Personal experiences

This category contains 24 posts

Target-Centric Astronomy

Astronomy has a kindred cousin, a cool one who wears his sunglasses at night: intelligence analysis. I don’t just mean reconnaissance satellites, either; the process of astronomy, that of observing and drawing conclusions, is possibly the most similar of all the sciences to the process of intelligence gathering. Both fields deal with low signal-to-noise regimes that are based primarily on observation rather than experimentation. Both fields must continually account for errors and biases that could easily lead to false or falsely credited conclusions. And thus it behooves us as astronomers to learn from our cousins on the other side of the fence, who may not have been in the business quite as long or have quite as much ground to cover, but who certainly have a lot more pressure to produce results. That’s why today I’m going to be talking about Robert M. Clark’s key textbook Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach, and what lessons it holds for you as a professional scientist. Continue reading



Along with several other graduate students from Harvard University, I attended the first EVLA data reduction workshop in Socorro, New Mexico. Around 25 graduate students and researchers were present, along with many post-doctoral fellows and NRAO staff that devoted their time to help us learn how to use CASA, or Common Astronomy Software Applications. Continue reading

Wishy-Washy Water World

When we dream of other worlds, there is one thing that drives our fantasies of life above all else: water.  Most organisms on Earth rely on this molecule for survival.  Although we might imagine life forms that do not require water, planets with water are the most obvious places to search for life—or at least … Continue reading

Getting Out of a Research Slump

Odds are, if you’re doing research, you’ve experienced a research slump. The bad news is that this is fairly unavoidable: it happens to everyone. The good news is that there are tricks you can try to help get yourself out of the slump and become more productive and efficient. Read on to find out more! Continue reading

Observing the “supernova of the generation” with Keck

Last night, I was in the Berkeley-based remote control room of the Keck telescope watching Professor Josh Bloom and his team follow up what Bloom claims to be the “supernova of the generation.”  PTF11kly, a type Ia supernova discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory in California, is one of the earliest and closest type Ia supernovae … Continue reading

Observing on Mauna Kea: Dawn in Cambridge, Mass

Dawn is beautiful and clear in Cambridge, Mass and I’m sitting in my office starting at the night sky, hoping the clouds will clear. I’m finishing up my last night of remote observing on the Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), which lives atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Continue reading

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