Monday, May 31, 2010

pretty IDL plots

Things I did today:

- Formatted RA/DEC columns
- Fixed comparison tables between actual and real values of luminosity (most of them look pretty accurate!)
- Made pretty IDL plots. With Maya's help, I successfully created a plot and changed the color of the points, axes, as well as changing shapes of the actual points itself. I know it's not much, but it feels really good to actually have done it without error messages flooding my screen.

I think I'm going to try making another plot and messing around with colors and stuff before I leave.

Things to do (for tomorrow and beyond):
- Take a closer look at those luminosity values
- Check Wolf, et al references more clearly and go through his refs to check values that came from sources he didn't cite
- Move onto making even prettier data plots!

Friday, May 28, 2010

End of my first week

Great past couple of days!

Yesterday I entered my newly found position data into the huge data table and added my notes, from details about to authors and their works to specific values to later go back and verify. I went through the references from Wolf, et al and with the exception of 2 authors, every author was a main author of at least one work cited in the article (yay). I'm planning on going back and checking the data that wasn't referenced in that article and adding more to the table.

Five of us also attended Beth's lecture at Drexel yesterday afternoon. Really great talk. It was very cool to see Beth in an environment outside of Haverford, and see her speak on the topic of our research this summer. It's pretty exciting to know that we're working on such an up-and-coming aspect of astronomy. I was really reminded of that all throughout Beth's lecture and when hearing the questions people asked her afterwards.

Today I focused on doing some reading and then spent lots of time working with IDL to compare gathered and calculated values of luminosity and magnitude, in order to verify the accuracy of the gathered data. I did this through a little IDL function. After very frustrating error messages, I finally got the values I wanted.....but then I attempted to organize these values in a neat, easy-to-read style, and even with Beth literally writing down the coding, help from books and the internet, as well as advice from Maya and Oliver, I have still yet to get this data in two columns. Until Monday....

Although I'm slightly frustrated with IDL at the moment, looking back, I'm extremely pleased with this past week and how far I've come since then. I really hope I still feel this excited about the work that we're doing as the summer continues.

Goals for next week:

-become awesome at IDL -- specifically with plotting graphs, and changing plot formats (hopefully working up to error lines...?)
-clean up new data table and add central surface brightness column
-figure out this column business with luminosity and absolute magnitude

(note to self: ask Beth about alternate names for andromeda, and add ursa major from zucker)

On a side note, I had a great talk with Maya and Oliver about physics and astro at Haverford. I was feeling kind of overwhelmed about the next few years, and they really made me feel better about it all. It's been really nice having Maya, Oliver and Gail around to help me out with programming stuff, and just listening to their astro/physics experiences so far.

Looking forward to the weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I think the SAO/NASA ADS astronomy query form has become my new best friend...

Today I gathered information on galaxy properties such as RA, DEC, position and ellipticity, to add to our giant data table of dwarf galaxy information. Right now, we have about 40 or so galaxies in our table.

As of now, all but two galaxies have RA and DEC data, and about half of them have RA, DEC, angle position and ellipticity as well! Along with that, I've noted down each author and paper that this data came from, and inadvertently created a list of dwarf galaxies and their pseudonyms.

I started out just sifting through different references from the Wolf, et al paper. But this was really tedious and didn't get me much data. I ended up finding a few authors who had discovered a lot of galaxies, and searching through their papers and which were most cited. In order to fill in the gaps, I looked up when the most recent galaxies were discovered, and then narrowed my searches to that time period. I also got a lot of references through SIMBAD which I would follow to journal articles and get data from.

As of now, I have about 10 pages of notes that I have to write up on the computer. I figured that editting the data table would be slow work for me, so I should gather as much info as I could initially and then add it to the actual table. Hopefully my limited coding knowledge will get me through adding new columns and data without too much trouble.

Feeling really good about this. Who knows? Maybe this compiled data, once plotted and graphed, will show us something new about stealth galaxies.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

color magnitude diagrams

Worked on graphing with IDL early on in the morning, using data from the ASTR206 lab. Not the most successful, but hey, figuring out the error messages is a good way to learn.

Spent time reading about apparent and absolute magnitudes before meeting up with Beth and Maya to discuss color magnitude diagrams. They are so neat! Especially when it came to the different ways to filter these diagrams. I feel like there is so much potential in discovering/learning about these faint dwarf galaxies when it comes down to the many ways to filter these diagrams, especially with new scans of the sky that will be available within the next 5 years or so. Once again, I realized just how fast the field of astronomy is moving. Spent the rest of the time reading the Kalirai journal article. Good stuff.

Monday, May 24, 2010

First Day of Work!

Today is my first day of work at Haverford College working with Beth Willman and the gang doing research on stealth galaxies!

The day started off with a meeting with Beth, Maya and I, where we discussed what types of research we'll be doing this summer, what goals we hope to achieve, etc, along with going over a background article we read.

(Here's the article:

Over the course of the next few months, (in a nutshell) we are aiming to be completely up to date with current research on stealth galaxies, and create a model for where we think stealth galaxies are. More short-term goals include getting caught up on the literature, and getting familiar with IDL and Unix.

One of my personal goals for the summer is to gauge the extent of my interest in astronomy. Though I have only limited experience in astronomy, I like what I know so far. I feel like this is my summer of "real-world astronomy" -- doing research and computer programming. I feel like if I'm still really interested in astronomy after this summer, then I think its something I could see myself doing in the future.

Today was a lot of learning and catching up all at once. After our initial meeting, I spent the majority of the time getting used to unix and playing around with IDL. Suprisingly enough, I'm finding that the computer coding isn't too frustrating. It's pretty cool actually. Even just from one day of tinkering around with it, I feel like I've learned a lot. I can see how after a fair amount of practice, it's something I could get pretty comfortable with.

I went through the Unix and IDL tutorials along with part of a virtual lab from the ASTR206 course. I created different directories in my squid home and copied and moved them around. I spent a while figuring out how to apply the interactive rm feature, and finally got it after lots of erasing and re-copying of files. I practiced plotting random data and then real data from one of the labs.

I also spent some time reading and taking notes from the Ostlie astrophysics textbook, learning about apparent and absolute magnitudes along with luminosity ratios. All neat stuff.

All in all, a great first day! I'm very excited for this summer and what will come of our research.