Week 3: Observing and Reducing

Here in Wyoming, we are continuing our observations of our ever-growing list of candidate stellar wind bow shock stars. We have a tremendous amount of spectroscopic data at this point and us students are quickly learning the ins and outs of reducing spectral data using IRAF. We have each chosen nights of observing data to reduce and continue to grab nights to observe as weather permits.

During the full moon, I took a time-lapse video of WIRO during a night of observing. However, it was a particularly bad night. We had sporadic cloud coverage and ended the night early due to high humidity and slight rain, which are all things that impede our ability to use the telescope effectively or at all.

First Week in Boston


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My first week in Boston has been pretty fantastic.  We were very warmly welcomed upon our arrival (We were given coffee mugs!).  Every one here is very nice and helpful which definitely made settling in significantly less intimidating.  We were given a tour of the CfA (Center for Astrophysics) and got to see the telescopes!   We also did a bit of exploring the area and walked along the Charles river.  I’m very grateful for this opportunity to work alongside some of the best in this field and am extremely excited for what is to come these next couple of months here at Harvard.

p.s. I’m not sure why one of the pictures uploaded upside down but if you tilt your head a bit you can see the beautiful view from our office :)


First week of full-on research

Last week was really busy with everything that was going on because it was the first week of STARS. It was hectic and a little intimidating figuring out how everything for this program is going to pan out, however I’m glad that I am accustomed (somewhat) to this new schedule. Today I attended a workshop that my lab group threw together on how to reduce data using the SpeX reduction program. The process itself actually takes while to do because there are so many steps to follow, but I’m taking solace in the fact that it’s pretty much the same steps over and over again so once I learn it I’ll have no problems being able to reduce multiple nights of data quickly. So I hope that by my next post I’ll be completely comfortable with the process. In the meantime I’ve also had to read a lot of papers on spectroscopy and L and T dwarfs which is what my individual project is going to be on. Until next time!

Week 2 in Arizona

This week has been pretty hectic, though sadly no pictures. I’m starting to get Python, and have finally gotten the plots I was going for. The other undergrad and the grad students have been extremely helpful when I run into problems I can’t figure out. Right now I am manipulating the main plot to try to see if there are any visual correlations. I get to do a quick presentation Tuesday showing what I have managed so far. As for weather, it was raining here and there this weekend, which helped cool things down. The locals are saying monsoon season is getting close, which I am looking forward to from what I have heard.

Week Two: Reduce, Reuse, Redo

I finally got to start using my data this week. Monday I learned just how much I hate the moon and planes. Each day has at least 500 videos because throughout the night he cameras record anything that moves. That’s where the planes come in; for every meteor there is at least 60 plane frames. It’s a treasure hunt to find meteors among all the false videos we have. But I found the hard way that it is easier to use that to weed out the bad frames than the main program. I didn’t realize how much time it would take to calibrate the cameras for each night. It may take five minutes to run the auto calibration program but the two cameras that are out of focus make sure to take up at least 20 minutes of my time trying to get them calibrated. But normally I can use the prior data to make my life easier. So far I have been able to do a little over half of a month and I have three years of data to reduce. Time to kick my butt in gear this week!


Woah… we are already going into week #3! This week has really flown by. I got to work with my mentor, Dr. Gerry Harp, on a java program that takes the bispectrum of visibilities provided by the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). Taking the bispectrum combines all the visibilities resulting in the “average” spectra of all the visibilities spectrum.

I know it’s confusing and it was very confusing for me at first, but Dr. Harp has been incredibly patient in helping me understand exactly what this means. The ATA typically runs about 25 telescopes at a time. These telescopes all point to the same location in space, which provides a lot of information about that specific point in space. That’s great! It can help us determine the location and changes in frequency of quasars or pulsars. However, this is SO MUCH data, it is almost impossible to analyze. This is where bispectrum comes in. We are able to combine the visibilities for all telescopes without losing crucial information contained in the individual visibilities. So it is a bit more complicated than just the “average”, but you get my drift right? O.o Anyway, the program that Dr. Harp wrote reads in the gazillion individual visibilities (more like 300 visibilities every 10 seconds), and combines them which results in 1 spectra every 10 seconds. This makes it soooo much easier to study the data. Right now we want to get the program to run using old data (accumulated over the years), but hopefully by the end of the summer we can apply this program to real-time! We want to display the result of the bispectrum calculation (a single spectra), on a website so that the public can go and look at it and observe these frequencies in in real-time. Pretty awesome right?

