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; 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

SDSS Collaboration Meeting 2016: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

At the end of June 2016, over 150 members of the SDSS collaboration met for workshops, talks, discussions, and fun by the lake at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The week began with a two-day APOGEE workshop on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, the APOGEEans were joined in Madison by the FAST/REU bootcamp and the Plate workshop for teachers and scientists.

2016 SDSS collaboration meeting photograph. The happy attendees gathered by the beautiful lake. If you were there and not in this picture, you were probably getting coffee.

2016 SDSS collaboration meeting photograph. The happy attendees gathered by the beautiful lake. If you were there and not in this picture, you were probably getting coffee.

The FAST/REU students were getting up to speed really quickly on how to work with our data. The REU students are undergraduates who will be working on a science project over the summer, while the FAST students are graduate students in longer term teams with SDSS as we seek to help raise the participation of under-represented minorities.

On Monday-Wednesday, the meeting focused on discussions of SDSS-IV science, including many exciting results from the MaNGA survey, which is releasing its first data in Data Release 13. The APOGEE-2 survey present maps of the composition of stars across the Galaxy, characterizing the trends with position. The eBOSS survey showed the first results for large-scale structure of the Universe based on the 2014-2016 observations (very fast turn-around!). Quasars were also a big topic of conversation, as SDSS is now studying their evolution in detail. We are interested both in how they change over a few years time and mapping how they “grow” the supermassive black holes over billions of years. Results discussed that have been highlighted by SDSS in press releases/blog posts include the shutting off of star formation in galaxies by Edmond Cheng , additional examples of “changing look quasars” by Jessie Runnoe and the discovery that brown dwarfs could be quite common around certain types of stars by Nick Troup.

Poster for Daniel Eisenstein's public talk

Poster for Daniel Eisenstein’s public talk

We saw ways that other galaxies could “quench” their star formation in the presentation by Francesco Belfiore and could study the history of star formation in our Galaxy thanks to age maps by Melissa Ness. Apparently our galaxy has some similarities to other spiral galaxies! We tweeted a whole bunch about about the science results and will Storify some of our most popular tweets soon.

On Tuesday night, we had the collaboration meeting banquet, where we honored Dan Long, longtime Sloanie who worked at Apache Point Observatory for over 20 years, including as Chief Telescope Engineer for the Sloan Foundation Telescope. He is retiring next year and, as the email from Jim Gunn put it, “we will miss him more than I can say.” In addition to spoken tributes, we also showed of a movie of some of Dan’s greatest hits and well-wishes from the many other Sloanies. We will be posting that to youtube soon, so stay tuned.

The SDSS collaboration is big and includes people from many career stages, institutions, and cultures. We take the opportunity of these meetings to discuss how the collaboration is working and what we can do better. There was a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion of how to improve the climate in SDSS and how to establish a “Code of Conduct” that will work to ensure that all are treated with respect.

This meeting also featured our first public talk by Daniel Eisenstein, talking about using the disturbances that sound waves left in the gas of the early Universe to trace the shape, past, and future of the Universe. He’s been working with SDSS data on this subject for over 10 years, so is a leading expert in this amazing result. The April 2016 edition of Sky and Telescope featured the article “Mapping the Universe’s Ancient Sound Waves” written by Daniel. The “Beyond the Pages” addition by the editors is also wonderful.

We had our most ambitious meeting ever for education and public outreach. The Plate Workshop on how to use an SDSS plate to introduce your class to the science of SDSS had a number of educators from across the US attending, looking pretty happy when they got their picture taken.

Educators from the Plate Workshop, organized by Kate Meredith (bottom right) and Karen Masters (who is probably taking the picture)

Educators from the Plate Workshop, organized by Kate Meredith (bottom right) and Karen Masters (who is probably taking the picture)

The Sunday workshop was followed on Monday and Tuesday by educators attending science talks, working with SDSS scientists on education and public outreach ideas, and doing an “EPO Hack Day” to create new activities for Voyages, SDSS’s website for how to use our data for education for K-12 students.

