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.

python-blackWe are holding a workshop on the topic of Python in Astronomy at the Lorentz Center in Leiden from April 20th to 24th 2015. The workshop will adopt a very interactive format – inspired by the .Astronomy conference series – including presentations, tutorials, unconference sessions, and coding sprints, and should be great fun!

The main aims of the workshop will be to:

  • Share information about state-of-the art Python Astronomy packages
  • Discuss and improve interoperability between astronomical Python packages
  • Provide training for people who are interested in contributing to open source packages
  • Develop a common set of educational materials for Python in Astronomy

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Ian Short is an Associate Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Saint Mary’s University, has taught the core first and second year courses in the undergraduate astrophysics program, and is a published researcher in the field of stellar atmospheres and spectra.

Do you teach a course in which students should understand why some spectral lines are always strong in hot stars, but weak in cools stars, or vice versa? Or why some spectral lines are always broad in dwarfs, but narrow in supergiants? Or the role that radiation plays in supporting a star against its weight? Or why an image of the Sun is darker near the limb than at the centre?  Or even why hot stars are blue and cool ones red, and how colour can be quantified? These, and many other similar questions, are central to the stellar component of the undergraduate astrophysics curriculum at the second year and above, and even in first year courses aimed at science majors, and are key concepts for students going into any area of astrophysics.

How would your teaching be enhanced if you could bring to class a virtual star equipped with “parameter knobs” that responds instantly when the “knobs” are adjusted? What if you could then equip each student with a virtual spectrograph, photometer, and interferometer so that demonstration-based classroom pedagogy can be employed? How would your course be enriched if you could assign laboratory-style homework projects in which students investigate the structure and observable behavior of such a virtual star and independently investigate key relationships?  What possibilities would be opened up in more advanced courses if students could view and capture the source code for such a virtual star? [Read more...]

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Applying to Grad School

by Danny Barringer on November 5, 2014

Now that November is upon us, it’s time for undergraduates thinking about grad school to begin the whole application process, if you have not done so already. For those of you looking for a little guidance or information, the AstroBetter Wiki has you covered with advice on what to do when scouting out programs, and making your decision (yes, this won’t happen for a little while yet, but keep it in mind!). Don’t forget to take FULL advantage of the Winter AAS Meeting to meet professors and graduate students who are already at schools you might be interested in.

Just be sure to leave any feedback or helpful tips or resources of your own creation or finding in the comments that we might incorporate them into AstroBetter’s resources.


Philip Cowperthwaite and Peter K. G. Williams work in time-domain astronomy at Harvard. Philip is a graduate student working on the detection of electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational wave events, and Peter studies magnetic activity in low-mass stars, brown dwarfs, and planets.

Astronomers that study GRBs are well-known for racing to follow up bursts immediately after they occur — thanks to services like the Gamma-ray Coordinates Network (GCN), you can receive an email with an event position less than 30 seconds after it hits a satellite like Swift. It’s pretty cool that we professionals can get real-time notification of stars exploding across the universe, but it also seems like a great opportunity to convey some of the excitement of cutting-edge science to the broader public. To that end, we decided to try to expand the reach of GCN alerts by bringing them on to social media. Join us for a surprisingly short and painless tale about the development of YOITSAGRB, a tiny piece of Python code on the Google App Engine that distributes GCN alerts through the social media app Yo. [Read more...]


NSF Deadline Approaching!

by Danny Barringer October 15, 2014

As we’re sure many of you know, the deadline for all things NSF, including the NSF Graduate Fellowship, is fast approaching (some faster than others!), and will be on us before we know it. To make your lives easier, we would like to remind you of the resources the AstroBetter Wiki has at your disposal. […]


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Career Profiles: Astronomer to Tenured Full Professor

by Laura Trouille October 9, 2014

Latest Career Profile: Joan Schmelz, an astronomer turned full professor. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below or on the CSWA site. The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting […]

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Career Profiles: Astronomer to Data Visualization Specialist and Adjunct Associate Professor

by Laura Trouille October 2, 2014

Latest Career Profile: Doug Roberts, an astronomer turned Data Visualization Specialist for Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope and Adjunct Associate Professor at Northwestern University. He spends 75% of his time on research and content creation for WorldWide Telescope and 25% of his time on his astronomy research. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about […]


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LaTeX hyperref and emulateapj

by Guest September 29, 2014

Jonathan Foster is a YCAA Prize Fellow at Yale University. He studies how stars form, both through large-scale surveys of the galaxy and in detailed studies of nearby regions. He is also interested in how visualizations of large astronomy datasets can aid discovery. If you want your paper on the arxiv/astro-ph to be read by […]


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Professional Development Workshops at AAS225 in Seattle, WA

by Kelle September 26, 2014

As has become a regular feature of the AAS Winter meeting, there is again an excellent lineup of professional development workshops on the Saturday and Sunday before the main meeting begins. These workshops are organized by members of the AAS Employment Committee as well by individual AAS members. There are a limited number of spots […]


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Career Profiles: Astronomer to Defense Researcher

by Laura Trouille September 25, 2014

Latest Career Profile: an astronomer turned researcher in defense. S/he notes that the job is quite similar to the type of work one would do in a theory postdoc. With a 40 hour work week and a flexible schedule, s/he finds personal life pretty well balanced with work life. If you have questions, suggestions, advice […]


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