Photos from SDSS at the AAS229

A number of members of the SDSS have been at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas this week. Here are some pictures of activities around our exhibit hall booth, from which among other things we gave SDSS plates to a number of teachers and educators. The plates were a big hit and we successfully distribtuted 9 to educational locations in Texas.


Panoramic view of the booth.


The press briefing


Gail Zasowski giving out a plate to a local teacher.


Another teacher with a plate.


This school group already had their own plate, but were happy to have a photo with multiple plates.


Karen Masters showing off the Shenova “Dark Matter” dress with a pattern based on BOSS data. With a BOSS plate.


Training the next generation of fiber optic technicians?


Pretending to plug.


Jen Sobeck interacting with students during the outreach session.


Kat Barger explaining the survey during the outreach session.


3D printed galaxies from the Tactile Universe project displayed at the booth.


MaNGA Data Color-by-Numbers.


SWAG: APOGEE periodic tables, MaNGA pens, and SDSS M&Ms.




Final day of SDSS abstracts at #aas229


10:10 AM – 10:30 AM
408.02D. A Survey of Peculiar L and T Dwarfs in a Cross-Correlation of the SDSS, 2MASS and WISE Databases
Kendra Kellogg; Stanimir A. Metchev

10:20 AM – 10:30 AM
402.03. Chandra Observations of the Sextuply Imaged Quasar SDSS J2222+2745
David A. Pooley; Saul A. Rappaport

2:00 PM – 2:10 PM
414.01. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reverberation Mapping Project: Quasar Reverberation Mapping Studies
Catherine Grier

2:00 PM – 2:20 PM
417.01D. Tidal Interaction among Red Giants Close Binary Systems in APOGEE Database
Meng Sun; Phil Arras; Steven R. Majewski; Nicholas W. Troup; Nevin N. Weinberg

3:00 PM – 3:10 PM
413.06. Compositions of Small Planets & Implications for Planetary Dynamics
Jennifer Johnson; Johanna Teske; Diogo Souto; Katia M. Cunha; Cayman T. Unterborn; Wendy Panero

433.03. Searching for GALEX FUV and NUV Detections of BOSS Ultracool Dwarfs
Jonathan Wheatley; Sarah J. Schmidt; Barry Welsh

433.10. Characterization of Detached Main Sequence Binaries Observed by Kepler, SDSS(APOGEE) and Gaia
Christina O. Solis; Paul A. Mason

433.15. Characterizing RR Lyraes using SDSS, Single-Epoch Spectroscopy
Stacy S. Long; Ronald J. Wilhelm; Nathan M. De Lee

SDSS-IV at #aas229: Friday Abstracts

Here are the SDSS related abstracts for Friday 6th January at #aas229.


10:00 AM – 10:10 AM
306.01. The SDSS-IV Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey: The Clustering of Luminous Red Galaxies Using Photometric Redshifts
Abhishek Prakash

10:50 AM – 11:00 AM
302.05. Composite Spectra of Broad Absorption Line Quasars in SDSS-III BOSS
Hanna Herbst; Fred Hamann; Isabelle Paris; Daniel M. Capellupo


347.15. Constraining the Merging History of Massive Galaxies Since Redshift 3 Using Close Pairs. I. Major Pairs from Candels and the SDSS
Kameswara Bharadwaj Mantha et al.

347.34. Correlating The Star Formation Histories Of MaNGA Galaxies With Their Past AGN Activity
Andrea Gonzalez Ortiz

347.35. Incidence of WISE-Selected Obscured AGNs in Major Mergers and Interactions from the SDSS
Madalyn Weston; Daniel H. McIntosh; Mark Brodwin; Justin Mann; Andrew Cooper; Adam McConnell; Jennifer L. Nielson

347.38. Properties of Pseudo-bulges and Classical Bulges Identified Among SDSS Galaxies
Yifei Luo; Aldo Rodriguez; David C. Koo; Joel R. Primack; Sandra M. Faber; Yicheng Guo; Zhu Chen; Jerome J. Fang; Marc Huertas-Company

347.55. Spectral Analysis, Synthesis, & Energy Distributions of Nearby E+A Galaxies Using SDSS-IV MaNGA
Olivia A. Weaver; Miguel R. Anderson; Muhammad Wally; Olivia James; Julia Falcone; Allen Liu; Nicole Wallack; Charles Liu

