She had some horses (Part I)

October 4, 2013

 

I traveled to Denver for the 45th Division for Planetary Sciences conference in October, conveniently located three hours east of a dear friend of my mother. I drove west from the airport as the sun set and the haze around Denver gathered, darkening from a dusty rose to grey to black.  I went over two mountain passes over 10,000 feet tall, feeling no ill effects as I adjusted to the altitude.  Around the tunnels of Glenwood Canyon it began to rain, far better than snow for driving, but still exciting as the Jeep hydroplaned and lost traction on the highway.  I continued onward and wound up in the tiny town of Silt, 97 miles from the Utah border with Colorado.

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Boat and Beach Camping on Tomales Bay, 2013

August 17-18, 2013

Arriving at a beach on Tomales Bay by boat and spending the night must go back to the time of the Miwok.  Inverness Yacht Club members have sailed, motored, paddled, and rowed to Kilkenny or Marshall or Heart’s Desire beaches for overnights for so long that it’s a hallowed tradition. Continue reading

How planetary radar works at Arecibo Observatory

We know Arecibo Observatory for its 305-meter (1000-foot) diameter telescope and its appearances in Goldeneye and Contact.  Aside from battling Bond villains and driving red diesel Jeeps around the telescope (grousing at the site director about the funding status of projects is optional), several hundred hours a year of telescope time at Arecibo go toward radar studies of asteroids.  Tasked to “find asteroids before they find us”, a group of us four planetary radar astronomers at Arecibo (as well as collaborators and colleagues at institutions outside of Puerto Rico) observes asteroids for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation program. We study the orbits and surface properties of our rowdy neighbors, near-Earth asteroids.

William E. Gordon telescopeHow do we transmit and receive radio waves using the klystrons and radio receivers at the observatory, and how do we turn these into images of asteroids?  Read more on my guest post at the Planetary Society on how planetary radar at Arecibo Observatory works.

Leaving Tokyo: vegetables, electronics, kimono

May 24, 2012

My last night in Tokyo I wound up at dinner with Yuka, Yuki, Yumi, and Salvador (spot the outlier) at my favorite restaurant that Yuki found: 野菜の王様, King of Vegetables, in Hibiya.  We’d visited the other location in January, and I was so excited to see vegetables that we went again.

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Kappabashi, Kitchen Town (合羽橋)

May 24, 2012

 

My last day in Tokyo dawned hot and dry.  I thanked my generous host Hitomi profusely and headed out for some errands.  I stashed my bags in a coin locker at a central station and headed out for Kappabashi, known as “Kitchen Town” for its profusion of shops for restaurants and kitchens.  I was on a mission for my friend Andy to find him a knife.

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ADS: How to find author names and affiliations

The astronomy and planetary science communities have a fantastic tool for finding scientific papers previously published: the Astrophysics Data System, or ADS, supported by NASA and run out of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  The main feature I use is the abstract service, delivering summaries of papers and more.

The National Science Foundation requires that you include on some proposals the names of all of your coauthors from the last several years, as well as their institutions.  If you have more than a handful of coauthors, or are on publications with legions of coauthors, this task becomes difficult, and quickly!  Fortunately, as Leo Stein pointed out, ADS makes this process easy and even pleasant.

First, start an abstract search in ADS.  I’ll look up my fairy god-astronomer‘s coauthors, because they’re bound to be good folks.

ADS Search Page

 

Under Filters we’ll select only refereed articles, because we don’t want every last DPS and LPSC abstract.  For an actual NSF proposal, you want all bibliographic sources, as you don’t want a collaborator from a published conference paper being on the panel that judges your work.

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We have a list of 68 abstracts!  Let’s go to the bottom of the page.

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After the final abstract, we can select all records, or choose individual records for which to look up coauthor information.

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Further down on the retrieved articles page, there’s an option to “Get Author-Affiliation form for selected articles”.

 

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On the Author-Affiliation service page, you can select specific coauthors, and choose their current institution or affiliation, then finally export the whole kit and caboodle to a comma-separated text file (CSV), an Excel file (.xls), text, or to your browser.

 

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Submit your NSF proposal, smile, then spend the time you saved to do some actual science.

I was first introduced to ADS in 2006 by Chi “Teddy” C. Cheung, and it’s been an indispensable companion since as I try to dig my way through a mountain of astronomical literature.  Export all of the references you want to BibTeX or Endnote format?  Keep a library of papers?  Find out if your friends have been publishing lately?  Massage your toes?  ADS does all of that, and more.  I am tremendously grateful for the grants that enable ADS to continue running and providing these services to our communities.

What is your favorite ADS trick or feature?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Date-san, Daimyō of Sendai

May 23, 2012

Dan-chan, graduate student in forestry who does research in the jungles of Malaysia and Borneo and intrepid Fuji-san climbing guide, met me at the train station in Sendai.  Who was this samurai with the horned helmet who appeared everywhere in the region?

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Date-san appeared on all the train station signs in cartoon form as a rice ball, onigiri, with horns; here he was at Matsushima.

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Scoping out the rowdy neighbors and baking Apophis cake

It’s been a pretty exciting week to be an asteroid researcher: you’d think the sky was falling!  Really, it was just a confluence of some rowdy neighbors checking in on earth asking, “How’s that space program coming?”  An ordinary chondrite meteorite exploded over Russia, and later that day a 150-foot-wide piece of spacerock skimmed 17,000 miles above the earth, just ducking inside the orbits of geostationary satellites.
We had nothing to do with either: the Russia bolide was detected maybe seconds beforehand by some satellites; 2012 DA14 was too low in our sky for Arecibo to observe.

The media guy here is still getting calls, almost a week later.  Univision came by, Dish Network wanted to interview someone…
 
Inline image 1 What are we doing in the midst of all this?  Regularly scheduled observations of asteroid (99942) Apophis, everyone’s favorite potentially hazardous asteroid that we’ve known about for almost nine years now.  None of these recently discovered raucous interlopers for us this week, pshaw.  Even so, the events of last week underscore the importance of “finding them before they find us” and commercial solutions to asteroid problems.
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