Thanks to the University of Wisconsin, especially the head of the Local Organizing Committee, Christy Tremonti, for hosting such a lovely meeting and we look forward to seeing everyone at the next meeting next summer.

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.

Astronomers studying galaxy mergers using MaNGA data

(The following is a guest post by Lihwai Lin, an assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. She is curretnly chairing the MaNGA merger working group and organized the MaNGA merger mini-workshop described in the article below.)
Galaxies are not isolated. During the lifetime of galaxies, they may encounter another galaxy and merge together to become a larger one. Mergers can induce gas to flow toward the inner parts of galaxies through tidal forces, triggering starbursts or even “switching on” a galaxy’s central black hole (the result is called an “active galactic nucleus,” or AGN). As a result of rapid gas consumption during mergers, a galaxy may lose the majority of its gas and end up as a “dead” system with little on-going star formation. This kind of merger event is rare, but is suggested to be an important process that transforms star-forming galaxies into the quiescent population. One of the key sciences that MaNGA is attempting to address concerns the role of galaxy interactions and mergers in shaping the properties of galaxies. With just one year of the MaNGA survey, we have obtained Integral Field Unit (IFU) observations for ~150 paired galaxies, ranging from early encounters to post-mergers.
Examples of galaxy pairs selected from the SDSS. The magenta hexagons represent the IFU coverage of MaNGA. (Credit: SDSS)

Examples of galaxy pairs selected from the SDSS. The magenta hexagons represent the IFU coverage of MaNGA. (Credit: SDSS)

In early November of 2015, experts studying galaxy mergers gathered together in Taipei for the “SDSS-IV/MaNGA mini-workshop on galaxy mergers”. This 3-day workshop consists of 6 invited talks, 5 contributed talks, plus 2 discussion sessions devoted to theoretical and observational efforts, chaired by Jennifer Lotz (STScI) and Sara Ellison (University of Victoria) respectively.

Participants for the MaNGA mini-workshop on galaxy mergers, held at Academia Sinica, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA), Taipei, on Nov. 4-6, 2015.

Participants for the MaNGA mini-workshop on galaxy mergers, held at Academia Sinica, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA), Taipei, on Nov. 4-6, 2015.

With MaNGA’s spatially resolved observations for merging galaxies, we can study not only where and when the star formation is triggered and shut down during the process of  galaxy interactions, but also how the massive black holes in the center of galaxies can be fueled and grow through galaxy mergers. The observational results from MaNGA will also be compared in great detail with theoretical predictions from state-of-art simulations. Stay tuned for more exciting science that will come from MaNGA!

SDSS at the 29th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union

The 29th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union is due to start on Monday 3rd August 2015 in Honululu, Hawaii. These meetings happen every 3 years and are the biggest single conference in astronomy. This is your guide to all things SDSS related at IAU2015.

Thanks to generous support from the central project office, SDSS Education will be particularly well represented at IAU2015. SDSS Educational Consultant (Kate Meredith) and Director of EPO (Karen Masters) will be attending to run workshops on how to use SDSS data for education.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 14.44.32

This half day splinter session on Monday 10th August will give astronomers and educators (including, but very definitely not limited to members of the SDSS collaboration) a chance to participate in a hands on workshop exploring, a new educator focused resource designed to enable the use of real data from the Sloan Digital Sky Surveys in the classroom. Participants will have the opportunity to contribute their own experiences using data in the classroom into new guided journeys through Voyages for specific educational levels and/or suggest new content based on exploration of SDSS data. The schedule of the workshop is as follows:

Workshop Schedule (Drop-in Welcome), Monday 10th August 2015 in Room 327, Hawaii Convention Center.

