Comprehension: Forgotten Abilities of the Mind

Hello Astrogeeks!

This week I’ll be mostly waffling on, without interruption, and you’ll have no choice but to let me. I know this is annoying, but tough, this is my blog website after all :-3.

Anyway these past few weeks have been rather stressful, to say the least. Mainly I find myself now having so much work to do within a short time frame I feel like I can’t squeeze myself within this narrow frame. Only finding out there there were more problems that you have to resolve the deeper you go into handling your own data. This ultimately can be very depressing when one is trying to progress into the final stages within the next two months or so. It becomes even harder when the wider world affects you in many many ways, probably to an extent more than you’d anticipate or expect.

Of course I’m referring to the events that unfolded in Paris on Friday 13 November 2015, events which shook the world, but also led various parts of it into deeper and darker paths. The politics of which I shall avoid, but what I will mention is the aftermath: the inevitable self proclaimed savants with omniscient powers. Otherwise known as the bigots who would find any excuse to prop up their own cowardly causes, all done without realising the hypocrisy of such statement of words, to these people I sigh and get continuously irritated. If it weren’t for those who show compassion, solidarity and comedy in the face of these ghastly events I wouldn’t be able to bear the lack of comprehension of these bigoted people.

You might be asking, “What do you mean by a lack of comprehension?”. Well, I do not claim to be one of all the answers, nobody will ever be able to lay down such claims. However, everyone should have the ability to comprehend the basics of humanity, how we and our society have evolved and grown, learn from our mistakes and above all understand how we humans are special but also realise that there is a whole Universe out there. Comprehend that this Universe gave us life, also comprehend that it doesn’t know, therefore even care that we exist on this rocky planet floating around in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way.

I get annoyed very easily about some really trivial things, and sometimes I just get so overwhelmed I have to retract myself from what I’m reading or the situation I am in. It’s only really the past year I’ve started to notice myself and my own actions, and the fact I annoy others as a result of my own annoyance. However, this is a different matter, so many are ignorant to such comprehension of humanity and its own fragile existence but sadly not many are willing to learn to comprehend this. Forever remaining blind to everything other than their prejudices, and the people and arguments that (don’t really) support them.

There are times like these when I just want to say, “Fuck this! I want to escape, I want to run away somewhere and hide. Or maybe do or see something new.”. I apologise for the profanity, but running away from it all will always seem appealing to me. I am a complicated human being. As many of us are, but like I said, this past year has made me realise how complicated I really am myself. Events like these will always make me depressed and sad, but, I know there are lots of good people out there who do comprehend. Knowing this makes me happy in that all is not yet lost.

Although, aside from these very sad times. I did manage to have some fun times as well. This past week I visited my girlfriend in Germany, and we both went to a comedy show based of a radio podcast called ‘Radio Nukular’. Of course, this was all in German and riddled with jokes that only fans of the podcast would know inside and out. I managed to string random words I did know together and formed incomplete pictures as to what was happening, but it was difficult. Despite the language barriers though I had a great time, the atmosphere and energy was impressive and seeing my girlfriend enjoy herself as well helped boost my mood ten-fold. What I do not share very often with a lot of people is that I do get sad very easily, so I am quite vulnerable now it’s open to those who’ll happen upon this post. I also can’t handle certain situations well without being overwhelmed. I’d say though that if it weren’t for my girlfriend this past year opening my eyes to many things, I wouldn’t have realised this.

So to Hannah, if you’re reading this, I say thank you for everything. I’m pretty terrible I know. But thank you.

Okay, well apart from going slightly off tangent, I’ll end my random ramble, rant, thingmybob here.

Until next week astrogeeks!


Long Time, No See! The Woeful Strains of Academia

*The wind howled and rattled against the cold and dark window pain… Suddenly… LIFE*

Hello everyone who so happens to tremble and fumble along to me own little bloggy/science page… Thing? I know it’s been an awfully long time since my last post, but there have been reasons. The most obvious one is that I’ve been busy with my studies. And finding the time, has been hard (admittedly, I…Err…Forgot as well).

