The European Week of Astronomy and Space Science
Last week (April 20th-23rd) the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield hosted the European Week of Astronomy and Space Sciences which incorporated both the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) and the Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting (JENAM) for 2009. Galaxy Zoo was reasonably well represented at the meeting with 3 past and present team members attending.
On Tuesday afternoon Daniel Thomas presented a talk entitled “Secular Evolution in Spiral Bulges”. This was about work based on a small sample of galaxies with morphological classifications (pre Galaxy Zoo) and explored the idea that secular evolution (ie. slow steady evolution not involving mergers etc) in the disks or spiral galaxies could be expected to drive gas into the spiral bulges thereby making spiral bulges form new stars and have younger stellar populations than elliptical galaxies (or “diskless bulges”). The study found no evidence for such disk driven evolution – but did find that both low mass ellipticals and spirals seem to have younger populations than higher mass ones. Daniel finished by talking about the prospects for Galaxy Zoo 2 to vastly increase the sample size (from 35 to a quarter of a million), so is obviously looking forward to having that data to hand to explore this issue further.
At Wednesday lunchtime, past Galaxy Zoo team member Kate Land was involved in the Careers Lunch, participating in a presentation by 3 former astronomy researchers who talked about their new jobs applying the skills they learned doing scientific research to researching trends and behaviour of financial markets. Kate talked about the pros and cons of her new job relative to being involved in astronomical research. These included some loss of autonomy, but more support, and shorter timescales for getting results. Otherwise the general theme from the discussion was how similar financial market modeling is to science research and how many of the skills developed by astronomical researchers are transferable into such jobs.
On Wednesday afternoon I presented my work on the trends of colour with inclination observed in spirals identified by the first phase of Galaxy Zoo. This reddening with inclination is expected if the disks of spirals have a significant amount of interstellar dust in them. It’s useful to know how much reddening there is so that we can reconstruct the real colours of the spiral galaxies (and find the true “red spirals”, not just those reddened by dust). Also the details of the curve of reddening with inclination in different SDSS filters can provide clues to the type and amount of dust in the spirals. You can read more about this work in my previous blog post about it. It’s all progressing well, and we plan to submit it for peer review very soon.
I am not sure if I should feel sorry for former researchers now working in the financial sector. It’s great to here about the presentations at the conference and how the increase in sample sizes will move our knowledge of galaxy evolution forward. Look forward to hearing more.
Arthur – well there was a small discussion at the careers lunch about the problems of the financial sector. The 3 former postdocs all said they thought their jobs were safe – they’re at a company that is still doing OK.
What was interesting was the discussion of the mistrust of modeling of the markets which has got into the media…. the company they all work at promotes real research into the markets, and they seemed to think this was the real way out of the crisis – as opposed to using false assumptions about how the markets work…. I don’t know enough about it to really judge the issues there, but I do worry about anything that starts to look like a mistrust of the scientific method….
Let’s hope for the best.