Adric Riedel is a postdoctoral researcher at the College of Staten Island, working with the 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.

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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 and services (a.k.a. middleware), which have been made available to the community for use and further development.  Software and documentation is stored in the VAO Repository, with notable tools and services listed below.

VOClient: NOAO – Access the VO from Your Desktop.
PyVO: NCSA – Access the VO through Python.
SciDrive: JHU, SDSC – Share VO-compatible data with collaborators or the larger community.
Iris Spectral Energy Distribution Analysis Tool: SAO – Find, plot, and fit spectral energy distributions (SEDs) with this desktop application.
Data Discovery Tool: MAST – Retrieve astronomical data about a given position or object in the sky.
Cross-Comparison Tool: IPAC – Perform fast positional cross-matches between an input table of up to 1 million sources and common astronomical source catalogs.
DALServer: NRAO  – Publish data in a VO-compatible data with this Java toolkit.
Single Sign-on: NCSA – Control access to files and data.
Seleste: SAO – Discover and query VO compliant data archives
Registry of registries: NCSA – A directory of VO data services
VO web log harvester: JHU – Track statistics on VO usage

In addition, key components of the Virtual Observatory infrastructure will continue to be maintained by various NASA Archives.  The Infrared Processing & Analysis Center (IPAC) will host and maintain the VAO Web site.  The High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC) will monitor the health of VO services and data collections to ensure that they can be accessed over the Internet.  The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) will host the VO Registry, the master collection of VO services through which VO data can be  discovered.  Together, these NASA Archives will also take an active role in the development of international data access standard and have appointed a liaison between them and the International Virtual Observatory Alliance to facilitate this effort.


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 Astrophysics Source Code Library, so a huge thanks to them for doing all the hard work! Enjoy!


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 post that everyone attending a winter AAS meeting should read (even if you’re not a first-timer), Jason Wright’s guide to Getting the Most Out of AAS Meetings. This resource is especially useful for students attending their first AAS meeting, so make sure your students have seen this!

Second, if you are giving a presentation, whether it be a talk or a poster, the AstroBetter Wiki has you covered with a number of resources to help you with your Presentation Skills. [Read more...]


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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Web Apps in the Cloud: Even Astronomers Can Write Them!

by Guest October 20, 2014

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 […]


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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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