So, considering we’ve been turning to dust here on the internet. What have you been doing exactly?

Well, long story short I have just been “working”. Research can be slow, painstakingly so. For the most part I have been working hard in reducing, cleaning and analysing my data. Followed by collating it all so I don’t forget or lose what I’ve just been doing. Not only that, but there has been a lot of programming to try and fit in. As well as that I’ve been doing lots of writing, endless writing of what essentially is a massive dissertation, or a really long essay.

Wait, wait, wait… Programming? I thought you were an Astronomer?

Yes, well I might have mentioned this before if you can remember?… Well, Astronomy heavily relies on computers, and not only that but the amount of data we have is, well, a **** load. We want to be able to have programs that can help us to reduce and analyse the data quickly with minimal error. So, we therefore have to make little programs to these things for us. This allows us to get to the fun bit of interpreting the data without too much faff. We are full of surprises aren’t we!

All of this writing, it sounds pretty intense. What were you writing exactly, and why?

Ahhh! Well, I had been writing what’s called at the Open University a “Probation Report”. Now, since I am doing an M.Phil there is no real “probation” as such like there would be with a Ph.D student. However admin wise I still have to show something to the University that I have been doing work, and not just wasting my days playing tiddlywinks. It kind of makes sense really. Also it’s allowed me to consolidate my information and data into one document. Which has made my thinking less vagarious!

Wow… This is making my head hurt with all of these different things you have to do. What are you doing now?

Currently I am just busy ‘doing the science!’. That is, getting as much science as I can out of all of this data as humanly possible. All this while knowing I’ll have to submit my work formally into a bound thesis at some point over the next few months. To say I’m friggin’ scared is putting it mildly. Mainly for the viva voce exam where I defend my work. Essentially an oral exam where I have to confirm that I am the person whom has written the thesis, and knows what I am talking about.

Glad I’m not stuffed into your shoes!… So, doing anything else?

Well, as well as my main ‘academic’ life I’m also doing many other things. For one example I’m learning German, which finding the time for at times has been tricky. However I have enrolled myself onto the Goethe Institut A1 exam for beginners. I am doing this to gain another skill, but also because my girlfriend is German. So, it would be perfect to talk amongst English people who most likely will not understand what we’re talking about. Haha! I’ve also been helping out with some of the undergraduate modules, mostly acting as a ‘guide’ for students accessing and using our Radio Telescope here on the OU campus. Remotely controlled from the students’ homes. It’s fun and interesting work to do!

Been rather busy haven’t you? Oh well, what next after this M.Phil of yours?

Aha! Yes, well you can’t blame one for trying to be as resourceful as possible with gaining experience. But yes! After the M.Phil I hope to continue my studies on towards a funded Ph.D, as of this moment in time I’m looking up potential places to apply to. So Exeter, the OU, Liverpool, maybe oxbridge etc. In short, we’ll see how it goes :-). Can’t be picky, but I also have to be happy.

Anyway, I must dash off and wander off to ‘do the science’. But it’s been lovely to catch up with you all again. I promise I will not be so much of a stranger in the future.

Catch you all later astrogeeks!


Philosophising Update of the Master Variety

…*Prod*…*Prod*…*Poke*…*Thwack!*  Wake up Lawrence!

Gaahh!… First of all “ouch!”, and secondly, I’ve been too busy to update this blog as often as I’d have liked to, so I’m sincerely sorry for me being pretty much a useless fool. However I’m here now, and wow, it’s amazing how quickly time has just flown on by these past 3 months.

Sorry about hitting you, but anyway, what have you been doing these past few months?

I probably deserved the slap, as I should probably slow down now as we come close to Christmas… So, what have I been doing? Mostly reading, or at least attempting to read as reading academically can be a bit challenging at first, but the simplest workaround is to only focus on 3 key areas (A good tip for any aspiring researcher); The Abstract, Introduction and Conclusion.

