Tuesday, November 10, 2015

sky schemes: a song

My unofficial hack at last week's .Astronomy 7 conference in sydney was to perform a song i wrote recently called Sky Schemes.  Luckily, Becky recorded it for all to hear!

Sky Schemes
By Amanda Bauer (2015)

On winter nights when I was a girl
I’d go to her house after school
We’d play game, make things, discover our dreams
I’d walk home through the dark remembering our schemes

I’d look up at the stars, shining overhead
Make constellations that I saw instead

Of those Greek ones, Islamic ones, they are so old
There are native ones, Indigenous ones, but we’re seldom told
I made one up. It was a bird, wings spread wide
I’d look for it, find it, feel so much pride

So look up at the stars, shining overhead
Make constellations that you see instead

There are new ones, trues ones, you will see first
Share them with us, through us, satisfy your thirst
To know things, understand, how we are here
No true answer you’ll find, but it will become clear

The questions that matter are changing all the time
Rely on your instincts, empower your mind

And then look up at the stars, shining overhead
Make constellations that you see instead

Photo by Andy Green

Photo by Andy Green

also, another quick announcement that you might suspect from the photo below... go to THIS LINK and keep exploring until you uncover the surprise :)  this reveal was also made as a result of .Astronomy hack day.

Photo by Andy Green

Sunday, October 11, 2015

berkeley astronomer guilty of sexual harassment

the best thing i can say is that sexual harassment in academia is being discussed in the media and it's finally out in the open that berkeley's well known exopolanet astronomer, geoff marcy, is a serial sexual harasser.

you see, for YEARS (since 2001) reports of his inappropriate actions have been known to his undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs, and formal complaints were brought to him in 2004.  he was told that his massages and touches and attempted kisses and GROPES were unwanted and inappropriate.   he knew this, even though in his recent semi-apology he tries to express "how painful it is for me to realize that I was a source of distress for any of my women colleagues, however unintentional."  i'm calling bullshit.

surely his senior colleagues knew these formal complaints had been filed as his reputation raged among the international astronomers who worked on his teams. but did any of his colleagues step up and say to him "Dude, this is not cool.  STOP IT!"  nothing of the sort is on record, although i'd love to be corrected on this.

so marcy persisted.

and what happened during the last 15 years?  an informal network of women trying to protect each other from his behaviour naturally formed, warning younger colleagues to "watch out" for him at major conferences.

as the altlantic describes,

Marcy leveraged his considerable fame and power in the world of astronomy to build a nearly consequence-free bubble around himself.

the sad reality is that berkeley is moving forward with NO disciplinary action AT ALL!  this i do not understand.  YET AGAIN the burden to "deal" with the repercussions of this horrific behaviour is placed on the victims.  <::sarcastic truthiness::=""> poor mr famous scientist, please act within the rules already in place for all scientists in this university or else we may just have to be courageous enough to discipline you. </>

i can guarantee that marcy is not the only sexual predator whose actions have been protected by cowardly colleagues and universities.  two years ago i wrote about my personal experience as a victim of sexual harassment as a PhD student at the university of texas at austin (UT).  i took steps to lodge a formal complaint, but was thwarted by senior faculty.  i chose to just "deal" with it and get on with my studies, knowing that there had been others and would be more victims of this man's pathetic advances.

i became part of the internal network of women warning other women to avoid him, while male students sat by saying things like "that sucks" and senior staff went on protecting him - for DECADES.

YES IT DOES SUCK.  and it's not fair.  this man continued to work and teach at UT and FINALLY was lightly forced into early retirement so the department could once and for all stop figuring out how to suppress the complaints of his victims and his continuing bad behaviours.    this professor was not famous in his field.  he was not bringing in large grants.  his research was nothing of note.  but he was surrounded by a "good old boys" network that protected him just the same.

the only action of consequence against marcy so far is that he has been asked to skip one of the biggest professional astronomy meetings in the world this january.  imagine this - instead of telling women to be cautious around known sexual harassers - TELL THE HARASSERS TO STOP FUCKING HARASSING PEOPLE and/or STAY AWAY!

so thank you to yale astronomer and American Astronomical Society (AAS) President Meg Urry who says this about her intolerance for harassment at the conference:

Sexual harassment usually involves a question of a power imbalance. [...]  And one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen is when a young woman realizes that the extra attention she is receiving from an older, male astronomer is not related to her science.

Come on astronomers, let's expect MORE from our senior colleagues and tell them so.  it's worth it to hold them to humane behaviour standards, regardless of their scientific achievements or potential.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

collecting SAMI galaxies

I've been up at Siding Spring Observatory visiting this beauty this week.

The dome of the 4-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope
I enjoy walking around the dome's catwalk to see the views in all directions.

Hello from the catwalk!
 The first night provided a lovely (cloudy) sunset.

But then the skies cleared BEAUTIFULLY for most of the observing run and the Milky Way glowed brilliantly across the early evening sky.