347.56. A Study of E+A Galaxies Through SDSS-MaNGA Integral Field Spectroscopy
Muhammad Wally; Olivia A. Weaver; Miguel R. Anderson; Allen Liu; Julia Falcone; Nicole L. Wallack; Olivia James; Charles Liu

336.04. Results from a Pilot REU Program: Exploring the Cosmos Using Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data
Nancy J. Chanover; Kelly Holley-Bockelmann; Jon A. Holtzman

336.05. The FAST Initiative: Fostering a More Inclusive SDSS Collaboration
Kelly Holley-Bockelmann; Nancy J. Chanover; Adam J. Burgasser; Kelle L. Cruz; Charles Liu; Paul A. Mason; Jesus Pando; Emily L. Rice; Sarah J. Schmidt; Jose R. Sanchez-Gallego; Sara Lucatello; Alfonso Aragon-Salamanca; Francesco Belfiore; Brian Cherinka; Diane Feuillet; Amy Jones; Karen Masters; Audrey Simmons; Ashley Ross; Keivan G. Stassun; Jamie Tayar

343.01. The Open Cluster Chemical Abundances and Mapping (OCCAM) Survey: Overview and Membership Methods
John Donor; Peter M. Frinchaboy; Julia O’Connell; Katia M. Cunha; Benjamin A. Thompson; Matthew Melendez; Matthew D. Shetrone; Steven R. Majewski; Gail Zasowski; Carlos Allende-Prieto; Marc H. Pinsonneault; Alexandre Roman-Lopes; Mathias Schultheis ; Keivan G. Stassun

343.02. The Open Cluster Chemical Abundances and Mapping (OCCAM) Survey: Galactic Gradients using SDSS-IV/DR13 and Gaia
Peter M. Frinchaboy; John Donor; Julia O’Connell; Katia M. Cunha; Benjamin A. Thompson; Matthew Melendez; Matthew D. Shetrone; Steven R. Majewski; Gail Zasowski; Carlos Allende-Prieto; Ricardo Carrera; Ana García Pérez; Michael R. Hayden; Fred R. Hearty; Jon A. Holtzman; Jennifer Johnson; Szabolcs Meszaros; David L. Nidever; Marc H. Pinsonneault; Alexandre Roman-Lopes; Ricardo P. Schiavon; Mathias Schultheis ; Verne V. Smith; Jennifer Sobeck; Keivan G. Stassun

343.03. The Open Cluster Chemical Abundances and Mapping (OCCAM) Survey: Optical Extension for Neutron Capture Elements
Matthew Melendez; Julia O’Connell; Peter M. Frinchaboy; John Donor; Katia M. Cunha; Matthew D. Shetrone; Steven R. Majewski; Gail Zasowski; Marc H. Pinsonneault; Alexandre Roman-Lopes; Keivan G. Stassun

344.18. Searching for Long-Period Companions and False Positives within the APOGEE Catalog of Companion Candidates
Duy Nguyen; Nicholas W. Troup; Steven R. Majewski

344.19. The APOGEE DR13 Catalog of Stellar and Substellar Companion Candidates
Nicholas W. Troup

344.20. APOGEE/Kepler Overlap Yields Orbital Solutions for a Variety of Eclipsing Binaries
Joni Marie C. Cunningham; Diana Windemuth; Aleezah Ali; Meredith L. Rawls; Jason Jackiewicz

SDSS-IV at #aas229; Day 2

Tomorrow is ay two of the American Astronomical Society meeting, and SDSS related abstracts I know about are listed below.

Of course we also have the press briefing at 2.15pm.


Session 204. Star Formation: Galactic to Extragalactic
204.01. Mapping the High-Dimensional ISM with Kinetic Tomography
Gail Zasowski; Joshua E. Peek; Kirill Tchernyshyov
10.00am, Texas D

Session 216. The Galactic Disk, Galactic Bulge, & Galactic Center
216.01. Chemical Cartography in the Milky Way with SDSS/APOGEE: Multi-element abundances and abundance ratio variations
Jon A. Holtzman; Sten Hasselquist; Jennifer Johnson; Jonathan C. Bird; Steven R. Majewski
10.00am, Dallas 6