But what’s so important about these 3 points, and why are you reading, shouldn’t you be finding something new; ground-breaking nuggets of knowledge?

Well, reading is a key starting point for anyone researching a particular area, everyone focuses on one niche area at a time; if you don’t have the background understanding then you can’t build upon our current understanding. So, in short I’m starting some research into an area of astronomy I’m not so well rehearsed in and so therefore I have a lot of reading of academic papers, firstly on background, and then diverging off into areas related to what work I’ll be doing. And this brings me to the 3 key points; the abstract, a concise overview of the point to the paper, the results and conclusions/findings from the research; the introduction, setting the scene or providing the background so we can understand the point to the research along with what questions we hope to answer; finally the conclusion, which simply puts the results together to assess whether anything meaningful lies within the data.

As for the “ground-breaking nuggets of knowledge”, well, that’s something that could come late ;-). This is the beauty of science my fellow astrogeeks, whether your hypothesis is correct or not it doesn’t matter, it’s still progress as you eliminate one possibility out of many. Anyway, that’s enough of me waffling about those bits!

Well, it sounds interesting, so may I dare ask as to what it is you’re working on?

Hmm… Well, luckily it’s not top-secret so I think I can spare a few words to describe what I’m doing, but don’t worry, I won’t bore you to death with in-depth details for now. Basically I’m using data from NASA’s Spitzer (Infrared) Space Telescope, and what I’ve been doing so far has been to “mine” through this data for any spectra data on Quasars; which are said to be the progenitors of all Galaxies by most in the argument chain. More specifically I’m looking for ‘PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon) features’, these are long chain molecules in space that emit light in the infrared when excited by UV photons from stars, these molecules can therefore be used to trace the star formation rate (SFR) to a certain degree; know the total infrared luminosity then you know the SFR. From this we want to see if the star formation lies close to or far away from the quasar; this will give us clues as to what affect the quasar has on star formation, as it’s most commonly agreed that they retard such stars from forming with the intense radiation field that surrounds them. It’s rather interesting :-D.

Wow, so many questions, you’ve bamboozled me… So, I’ll ask the complex ones another time after my brain’s recovered, but how have you been getting on?

Haha, well, don’t worry I’ll try and make everything I do and say as accessible as possible :-), but for the most part it’s been going well. Astronomy in the modern world is predominantly computer based, and (oddly) filled with mac users, however that shouldn’t come as a surprise with the flexibility of using UNIX. The computing side mainly means I use them to help analyse data, the reason, well machines can do perform routines and calculations far quicker than us, but they are still ‘stupid’ to the extent that they require human input to give them ‘orders’ so to speak; essentially I program using a syntax known as Python. Luckily Spitzer has it’s own suite of software developed by academics at Cornell University in America (whom one of them is my supervisor), this software is known as SMART (Spectroscopic Modelling Analysis and Reduction Tool); it can obtain spectra from the data taken by the spectrograph on Spitzer. This software is brilliant, but trying to get it to work has spent a large chunk of my initial hours, the downside to computing reared its ugly head, so after battling for days on my desktop, and then on the loaned out macbook I have, I am now ready to properly utilise any data of quasars containing PAH features. But of course, now as we are heading to Christmas I have since been given the task by my supervisor to create my own routines for the .fits files containing the spectra, in order to streamline the analysis process without using IDL (a annoying, but powerful programming language), as well as for quick referencing.

Aside from the computing, I have been reading, compiling comprehensive lists on the objects I’ve found to have PAHs, as well as starting to scrutinise the data to see if these things are extended from the central source or not.

So in short fellow astrogeeks, it’s been tough and very busy, I’m seemingly working hard and long hours (sometimes 10-11 hour days), but ends with something not so obviously fruitful; quintessentially it’s very slow going. However this hasn’t deterred me, this is research, it’s never simple or painless, just a bloomin’ drag ;-)…

Anyway catch you later fellow astrogeeks, I’ll blog again (hopefully) soon.