We have been using the SAMI instrument during this run to observe over 100 galaxies so far!

Perched at Prime Focus with SAMI
Kristin was the telescope operator for the beginning of the run. Here she is with the original control panel that was installed 40 years ago!  while it still looks roughly the same - systems and displays have been upgraded over the years :)

we had some time for enjoying the clear night skies while exposing with the big telescope

The Magellanic Clouds and the AAT dome. (Credit: Jesse van de Sande)

Milky Way (Credit: Angel Lopez-Sanchez)
And we may have started to write a few songs for "SAMI - then Musical"  ;)

Monday, August 10, 2015

A 2dF night at the Anglo-Australian Telescope

A new video from AAO!

"A 2dF night at the AAT" assembles 14 time-lapse sequences taken at the 4-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) located at Siding Spring Observatory NSW, Australia. This time-lapse video shows not only how the Two Degree Field (2dF) instrument works but also how the AAT and the telescope dome move in tandem, and the beauty of the Southern Sky in spring and summer.   
The video is 2min 50sec long and combines more than 4000 frames obtained using a CANON EOS 600D with a 10-20mm wide-angle lens. All sequences were taken during September and November 2011 by astronomer Dr Ángel R. López-Sánchez while he was working as the 2dF support astronomer for the AAT. The music is the song “Blue Raider” from Composer Cesc Villà's album “Epic Soul Factory”

Saturday, August 8, 2015

the star talker - neil degrasse tyson

what a fun, almost surreal evening talking with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

pre-show with Neil deGrasse Tyson
He reminded us to "look the hell up every once in a while" and not to take evidence of science and technology in our everyday lives (phones!) for granted.

I didn't realize for the first few minutes that we were on the HUGE screen behind us on stage!

one of the best parts about spending time with neil is realising that he is constantly observing the world around him and thinking about it, questioning it, interpreting it - not taking it at face value. it's something we should all do more, as it keeps us present in the moment and prevents us from not appreciating all the amazing things around us.

With Neil DeGrasse Tyson after our conversation in Melbourne, thanks to Think Inc
I'll host his next show in brisbane next weekend, so there's still time to let me know what questions you would ask him if you had the chance!

also, should i wear the boots again, or change it up?  serious questions of the universe....

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hosting Neil DeGrasse Tyson

dr neil degrasse tyson is one of the most recognised scientists in the world right now and he has recently embarked on an australian tour!

i'm thrilled to report that i will be hosting two of his shows: August 7th in Melbourne and August 16th in Brisbane!

there are still tickets available for each show, so if you're around, please join us!

what does hosting mean?   i will pop up on stage first and welcome everyone to the event then introduce neil and invite him to the stage.  he and i will then sit in a couple comfy chairs and have an hour long conversation on topics ranging from pluto to science education to alien life to the (lack of) edge of the universe!

then a few audience members will have a chance to ask him questions as well.

i'm thrilled for this opportunity and will hopefully have a full report after the events are finished. here we go...!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Journey to the edge of a forming galaxy

in early july i spent two weeks as "scientist in residence" at the ABC as a result of the Top 5 Under 40 award.  the main project i worked on was producing a science ninja adventure story that went live on the science show on radio national yesterday afternoon!

journey to the edge of a forming galaxy (website)
journey to the edge of a forming galaxy (mp3)

Artwork by Mischa Andrews from photo by Jenny Gabache and galaxy image by David Malin

long time readers may remember the seeds of this story from a blog post in 2010. you never know what direction random inspiration will go!

transforming the written story into something radio-ready was an interesting challenge.  phrases that look lovely on the page do not sound smooth or conversational when spoken out loud.  i wrote many versions of the story (in less than 2 days) before settling into one that i could read out loud comfortably.

Artwork by Glen Nagle

once the story was ready, i had the amazing luck of booking an entire afternoon in the studio with award-winning sound engineer Russell Stapleton.  i had shared an early draft of the story with him and he came prepared with directories of "space and ninja" sounds that he had been working with for the last 20 years!  he really made the story come alive and it was fascinating to watch him work. such a unique experience to work with him to create the depth of sound you hear throughout the story.

the science show producer asked me for some unique artwork to display with the story on the webpage, since a regular galaxy image would be a bit boring.  i was busy at a workshop during the couple days i had to produce the image, so i asked twitter for volunteers to help.  they certainly came through - the images are displayed through this post.  thanks so much to Mischa Andrews and Glen Nagle!

Put together by Glen Nagle from photo by Jenny Gabache and galaxy image by David Malin

Hope you enjoy the adventure!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

2015 David Malin Award Winners

Here is the first batch of winning astrophotos from the annual David Malin Awards contest.  These are absolutely stunning captures from non-professional astronomers around australia!

Overall Winner: "Stellar Riches" by Troy Casswell

Deep sky winner: "The Fighting Dragons of Ara" by Andrew Campbell

Nightscape winner: "Aurora Treescape" by James Garlick

Solar system winner: "Solar Crown" by Peter Ward