What discoveries are worthy of a press release? [Ask Astrobetter]

by Jane August 1, 2012

What sorts of discoveries do y’all think are worth writing a press release? Sometimes it’s obvious — an earth-mass planet in the habitable zone with spectral signatures of water and chlorine (sorry, watching too much Olympic swimming). But what about most of the time? What rises to the level of a press release? Just pretty […]


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Tools to write collaboratively

by Jane May 7, 2012

In a previous post, we discussed the benefits of collaboratively writing papers and proposals. Now, let’s talk tools to help you write collaboratively. This proposal season, I experimented with several different tools, and dragged my collaborators into the experiment. I tested out Google Docs (Kelle’s review),ScribTeX (Jane’s review), and Dropbox (Kelle’s review). There’s also ShareLaTeX, which I haven’t tried yet (Has anybody?  […]


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Why write collaboratively?

by Jane April 9, 2012

Let’s talk about how we write. The primary output of astronomers are papers and proposals — we have to obtain data & money, publish results, and repeat.  Here, I’m going to argue that we should write some of those words more collaboratively. Our default method of writing was invented when colleagues communicated by postal mail with […]


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Collaborative LaTeX writing: a review of ScribTeX

by Jane March 26, 2012

I’ve recently been experimenting with different methods to collaboratively write papers and proposals. In this post, I’ll review the strengths and weaknesses of ScribTeX. The upshot is I love this powerful, easy-to-use tool, despite a few flaws, and encourage you to check it out. ScribTeX is like Google Docs, but for LaTeX documents. It’s an […]


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Review of Book about Gemini Observatory

by Jane February 1, 2012

On a long flight, I read a fascinating and frustrating book about the history of the twin Gemini 8m telescopes and the optical/infrared astronomical landscape: Giant Telescopes: Astronomical Ambition and the Promise of Technology by historian Patrick McCray. Time for a book review and a new wiki page for books! “Giant Telescopes” is two books in one. The second half […]


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Pretty plotting of spectra? [Ask AstroBetter]

by Jane January 27, 2012

What tools (or self-rolled code) do people prefer when making big publishable figures of spectra?  The example given was an echelle spectrum, where the spectrum is loooong, and has many spectral orders to stack onto one or more pages of the journal. Since this is a shamelessly self-generated Ask AstroBetter, I will award a beer […]


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What I Learned About Astro Outreach From Giving a TEDx Talk

by Jane January 23, 2012


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What Operating Systems Do AstroBetter Readers Use?

by Jane December 28, 2011

Following our post on how Hubble users’ operating system choices have evolved with time… Here’s a summary of the operating systems used to access AstroBetter since May 2011: Grabbed from Google Analytics. Our readers are considerably Mackier and less Linuxy than I would have thought. Comments? And Kelle points out the small-but-growing fraction of y’all that […]

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What operating systems do astronomers use?

by Jane December 20, 2011

Previously on AstroBetter, we’ve discussed what operating systems are used in our profession, in particular relative numbers of OS X (Mac) versus Linux users. While it’s good for us at AstroBetter to know our readership, we can use Google Analytics for that. It’s more important for the astronomical community to know the broader landscape, so […]


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Digitize that figure, fast

by Jane November 17, 2011

Here’s a common workflow:  “I want to overplot a curve from the literature on my new plot.  I could write the author and wait several days for them to dig up the plot file and send me the digitized version, but I want to compare now!” One solution is to digitize the published plot. I […]


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