Happy Christmas!

The ObAstro.


Degree Ceremony and Packing! (Delayed post from a couple of months ago)

Hello fellow Astrogeeks!

Well, a couple of weeks ago I finally hit the stage and had my degree presented (albeit incorrectly) to members of the Open University Senate and Council whom are officially and legally responsible for giving me my Degree and letters, despite the hiccups it was brilliant to spend the day with my parents, brothers and grandmother. At the moment, I have been spending more time packing, finishing work and meeting family members than getting any actual reading done :-(, but such is life and I can’t wait until I’m in an environment where I hopefully focus my skills into producing a decent Thesis.

Ooh, any pictures?

Yep :-), he’s one of me on the stage:

Me Collecting a Tube









What were these little hiccups that you had mentioned?

Well, kind of funny really; my name and degree award were not in the ‘directory of graduates’ but that was most likely my fault of messing around with my degree acceptance, and the other hiccup was on stage where my presentation card was printed incorrectly and therefore it was announced I had two degrees. You can find the part of the ceremony where this happens here, excuse me while I go and hide!

Funny video, so I take it you’re packing?

Yes! Lots of packing as I’m leaving in a few days (30th of September to be precise), I shall be moving most of my things down with me to keep myself sane, but it is quite a scary departure from something I’ve grown comfortable with, and soon I’ll be thrown into ‘Lion’s Den’; the deep end. I shall pack up my car and drive on down to register/enrol formally onto my research degree, before finally getting my flat keys and meeting up with my flatmate. It’s very exciting, but also daunting, and not just because of moving but also the work I’ll eventually have to grow to accustom to.

What should you be afraid of starting work that you’re enthusiastic about?

Well, tough question to answer really as it’s rather subjective, and I myself am always fearing not knowing something when I should know something, or even trying to explain something I do know a lot about to someone who is a greater professional than myself. Of course though, I’m still excited, excited to work alongside with some of the most talented people in the field of Astronomy. So, I shall definitely try my up-most to do myself proud as well as those I’ll be working with and to learn to not be afraid in asking questions, no matter how simple they might apparently seem. I mean, after all, we’re at the very frontiers and boundaries of our current knowledge and the purpose of the Scientific method is to find out, and sort out, what’s right from what’s wrong. Even if you’re forced to accept a null hypothesis, it’s still worthy, as it tells others not waste time and think/do the same again, it helps our knowledge and understanding to grow and progress.

Anyway  Astrogeeks, I’ll keep you posted on my M.Phil progress as much as I possibly can.

Catch you later,


P.S. Sorry for the late posting of this one, clearly it was meant to go out many moons ago, but alas the computing gods preventing its submission. Expect a new post very soon :-).

Organising The Unorganised; The Difficulties In Preparing For Enrolment (MPhil Adventures)

Hello fellow astrogeeks,

Well, what a weird few weeks it has been since accepting my degree, aside from that  usually being a joyous celebratory occasion, it was somewhat quickly followed by annoyances, phone calls and (unbelievably slow) emails.

Oh dear, have you accidentally invented something spectacular and top secret with all the world’s governments after you?

Nothing that far-fetched and earth-shattering (sadly…?), but this is one of those moments when you realise as well as progressing academically up the ladder, you’re also progressing up the responsibility one as well. Now this isn’t something that overly troubles me, I’m quite happy to Organise myself and my life to be able to do things I want to do etc. But what I object to, I’m afraid, is the doubtful and questioning nature of all the businesses and services you try to procure in order to have somewhere to sleep, organise finances, bills etc.

You sound pedantic.

