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.


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!


Data Exploration with Glue

by Guest on 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 for visually exploring related datasets.

Glue is a package which allows users to inter-compare several related datasets — images, catalogs, image cubes, etc. Glue provides a graphical interface to make basic visualizations of each dataset, with the important feature that all plots are selectable; users can draw geometric regions on any plot to define subsets used to filter data. Importantly, these subsets can propagate across several datasets — so a user can trace a geometrical structure in an astrophysical image, and use that to filter points in a spatially overlapping catalog. These kinds of linked-view interactions make it much easier to discover multidimensional structures within and between datasets. [Read more...]

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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 what if you want to write a scientific paper? Google Docs, as awesome as it is, is not much more than a word processor. We want the internal hyperlinks for sections, figures, tables, and citations, elegant mathematical formulae, well-formatted tables, more control over where and how our components are arranged – in a word, LaTeX. Yes, LaTeX has its own host of problems, but it’s very good at what it does.

There are a number of collaborative editing projects out there – Authorea springs to mind. But one of the simpler options out there is actually pretty good: WriteLaTeX.

[Read more...]


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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GrayStar: A Virtual Star in the Classroom

by Guest November 12, 2014

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 […]

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Applying to Grad School

by Danny Barringer 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 […]


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