Session 221. Star Associations, Star Clusters – Galactic & Extragalactic II
221.03. Two Groups of Red Giants with Distinct Chemical Abundances in the Bulge Globular Cluster NGC 6553 Through the Eyes of APOGEE
Baitian Tang; Roger Cohen; Douglas Geisler; Ricardo P. Schiavon; Steven R. Majewski; Sandro Villanova; Ricardo Carrera; Olga Zamora; D Garcia-Hernandez; Matthew D. Shetrone; Peter M. Frinchaboy; Jose G. Fernandez Trincado
2.30pm, Texas D

Session 224. Large Scale Structure, Cosmic Distance Scale
224.04D. Galaxy-galaxy and galaxy-CMB Lensing with SDSS-III BOSS galaxies
Sukhdeep Singh; Rachel Mandelbaum
2.40pm, Grapevine C

Posters (up all day, special session 5.30-6.30pm in Exhibit Hall):

236.15. SciServer: An Online Collaborative Environment for Big Data in Research and Education
Jordan Raddick; Barbara Souter; Gerard Lemson; Manuchehr Taghizadeh-Popp

237.13. The Formation of COINS: Equity and Inclusion in SDSS
Sarah J. Schmidt; Jose R. Sanchez-Gallego; Nancy J. Chanover; Kelly Holley-Bockelmann; Sara Lucatello; Alfonso Aragon-Salamanca; Francesco Belfiore; Brian Cherinka; Diane Feuillet; Amy Jones; Karen Masters; Audrey Simmons; Ashley Ross; Keivan G. Stassun; Jamie Tayar

240.16. Investigating the Spectroscopic Variability and Magnetic Activity of Photometrically Variable M Dwarfs in SDSS
Jean-Paul Ventura; Aurora Cid; Sarah J. Schmidt; Emily L. Rice; Kelle L. Cruz

240.17. Toward a Comprehensive Sample of VLM Chemical Abundances with APOGEE
Christian Aganze; Jessica L. Birky; Christopher Theissen; Adam J. Burgasser; Sarah J. Schmidt; Johanna K. Teske; Keivan G. Stassun; Jonathan C. Bird

240.18. Modeling Stellar Parameters for High Resolution Late-M and Early-L Dwarf SDSS/APOGEE Spectra
Jessica L. Birky; Christian Aganze; Adam J. Burgasser; Christopher Theissen; Sarah J. Schmidt; Johanna K. Teske; Keivan G. Stassun; Jonathan C. Bird

247.10. Active Galactic Nuclei from He II: a more complete census of AGN in SDSS galaxies yields a new population of low-luminosity AGN in highly star-forming galaxies
Rudolf E. Baer; Anna Weigel; Lia F. Sartori; Kyuseok Oh; Michael Koss; Kevin Schawinski

250.16. EMPCA and Cluster Analysis of Quasar Spectra: Application to SDSS Spectra
Karen Leighly; Adam Marrs; Cassidy Wagner; Francis Macinnis

250.22. Identifying Evolutionary Patterns of SMBHS Using Characteristic Variables of the Quasar AGNs of eBOSS
Sarah K. Martens; Eric M. Wilcots

250.24. Infrared Reverberation Mapping of 17 Quasars from the SDSS Reverberation Mapping Project
Varoujan Gorjian; Yue Shen; Aaron J. Barth; W. N. Brandt; Kyle S. Dawson; Paul J. Green; Luis Ho; Keith D. Horne; Linhua Jiang; Ian D. McGreer; Donald P. Schneider; Charling Tao

250.28. Discovery of a New Quasar: SDSS J022155.26-064916.6
Jacob Robertson; J. Allyn Smith; Douglas L. Tucker; Huan Lin; Deborah J. Gulledge; Mees B. Fix

SDSS-IV at the #AAS229

We look forward to meeting many astronomers and friends of astronomy at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Booth (819) at the 229th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (#aas229), happening in Grapevine, Texas this week.

Join us any time at our booth to learn about the current SDSS, and how to make use of our public data for your research and/or teaching of astronomy. We’re right across from a coffee stand!

The booth will be staffed by SDSS collaboration members attending the meeting. Please ask them about their own research. We will also be participating in the EPO visit by local school children.

SDSS-IV will be holding a press briefing at 2.15pm on Thursday 5th January, (Austin 5).

Many collaboration members are presenting their work at the meeting. Below is a listing of science either by collaboration members, or which mentions SDSS or one of our component surveys (APOGEE, MaNGA, eBOSS, TDSS, or SPIDERS) for just the first day, tomorrow Wednesday 4th January (come back tomorrow for updates on SDSS science being presented later in the meeting).