That’s probably because I am, and the first port of call for most new students in the UK, whether they are undergraduates or postgraduates, is to open a student bank account; valleys of grinning idiots trying to grab your custom with either freebies or thousands of pounds in interest free overdraft facilities. The bank I was with overflowed with insolence, to the point where they placed a doubtful judgement on my character; probably done inadvertently, but slander is slander no matter if intended or mild.

What did you do to break their nose, metaphorically speaking?

To spite them, I decided to switch to another Bank, however I initially just encountered even more of the same problem with my old bank. Anyway, in the end I decided to go to a more local version of the bank I was switching to, whom sorted me out swiftly and were extremely friendly too. In the end, after 2 accounts being opened by accident and access to the online facilities going wayward, I finally managed to open a student bank account.

Sounds like a faff, did you encounter more problems?

Oh yes, after sorting out the banking situation came sorting out accommodation, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy anyway but obviously the first step was trying to find other people to share with. Firstly, the rental market near Milton Keynes ins’t that great to begin with, and this isn’t helped by the fact that the Open University doesn’t have any undergraduate students roaming the town. After a few emails between other students within the department starting this October I finally managed to find another person to share the brunt of rental costs, after that then came the onslaught of endless searching for two bedroom accommodation, which isn’t easy.

Did you and your new friend manage to find some accommodation?

Yes, we did, a rather nice and modern flat, unfurnished but with the ‘white goods’, a term which seems rather dated now as not many appliances are really ‘white’ anymore. But the troubles then started, mainly due to incomes, despite my fellow astrochemist having a tax-free stipend to his name, it wasn’t considered enough and I sadly didn’t have another secure income (yet). But, my dad acting as a guarantor came to the rescue, in order to make the landlord happy a certain total of income required from the tenants, and this was met combined with the guarantor. Sorted? Nope, they were still placing doubt on our ability to pay the rent, so after more emailing and phone calling we finally came to an agreement on paying six months rent up-front, something which helps myself in the long run with fewer outgoings per month. So, in the end it was a win-win situation for all parties.

So as you can see, this journey easily affects you in more ways than just the academic challenges and struggles I’ll no doubtingly face, and everything seems far more uncertain and ambiguous when you enter postgraduate life. So, if you’re a fresher undergraduate student, feel lucky in knowing UCAS helps you with setting up student accounts and you have some easily accessible accommodation with minimal fuss in the halls of residence. But, just remember that in subsequent years, it will not always be so straightforward and easy, something will always drag your legs down and slow your pace.

Anyway, hope this somewhat helps anyone who happens to empathise my struggles over the last couple of weeks.



I’m a graduate!

Hello fellow Astrogeeks,

Long time no see and all that, it’s been a busy couple of weeks sorting things out, but I’ve now graduated from The Open University with the funky qualification title ‘Bachelor of Science with Honours in Natural Sciences’. I could even be really pretentious and put ‘BSc (Hons) Nat Sci (Open)’ after my name, however I’m not like that, the use of those postnomial letters are reserved for ‘extreme’ circumstances ;-).

Congratulations! So, what now?

Well, it’s the same plan as before, I received my official offer for the MPhil just over a month ago now and accepted it straight away, so this coming October I shall be full registered and enrolled as a full-time research student, the tricky bit at the moment is finding accommodation (rental properties are hard to come by), but in the mean time I shall be filling up my days with lots of reading and getting started, I can’t even begin to describe or portray how excited and thrilled I am to start! But, for now I have my degree ceremony to look forward to in the coming month in Milton Keynes, where I’ll get chance to dress all smart and wear a robe minus the mortarboard (OU graduates are too ‘cool’ for those ;-)).

I’ll of course update on my progress in due course with all things ‘academicy’ as well as snippets of my degree ceremony, if you’re dying to see awkward photos/videos of me walking across a stage that is, but hopefully it’ll help others to become inspired into embarking themselves into Higher Education, study for the hell if it if nothing else, it’s ultimately the reason why many choose to do an academic degree in the first place; passion, interest and desire.