  • 8.30am: Welcome
  • 8.40am: Mapping the Universe with SDSS (Karen Masters)
  • 9.15am: Introduction to SDSS Voyages (Kate Meredith)
  • 10.00am: COFFEE BREAK
  • 10.30am: Matching content to a curriculum (Kate Meredith)
  • 10.50am: Hands on exploration of
  • 12.00pm: Lunch/work time
  • 1.00pm: SDSS Plates and how to get one (Karen Masters)
  • 1.30pm: SDSS Plate resources online (Kate Meredith)
  • 2.00pm: END

The SDSS EPO group will run a similar workshop, but this time especially for High School Teachers as part of the Galileo Teacher Training Program, happening at the IfA, Honululu on 8th/9th August. One lucky Hawaii based teacher attending this training will be able to take an SDSS Plug Plate back to their school for use in lessons.

The SDSS EPO group will be active participants in Focus Meeting 19: Communicating Astronomy with the Public in the Big Data Era. As part of that, SDSS Director of EPO, Karen Masters will lead a discussion on what Researchers would like to Improve in Communication Initiatives. The outcome of this meeting is intended to be a Playbook on Communicating Astronomy with the Public in the Big Data Era.

There are also of course numerous science results from SDSS data being presented at the meeting. Thanks to the open data policy of SDSS many of these results are from scientists who have never been part of the SDSS Collaboration. Here is a summary of all the posters and talks at IA2015 which can obviously linked to SDSS data or projects.

Week 1 Posters:

FM16p.13. White dwarf+main sequence binaries identified from SDSS DR10, Lifang Li

FM19p.16. Galaxy Zoo: Science and Public Engagement Hand in Hand
Karen Masters; Chris Lintott; Julie Feldt; Bill Keel; Ramin Skibba

FM19p.17. SDSS Plate Packets – From Artifact to Teaching Tool
Kate K. Meredith; Karen Masters; Britt Lundgren; Oliver Fraser; Nick MacDonald

FM19p.18. SkyServer Voyages Website – Using Big Data to Explore Astronomy Concepts in Formal Education Settings
Kate K. Meredith; Karen Masters; Jordan Raddick; Britt Lundgren

S315p.193. High Resolution Molecular Gas and Star Formation in the Strongly Lensed z~2 Galaxy SDSS J0901+1814
Chelsea Sharon; Andrew Baker; Amitpal Tagore; Jesus Rivera; Charles Keeton; Dieter Lutz; Linda Tacconi; David Wilner; Alice Shapley

S315p.235. Detecting HII Regions in Z=0.1 Galaxies with Multi-Band SDSS Data
Chris Richardson; Anthony Crider; Benjamin Kaiser

Week 2 Posters:

DJp.2.15. Extreme Red Quasars in SDSS-BOSS
Fred Hamann; Nadia Zakamska; Isabelle Paris; Hanna Herbst; Carolin Villforth; Rachael Alexandroff; Nicholas Ross; Jenny Greene; Michael Strauss

DJp.2.19. Environmental dependence of AGN activity in the SDSS main galaxy sample
Minbae Kim; Youn-Young Choi; Sungsoo S. Kim

DJp.2.24. Exploring large-scale environment of SDSS DR7 quasars at 0.46Hyunmi Song; Changbom Park

FM14p.06. The link between galaxy mergers and single/double AGN: a statistical prospective from the SDSS
Xin Liu

P2.096. An efficient collaborative approach to quasars’ photometric redshift estimation based on SDSS and UKIDSS databases
Bo Han; Yanxia Zhang; Yongheng Zhao

S319p.01. SDSS J012247.34+121624, one of the most dramatic BALQSOs at redshift of 4.75 discovered by the Lijiang 2.4m Telescope
Weimin Yi

S320p.10. White dwarf + main sequence binaries identified from the data release of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)
Lifang Li
FM7p.06. Stellar mass of elliptical galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Chen-Hung Chen; Chung-Ming Ko

S319p.05. Variability of 188 broad absorption lines QSOs from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Weihao Bian

