAS 225 I simply pinned the extra fabric behind the poster. Alternately you could make the poster 44” wide and trim the extra fabric. The preview feature makes it easy to check that your poster will print they way you want (see below). Best of all, one yard of performance knit fabric is just $21.60 ($24 less the 10% discount for designing your own fabric).

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The downside with Spoonflower is the printing/shipping time: you’ll need to have your poster finished a week before the conference. Spoonflower’s standard printing turnaround time changes depending on their order volume. Today the turnaround estimate is 7 to 8 days, which is an eternity in pre-conference preparation time. Guaranteed Delivery arrives two days after it is shipped but doesn’t rush the printing. Rush Delivery orders placed by noon EST will be shipped the next business day so that’s the way to go. Before AAS 225 I placed my order on December 24, it shipped December 29 and arrived December 31. For one yard/poster the costs are \$3 for standard shipping, \$15 for Guaranteed Delivery, and \$25 for Rush Delivery. Shipping costs are determined by weight so combining orders can decrease the cost: I tested 2 yards (\$6, \$15, \$25), 3 yards (\$6, \$28, \$48), and 4-6 yards (\$7, \$28, $48). That can bring your cost down to $30 per poster, including Rush Delivery!

At AAS 225 I also saw a Spoonflower-printed combed cotton poster and several PosterSmith posters. The cotton fabric from Spoonflower costs slightly less, but it was thin and off-white with visible fibers. PosterSmith received positive reviews for fast printing and shipping (received in two days in rural Pennsylvania!), but the price is similar to Fedex Office ($118 for a 42” by 42” poster, shipping included), and the quality was decent but not stunning. The print looked good – vibrant colors and crisp lines – but the posters were stiff and some had creases that wouldn’t budge. Spoonflower has many more fabric options to try, but I’ll be sticking with the performance knit.

Have you printed a fabric poster from Spoonflower, PosterSmith, or another service? Share your reviews in the comments!

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During AAS225 in Seattle, there was an announcement about changes coming to the AAS Journals: Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), Astrophysical Journal Letters (ApJL), and the Astronomical Journal (AJ). These changes include lots of awesome things such as “linking articles directly to data archives, providing for video abstracts, improving figure presentation, making figures interactive, introducing the ability to produce 3-D presentations.” The changes also include some more controversial things like changing the journal titles (including changing ApJ Letters to “Letters of the AAS”) and the process used to figure out what paper gets published where. Not a lot of details were given and the community understandably has lots of questions, concerns, and opinions about these changes.

Motivated by the plethora of questions, concerns, and confusion that the AAS Agents were reporting, the AAS has followed up with some more information in an announcement posted yesterday: Changes Ahead for AAS Journals. In this announcement, we got more details about the process, the Transition Team currently being assembled, and a request for community input. In particular,

Some of the decisions yet to be made:

    • Names for the new journals. Should we continue the valuable AJ and ApJ brands, consolidate under one new title, or add titles?
    • Content. How can content best be channeled, such that the impact factor of the journals and visibility for authors increases?

The AAS has provided a Comment Box on the journals site where you can communicate directly to the AAS Leadership and the AAS Journals Transition Team.

There is already a lively discussion, as always, on the Astronomers FaceBook Group. Some of the concerns raised there are about how will the non-astronomers (mostly physicists) who serve on many of our tenure and promotion committees evaluate our papers in journals which 1) no longer exist under the name we published them in and 2) have ambiguous “prestige” factor.

Beyond the journal titles, I’m very interested in the prospect of data linking. I’ve spoken out on this topic before (A call for open access to all data in AJ and ApJ articles) and I think it should be a requirement of publication. Is that possibility on the table?

Also, the possibility of 3D interactive figures is mind blowing and really pushing the envelope for scientific publication. I can’t wait to start messing around with 3D plotting and to stop struggling with projections and clever ways to indicate extra dimensions!

So what do you think? What are you excited about? What are you worried about? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

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For those of you not in the know, at the past AAS meeting, a session was held on Licensing Astrophysics Codes based on suggestions that such a session would be interesting and useful to astronomers. This is a topic previously discussed in an AstroBetter guest post by Jake VanderPlas in March of 2014.

In case you missed the session but are interested in what was covered, the Astrophysics Source Code Library has a summary of each talk along with the presentation slides available here. Huge thanks to Alice Allen for the writeup!

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Data Exploration with Glue

by Guest February 2, 2015

Chris Beaumont is a software engineer at Counsyl, and previously a software engineer at Harvard and the Space Telescope Science Institute. Glue began as a side project during Chris’ PhD thesis, and is now being developed to visualize data from the James Webb Space Telescope. We’ve recently released version 0.4 of Glue, a Python-based GUI […]

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Using WriteLaTeX for Collaborative Papers

by Guest January 12, 2015

Adric Riedel is a postdoctoral researcher at the College of Staten Island, working with the Brown Dwarf research in NYC (BDNYC)  group. We all love Google Docs. It’s a functional and convenient way to share and collaboratively edit documents across platforms, time zones, and even continents. We in the BDNYC group use it extensively. But […]

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Beyond the U.S. Virtual Astronomical Observatory

by Guest December 29, 2014

Joseph Lazio is a Chief Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and former Project Scientist of the U.S. Virtual Astronomical Observatory. This post provides an update on the status of Virtual Observatory efforts within the U.S., following the end of the U.S. Virtual Astronomical Observatory Project. The VAO developed various tools […]

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AAS 225 Software/Programming Events

by Danny Barringer December 18, 2014

Just a quick link to share with everyone today. For those of you who are particularly interested in the programming side of astronomy (and I know there are a lot of you), I would like to share this extensive list of all software-related offerings at AAS 225. This list was compiled by those at the […]

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AAS Winter Meeting #AAS225

by Danny Barringer December 3, 2014

It’s that time of year again. The Winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society (the Superbowl of Astronomy, as I like to call it) is nearly upon us. To make the most of your time at the meeting, we at AstroBetter would like to remind you of some resources available on the Wiki. First, the […]

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Python in Astronomy Workshop: Developing community resources

by Guest November 17, 2014

Thomas Robitaille (@astrofrog) is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy working on star formation and radiative transfer. He is an active developer in the Python Astronomy community and is one of the co-ordinators and core developers for the Astropy project. We are holding a workshop on the topic of Python in Astronomy […]

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