For now though I’ll leave you with my ‘MPhil fund‘, if you can donate that’d mean more than you could possibly imagine, otherwise sharing the webpage would be more than enough to help me build funds in order to pay for the tuition fees :-).

Catch you later Astrogeeks,


My MPhil Fund

Hello fellow astrogeeks,

Well, this week has been a very (not so) busy week. As you may be aware from my previous post, I am going to be embarking onto my next University Adventure for a postgraduate research degree; the sinister sounding Master of Philosophy degree, or MPhil for short.

But, sadly this route means I can’t obtain any funding or help towards maintenance, apart from a few applications to a small handful of educational charities, there is really no help at all from the government. So, I decided upon the idea to use a charity/crowfunding sort of website, and the result is the following webpage below:



You might be able to see that my current goal is £4000, which is a lot of money, but this essentially will just be enough to cover the cost of my tuition fees. So far, I’ve been humbled and incredibly lucky to have som great people donating small amounts of their own money to me, and as a result I now have £80 of the total £4000. This may be a small percentage, but I didn’t think i’d receive any donations at all for such an unworthy cause when compared  to the more worthy ones.

So the question is now, could you share this page around to as many people as you can? Doing this means more than donating if you can’t donate, but if you can donate, just donating a £1 would be more than enough. If I had 1000 people donating £1 each, then I’d reach my goal in no time at all, or £2 per 1000 people would give £2000. It’s amazing how quickly small change can create large sums.

So anyway, this is a small plea, but please do not feel like you have to do anything as I’d be happy if you could at least share my webpage across the many social media websites available today.


Many thanks for your time as always and take care astrogeeks.

Yours, TheObAstro

Astronomy, The Final (First?) Frontier…

Hello fellow fellow astrogeeks,

Now, you may be wondering “ermm, who are you again?”, which is completely understandable since I have just basically disappeared completely from my own blog page. Well, I now want to change that now I have more free time, yes you heard me correctly, I now have more free time!

So, ermm, what have you been up to these past 8/9 months or so, backpacking?

Sadly no, nothing anywhere near quite as exciting or fanciful as that, although I’ve been doing something far more interesting. “What’s that?”, I hear you cry, well it’s me being busy finishing my undergraduate degree with the Open University, with my last module, SM358-The Quantum World, completed in early June my OU journey (at undergraduate level at least) is now at an end. So now all I have to do is wait for my final module result so I can obtain my degree and its classification, so fingers crossed for the oncoming results this late July. However, I also obtained results from modules I completed last year in September/October and I luckily got fairly okay passes in those with one being for my project/dissertation with the conspicuous and rather convoluted title, ‘Highly Collimated Molecular Outflows Emanating from YSOs: Their Components and the Underlying Driving Wind’. If you’re interested in reading my project/dissertation/literary review, then please feel free to read it below. Be warned, it’s not a work of art nor by any means comprehensive, but hopefully the science will be to your liking as I found it rather exciting, especially the interdisciplinary mix of Astronomy, Physics and Chemistry in there.

Project is down here:


Project is up there:

That’s great, but what’s next, going off to finally get yourself a ‘proper job’?

In all honesty what exactly is a, ‘proper job’, in my opinion there is no such thing so go off and do whatever makes you feel happy and fulfilled, even if that’s sweeping the roads. Anyway, without going too far off topic there, I’ll be venturing off to Milton Keynes to study Full-Time at the OU, so in reality my OU journey hasn’t actually come to an end, as the famous saying goes ” as another door closes, another one opens”, regardless on who or what is metaphorically closing the door this is true generally in life.

Oh dear, Astronomy again?