S319p.251. Redshift-Space Enhancement of Line-of-Sight Baryon Acoustic Oscillations in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Main-Galaxy Sample
Haijun Tian; Mark C. Neyrinck; Tamas Budavari; AlEXANDER SZALAY



Wed 5th
12.00pm: FM4.1.05 Hot evolved stars in massive galaxies
Claire Le Cras

Mon 10th
Voyage to Education with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Organizer(s): Karen Masters (University of Portsmouth), Kate Meredith (Yerkes)
8:30 AM – 2:00 PM; Room 327, Hawaii Convention Center

Thurs 13th
11.35am: FM7.5.05 Age derivation from UV absorption indices and the effect of the UV upturn.
Claire Le Cras

Mon 10th
Voyage to Education with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Organizer(s): Karen Masters (University of Portsmouth), Kate Meredith (Yerkes)
8:30 AM – 2:00 PM; Room 327, Hawaii Convention Center

2.30pm: S319.10.03. Extreme Red Quasars in SDSS-BOSS
Fred Hamann; Nadia Zakamska; Isabelle Paris; Hanna Herbst; Carolin Villforth; Rachael Alexandroff; Nicholas Ross; Jenny Greene; Michael Strauss

Fri 14th
10.55am FM17.7.02. Synergies of CoRoT asteroseismology and APOGEE spectroscopy — Applications to Galactic Archaeology
Friedrich Anders; Cristina Chiappini; Thaíse S. Rodrigues; Andrea Miglio; Josefina Montalbàn; Benoit Mosser; Leo Girardi; Marica Valentini; Matthias Steinmetz

12.00pm S319.12.06. Redshift evolution of massive galaxies from SDSS-III/BOSS
Daniel Thomas


If you are attending the IAU2015 we hope you have a great time, and we’ll see you on Social Media Karen Masters will be tweeting as @sdssurveys on #iau2015.

The SDSS 2015 Collaboration Meeting

This past week was the 2015 SDSS Collaboration Meeting, held at the Instituto de Física Teórica IFT UAM-CSIC in Madrid, Spain (jointly organized by the Instituto de Física Teórica IFT UAM-CSIC and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias).

Members of the SDSS Collaboration outside the IFT in Madrid earlier this week.

Members of the SDSS Collaboration outside the IFT in Madrid earlier this week.

You can read this news item (en Espanol) about the meeting: El “Sloan” continúa su exploración del Universo, or see this collection of Tweets by SDSS members during the meeting: Storify of #sdss15.

Social Media from the SDSS Collaborating Meeting in Madrid

This week many of us are at the Instituto de Física Teórica IFT UAM-CSIC in Madrid, Spain for our 2015 collaboration meeting (jointly organized by the Instituto de Física Teórica IFT UAM-CSIC and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias).

The meeting hashtag is #sdss15.

Our twitter account @sdssurveys will be run by spokesperson, Jennifer Johnson this week. We’ll also be tweeting from survey accounts @mangasurvey (Karen Masters and Anne-Marie Weijmans), @APOGEEsurvey (by Jennifer Sobeck this week) and @eBOSSurvey (Britt Lundgren and Shirley Ho).

Join the conversation and find out what’s going on with the SDSSurveys right now.

SDSS-IV Demographics Report Presented at Inclusive Astronomy

SDSS_demographics_logo The first conference on Inclusive Astronomy was held June 17-19, 2015 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.  The conference brought together professional astronomers, sociologists, education researchers, and experts on social justice, with the aim of collectively defining recommendations and actions to make the astronomical community more diverse and inclusive.  We are proud to note that the local organizing committee for Inclusive Astronomy included members of the SDSS-IV leadership: Keivan Stassun and Kelly Holley-Bockelmann of Vanderbilt University.