Session 103. Mergers,AGN, & GRB Host Galaxies:
103.03. Signatures of AGN feedback
Dominika Wylezalek; Nadia L. Zakamska
10.40am, Texas C

Session 116. Planetary Environments & Habitability
116.03. Habitability in the Local Universe
Paul A. Mason (SDSS FAST Member)
10.40am, Dallas 6

Session 124. Star Associations, Star Clusters – Galactic & Extragalactic I
124.03D. The Open Cluster Chemical Abundances and Mapping (OCCAM) Survey: Galactic Neutron Capture Abundance Gradients
Julia O’Connell; Peter M. Frinchaboy; Matthew D. Shetrone; Matthew Melendez; Katia M. Cunha; Steven R. Majewski; Gail Zasowski
2.30pm, Grapevine B

Posters (up all day, special session 5.30-6.30pm in Exhibit Hall):

142.13. Age-Metallicity Relationships Across the Milky Way Galaxy with APOGEE
Colton Casados-Medve; Jonathan C. Bird

145.20. A Study of Low-Metallicity Red Giant Stars in the Ursa Minor Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy Using APOGEE Survey Data
Wanying Fu; Joshua D. Simon

145.28. Cold Gas in Quenched Dwarf Galaxies using HI-MaNGA
Alaina Bonilla (SDSS REU)

150.01. Quasar Absorption Lines and SDSS Galaxies
Emileigh S. Shoemaker; Jennifer E. Scott; Katarzyna Oldak

156.04. Classifying TDSS Stellar Variables
Rachael C. Amaro (SDSS REU); Paul J. Green

A plug plate for the South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre

Yesterday I had the pleasure of giving an SDSS Plug Plate to the South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, in Chichester, West Sussex. This facility has been run by a team of volunteers and astronomy enthusiasts since 2002. It boasts a 100 seater planetarium, running 8-9public planetarium shows each month, as well as being available for schools bookings. I was visiting the planetarium with a group of First Year Physics students from the University of Portsmouth.


John Mason takes delivery of SDSS plate 3955 from SDSS-IV Spokesperson, Karen Masters.


The organization plan to put the SDSS plate on display, along with their other astronomy displays which include a waxwork model of famous UK amateur astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore and memorabilia from British Astronaut Tim Peake who went to school in the nearby Chichester High School. In addition they discussed plans to show the sky location the plate was designed for in future planetarium shows.

If you’d like to explore the data from this plate, which is in the direction of the constellation “Serpens”, see Plate 3955 in our Skyserver Navigate interface.


Certificate of Ownership for Plate 3955.

The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre now joins museums and science centres from all over the world who display SDSS plates.

Discovery of first binary-binary calls standard model of solar system formation into question

The below is based on a press release about work by University of Florida astronomy professor Jian Ge making use of SDSS MARVELS data. We congratulate Prof. Ge and his postdoc Dr. Bo Ma on their very interesting result.

The standard picture we have for the formation of solar systems is oversimplified, according to a paper led by University of Florida astronomy professor Jian Ge and his postdoc, Bo Ma. They’ve discovered the first “binary–binary” – two massive companions around one star in a close binary system, one so-called giant planet  and one brown dwarf, or “failed star” The first, called MARVELS-7a, is 12 times the mass of Jupiter, while the second, MARVELS-7b, has 57 times the mass of Jupiter.

Artist’s conception of an extrasolar planetary system (credit: T. Riecken).

Astronomers believe that planets in our solar system formed from a collapsed disk-like gaseous cloud, with our largest planet, Jupiter, buffered from smaller planets by the asteroid belt. In the new binary system, HD 87646, the two giant companions are close to the minimum mass for burning deuterium and hydrogen, meaning that they have accumulated far more dust and gas than what a typical collapsed disk-like gaseous cloud can provide. They were likely formed through another mechanism. The stability of the system despite such massive bodies in close proximity raises new questions about how protoplanetary disks form. The findings will be published in the October issue of the Astronomical Journal.