Yes, it’s Astronomy (hardly going to be Psychology now was it ;-)) and my first step into postgraduate life will be studying for a research degree, an MPhil to be precise, and I’ve even been given the nifty thesis title of: ‘Data Mining for Extragalatic AstroChemistry’. No beating about the bush here, I’m literally ‘mining’ data, most likely from the Japanese AKARI telescope; a charming space-based Telescope analysing pretty much the entire infrared range. Another factor is that the satellite was decommissioned in late 2011 due to electrical failure, and we still have tonnes of data most likely untouched, so this is where slavery comes in… I’m joking of course, It’s a thrilling time to be involved in all areas of Astronomy, lets hope lack of resources won’t halt progress!

Anyway, that’s it for my ramblings today, I’ll be blogging away on as many things as I can… I might add a little section on postgrad study if people want that sort of thing? Let me know in the poll below.

Take care astrogeeks

Yours, The ObAstro

ALMA Resolves Atomic Carbon

Top left we have the Hubble image of NGC 6302, bottom left we have the emission spectrum of Carbon, and to the right we have a  composite image of the ALMA data overlaying the Hubble image of NGC 6302.

Top left we have the Hubble image of NGC 6302, bottom left we have the emission spectrum of Carbon, and to the right we have a composite image of the ALMA data overlaying the Hubble image of NGC 6302.


Hello fellow astrogeeks,

We have some very exciting news, despite the recent Labour dispute at ALMA (Atacama Large millimetre/sub-millimetre Array), the data that has been obtained thus far presents the first high resolution resolvement of Carbon atoms around the planetary nebular NGC 6302; the 500GHz frequency band where the line emission peak of atomic Carbon lies had only been previously resolved to 15 arcseconds with single dish interferometers, ALMA can resolve to 3.5 arcseconds.

That’s cool, but err… What does this all mean?

Well, this is the first step into observing the evolutionary processes at different points in a star’s life, thanks to the massive array in collaboration with the Band 8 antennae fitted to each dish we can now resolve and spatially map the location of specific atomic species to a greater accuracy than before, this will provide more precise determinations of the velocities of gas clouds, understand what mechanisms are at work during stellar formation, better understand higher mass stars… The list is never ending and represents an exciting time in observational astronomy.

Mapping this carbon to the Hubble image of the nebula NGC 6302 shows us the scope of the data and puts it in context for those not familiar with radio astronomy, it’s a brilliant portrayal on how far the technology in science has come and how it’s quickly advancing man-kind’s understanding of the Universe, in the hope of harnessing the understanding of these new intuitive technologies along the path of discovery.

That’s all for now astrogeeks and keep looking up,



Poor ALMA is all alone

ALMA 5km high with (not so) fresh air

Salutations fellow Astrogeeks,

Sad news this week as it comes to our attention that ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/sub-millimetre Array) is now closed for business for the unforeseeable future, this comes from a recent labour dispute with the observatory workers performing strike action; this is the problem when Science and politics collide, no matter how big or small the problem. All astronomers that were present at the site have been ordered to return to their respective homes, however despite this there is still data analysis that can be performed ‘off-site’ from the so called ‘cycle 1’ phase; observations were made with half of the total array collecting area (33 dishes instead of the total 66).

ALMA, atop the very high and oxygen starving altitudes (5km) of the Atacama desert in northern Chile, is a massive radio array, which when finished will have a total of 66 working dishes acting as one massive dish. At this altitude the array can analyse incoming infrared radiation, as the air is thin enough to allow it to pass through into the atmosphere at this altitude, the massive array will allow us to resolve to a greater degree of detail than ever before when it’s at full operational capacity, even now running half of the array it’s already bringing back very valuable data.

So, it’s a frustrating point in time, as the strike comes close to the final stages of completing the array in its entirety, however despite this minor setback there is already some exciting data beaming from the array; hopefully helping us to gain a greater understanding the processes and mechanisms that help cause the more massive stars to be born, as well as to greater understand the formation and evolution of galaxies. Hopefully the ‘table discussions’ between the Union and the legal employer of the Chilean staff, Associated Universities Incorporated (AUI), can be settled and completion of the Array will continue, so it is finished by the end of the year.

Speak to you soon fellow astrogeeks,