DISCLAIMER: This is only part of what I understand. I’ll explain more about the project as we make progress.

There have also been plenty of fun activities here at NASA Ames. SETI kindly provided us with free tickets to the Giants game and it was so much fun!!



Week one-two

So far so good. These past two weeks I have been learning python and figuring out how to plot the reduced spectroscopic data my mentor gave me. I’ve learned a lot of python through this free on-line UMichigan class hosted on . I would recommend Coursera to anyone interested in a free online class with good lectures, assignments, quizzes and more.

I’ve gone to two REU summer lectures so far which were held in the NOAO main conference room. The first lecture was given by Yancy Shirley on “Discovering the Progenitors of Stars & Planets using Dust Emission Surveys.” The second lecture was titled, “Kitt Peak and the Tohono O’odham” and was presented by Katy Garmany. If you come to UA with the CAMPARE program and are interested in going to lectures ask Gina about the REU summer lectures or any other presentations that might be happening.  



First Week @ UC Berkeley

My first week in Berkeley has been a mixture of new people, lifestyles and, of course, scientific topics. I was able to spend the weekend with my family touring around San Francisco and the UCB campus. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf and got to experience, first hand, the traffic!!!! Upon arriving at UCB, we decided to look around. We did not plan on it being workout, but the campus is huge and its got lots of inclines! After settling into my housing I was introduced to a wide variety of people, views, and personalities that were not as common in many places or at least the ones I’ve been introduced to in SoCal. When I finally could begin working at UCB Radio Astronomy Lab, it was so nice to see that everything that I had been learning in my courses at CSUSB were actually used in real life! Sometimes the question comes up, if the things we learn in class mean anything in the real world and I can honestly say Yes they Do! Some of the topics and simulations that I am attempting to make contain things I have learn and some that I have not, but I am grateful that my Mentor, Dr. Aaron Parsons, is kind and willing to help. So now I’ve got 9 more weeks to go, lets see how much I can do before time runs out. More Details to Come!

First Day of STARS

So today was the first day of the STARS program. My P.I . Adam Burgasser signed me up to participate in the STARS program at UCSD to go along with the research that I will be doing with him. So since it was the first day they had orientation for all of us (over 100 of us)  in the program to know more about what we’re going to be doing, what’s expected of us, and all the activities that will be going on throughout the summer. Today was a big ice breaker day that consisted of a lot of team building exercises to help us get to know each better as well as build relationships. My favorite part about today was when we went to UCSD’s challenge rope course, where they put you in teams and you have to help each other walk across the ropes while being three stories in the air! It was frightening at first, but it ended up being a lot of fun; I met a lot of really cool people because of it. Also being able to zipline from that high down wasn’t so bad either. Until next time!

Wyoming Infrared Observatory (WIRO)

After being in Laramie for a full week now, I have been up to the University’s observatory a total of four (4) nights! The nights are long and can get repetitive but the view from the top of Mt. Jelm at 3 a.m. are absolutely breathtaking. Just stepping outside for a ten minute break is enough to put me right back in the mood to get to work (or sleep, depending on which shift I get). We usually go up to the Wyoming Infrared Observatory, or WIRO, in teams of three students and by the time I arrived in Laramie, we REU students were put in charge of deciding which nights we go observing and given the keys to UWyo’s physics department vehicle for getting up to WIRO.

On Saturday night, Dr. Kobulnicky’s Astrocamp students got the chance to come up to WIRO to poke around and even grab spectra of stars they picked out! These students were all elementary/middle school kids but how I wish I had that opportunity as a child. We gave them a tour of the facility and they got to watch the telescope slew to their targets inside of the dome which, for most of them, was one of the greatest highlights of the Astrocamp.

This week we are continuing the observing, as weather permits, and we are also going back over IRAF spectral reductions but this time with our own data. Then on Friday morning, we leave for Yellowstone!