This guest post is from Anna Han, an undergrad working on the Hubble data from Galaxy Zoo:
I attended the AAS Conference in Austin, Texas with the Yale Astronomy and Physics Department to present the results from my research last summer. Many thanks to everyone in the department and Galaxy Zoo who gave me this opportunity and continue to support me through my work. It is because of their guidance that I was able to present a research poster at the conference this winter and enjoy a whole new experience.
The AAS Conference was fascinating, motivating, and overwhelming all at the same time. Starting from 9:00am every morning, I listened to various compact 10-minute talks given by various PhD candidates, post-docs, and researchers from around the world. Though I must admit some of the ideas presented went over my head, I learned more and more with each talk I heard.
The midday lunch breaks made up one of my favorite parts of the conference. Yes, the ribs in Texas are good. But no amount of delicious southern cuisine compares to how welcome and at ease I felt with fellow astronomers kind enough to invite me, a newbie sophomore undergraduate, to lunch. Lunch became my 2-hour my opportunity to talk one-on-one with other researchers and get informed on their work. When my questions ran out, I gladly took the chance to introduce my own research and use their feedback to better prepare for my poster presentation.
On Thursday morning, I tacked up my poster in the exhibit hall and stood guard, armed with organized details of my research and cookies as bait. Let me confess now that I have never been at or in a science fair, but I imagine it must be similar to what I experienced that day. Non-scientist citizens and experts in AGN alike perused my poster and asked questions. Every once in a while I recognized a familiar face: members from my research group, students I had befriended throughout the conference, and fellow researchers I had shared lunch with stopped by to see my poster. Explaining my research to someone who was interested (either in my work or the cookies) was an immensely rewarding experience. I felt proud of what I had accomplished and so thankful to the people who helped me do it. The encounters with other people also gave me ideas for future directions I could proceed in.
This semester, I plan to continue searching for multiple AGN signatures in grism spectra of clumpy galaxies. My experience at the AAS Conference has inspired me to develop a more systematic search for clumpy galaxies using Galaxy Zoo and explore in more detail the possibility of low redshift galaxies containing multiple AGN. To the citizens of Galaxy Zoo, thank you again, and I hope for your continued support!
One of the most exciting aspects of Galaxy Zoo has been the way in which a really amazing community has developed around the project. When we started, we didn’t even have a forum, but the incredible success of the project led to many requests, and we created the Galaxy Zoo Forum. The story of how that forum became a real, meaningful community is just as fascinating as the scientific story of Galaxy Zoo. So, we have asked Alice, one of our forum moderators, to tell the story of Galaxy Zoo as soical community. Today, she’ll talk about some of the wonderful things that the community has created, and on Thursday, she’ll tell the story of face-to-face meetup. So, here is the story of the Galaxy Zoo community, courtesy of Alice:
Well, I can’t tell you much about astrophysics. But, perhaps because of this, I can tell you an awful lot about the other species inhabiting Galaxy Zoo, namely the wonderful people.
I can honestly say that Galaxy Zoo is the best thing I’ve ever done. I was staggered to be asked to moderate the discussion forum, but was already addicted to the galaxies and the thrill of making a real contribution to science. Eight months on, I still say that this, added to working with our Zooites, have capped even living abroad.
And I’m not the only one. I don’t know quite what it is, but Galaxy Zoo does something to people. The contributions, both creative and academic, that people have made to the forum are as stunning as the sight of any spiral, and never fail to move me. Infinity rewrote a passage of Shakespeare. Quarkspin came up with this song. Pluk collected up the letters of Galactic Alphabet to write us all a Christmas message. Rick Nowell put together this stunning montage of mergers, which I hope will one day make it to Astronomy Picture of the Day – if not, Rick, hundreds here appreciate it, as you know! He and Starry Nite have also done a disturbingly vast amount of work collecting galactic peas; laughs and science mix all too well here.
Zooites have made huge contributions to finding your way around the forum and the science, as well. Geoff Roynon wrote most of the FAQ Reference Library and Finding Information for your Target Object. NGC 3314, who also got us our telescope time to investigate overlapping galaxies and who has done so much work with the Team on Hanny’s Voorwerp, has written a thread about galaxy spectra. EigenState, meanwhile, has written two deliciously scary scientific papers on the physics of spectra – because beginners and professors both come here! Added to that, there is a wonderfully welcoming and helpful atmosphere here, generated entirely by our regulars: was it Half65 who started the tradition of saying “Welcome to the zoo” to all our newcomers? And patient people never tire of helping newbies make galactic signatures, explaining how to classify irregular galaxies or discussing space, time and black holes.
So it goes on – I won’t have mentioned everything or everybody; you may include links to worthy pieces I’ve missed out in the comments! By the way, I can’t resist including my own contribution, with thanks for all the inspiration to Dr Brian May (whose music and website also brought some of our Zooites to us!). But my favourite to date has been SMacB’s awesome galactic videos.