HD 87646’s primary star is 12 percent more massive than our sun, yet is only 22 astronomical units away from its secondary, a star about 10 percent less massive than our sun, roughly the distance between the sun and Uranus in our solar system. An astronomical unit is the mean distance between the center of the Earth and our sun, but in cosmic terms, is a relatively short distance. Within such a short distance, two giant companions are orbiting the primary star at about 0.1 and 1.5 astronomical units away. For such large companion objects to be stable so close together defies our current popular theories on how solar systems form.


The planet-hunting Doppler instrument W.M. Keck Exoplanet Tracker, or KeckET, developed by a team led by Ge at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, is unusual in that it can simultaneously observe dozens of celestial bodies. Ge says this discovery would not have been possible without a multiple-object Doppler measurement capability such as KeckET to search for a large number of stars to discover a very rare system like this one. The survey of HD 87646 occurred in 2006 during the pilot survey of the Multi-object APO Radial Velocity Exoplanet Large-area Survey (MARVELS) of the SDSS-III program, and Ge led the MARVELS survey from 2008 to 2012. It has taken eight years of follow-up data collection through collaboration with over 30 astronomers at seven other telescopes around the world and careful data analysis, much of which was done by Bo Ma, to confirm what Ge calls a “very bizarre” finding.


The team will continue to analyze data from the SDSS-III MARVELS survey.

Sources: Jian Ge, 352-294-1850

Bo Ma, 352-294-1854

Writer: Rachel Wayne, 352-294-7210


Wear the SDSS-III BOSS Data

The STEM inspired women’s fashion line “Shenova” has released it’s latest design – based on the final image of the SDSS-III BOSS catalogue. You can now wear this part of the SDSS!

This is one slice through the map of the large-scale structure of the Universe from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and its Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey. Each dot in this picture indicates the position of a galaxy 6 billion years into the past. The image covers about 1/20th of the sky, a slice of the Universe 6 billion light-years wide, 4.5 billion light-years high, and 500 million light-years thick. Color indicates distance from Earth, ranging from yellow on the near side of the slice to purple on the far side. Galaxies are highly clustered, revealing superclusters and voids whose presence is seeded in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang. This image contains 48,741 galaxies, about 3% of the full survey dataset. Grey patches are small regions without survey data. Image credit: Daniel Eisenstein and the SDSS-III collaboration

As designed, Holly Renee describes, she added a colour gradient to the image on the dress to give it “distance and sparkle”. The dress is a turtleneck sheath style, but custom orders are also possible.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 14.13.56

Check it out here: Shenova Online Store

Also worth a look is the Shenova Gravitational Wave Dress, which by coincidence is currently modeled on their front page by SDSS member, Prof. Kelly Holley-Bockelman from Vanderbilt University (the lead scientist for the SDSS Faculty and Student Team (FAST) initiative) as she gave a recent TEDx talk on her research work: “The Spacetime Symphony of Gravitational Waves“.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 14.07.35

(Please note that SDSS receives no funds from the sale of either of these dresses, we just think they’re awesome celebrations of science and women’s fashion).

Tweep of the Week: Audrey Oravetz

This week our @sdssurveys Twitter account will be run by SDSS observer, Audrey Oravetz. Audrey is part of the staff of observers and fiber optic technicians (the people who plug optical fibers into the plates) working for SDSS at our survey telescope in Apache Point, New Mexico (our telescope is neither automated, nor robotic, despite the common misconception!).

Audrey Oravetz

SDSS Observer, Audrey Oravetz (she’s definitely not a robot).

Here’s Audrey introducing herself in her own words:

Hello. My name is Audrey Oravetz and I have worked as an observer for the 2.5m SDSS telescope for the past nine years. It was always a dream of mine to work at a high-ranking observatory. I enjoy working alongside my colleagues to output a high quantity of quality data for the SDSS projects.

I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2007 with a B.A. in Astrophysics and graduated from NMSU with a M.S. degree last summer. My thesis (under the supervision of Dr. Rene Walterbos (NMSU)) was centered around the study of ionizing H-alpha photons within two star formation nebulae, NGC346 and NGC602, within the SMC.

A Docufeest in New York.

This week many of the Key People in SDSS-IV have been meeting in New York to get a good start on the Documentation that is needed to accompany the upcoming Thirteenth Data Release (DR13) of the surveys (scheduled for July 2016).

Docufeest (scientists working on laptops)

SDSS-IV scientists hard at work at Docufeest.

Here a storify from Twitter of all the documentation fun we have been having at Docufeest. You will have to wait to see the updated website until the summer.