Britt Lundgren (UW-Madison), who co-Chaired last year’s Committee on the Participation of Women in the SDSS (CPWS) with Karen Kinemuchi (Apache Point Observatory), presented a poster on the 2014 SDSS-IV Demographics Report.  This report details the results of a voluntary survey of the SDSS-IV collaboration’s ~500 active members, and an analysis of the SDSS-IV membership and leadership in terms of gender, location, career stage, and minority status.   The report was recently accepted for publication in the August 2015 edition of the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the full text of the report is currently publicly available on the arXiv.


(Above: The basic demographic breakdown of the 250 SDSS-IV collaboration members who responded to the CPWS survey in 2014.)

Key findings from the 2014 SDSS-IV demographic report include:

  • 11% of survey respondents self-identified as a racial or ethnic minority at their current institution.
  • 25% of the SDSS-IV members are female.  This fraction is consistent with the American Astronomical Society membership, but higher than the reported fraction of female members in the International Astronomy Union (16%).
  • Large and approximately equal fractions of men (36%) and women (29%) self-identify as an SDSS-IV “leader,” perhaps due to active stakeholders being more likely to respond to a demographics survey.
  • When binned by academic age and career level, men and women in the SDSS-IV assume leadership roles at approximately equal rates, which increase steadily for both genders with increasing seniority.
  • At the highest level of SDSS-IV leadership, women disproportionately hold roles related to education and public outreach (E/PO; 3/4 female), as opposed to scientific or technical roles (2/16 female).

The efforts undertaken by the CPWS to address the demographics of the membership and leadership of SDSS-IV were very positively received at the Inclusive Astronomy conference. In addition, members of the leadership of LSST and DES in attendance voiced interest in producing similar reports from their collaborations, which will be among the largest in astronomy in coming years.   As a growing number of astronomers are participating in large international scientific collaborations, the CPWS is delighted to see other collaborations pursuing a similar accounting to ensure that these structures foster a healthy scientific climate that is both inclusive and diverse.


(Top: The gender breakdown of the SDSS-IV collaboration members, as a function of years since receiving their final degree.  Bottom: The fraction of men and women who self-reported to hold positions of leadership within the SDSS-IV, as a function of years since their terminal degree.)

The 2014 SDSS-IV Demographics Report will provide a baseline for tracking changes within the makeup of the collaboration throughout the lifetime of the SDSS-IV.  This year’s CPWS, co-Chaired by Sara Lucatello (INAF) and Aleks Diamond-Stanic (UW-Madison), recently produced a follow-up survey for 2015, which broadened the demographics investigation to a larger range of diversity metrics (e.g., LGBT, disability, and partnership / family status).  The 2015 survey achieved a ~40% higher participation rate compared to 2014, with 352 members of the collaboration responding.

A summary of the initial results from the 2015 survey will be presented at the SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting in Madrid later this month, so stay tuned!

The CPWS is currently comprised of the following members:
Alfonso Aragon-Salamanca (Nottingham)
Katia Cunha (Observatorio Nacional / MCTI)
Aleks Diamond-Stanic (UW Madison) Co-Chair
Bruce Gillespie (JHU)
Alex Hagen (PSU)
Amy Jones (MPA)
Karen Kinemuchi (APO)
Sara Lucatello (INAF) Co-Chair
Britt Lundgren (UW Madison)
Adam Myers (Univ. of Wyoming)
Alexandre Roman Lopes (ULS)
Gail Zasowski (JHU)

Outgoing members of the CPWS from 2014 include:
Jay Gallagher (UW Madison)
Shirley Ho (CMU)
Christy Tremonti (UW Madison)

SDSS at #AAS225 – Tweets by SDSS-IV Spokesperson, Jennifer Johnson

This week the SDSS Collaboration has a large presence at the American Astronomical Society‘s 225th Meeting, being held in Seattle, Washington.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 09.32.13

All sorts of SDSS related stuff will be going on at this meeting, from dozens of talks and posters, to demos of SDSS online resources at the SDSS Booth in the Exhibit Hall and not to mention the final data release from SDSS-III. Our “Tweep of the Week” for this exciting week will be SDSS-IV Spokesperson, Jennifer Johnson.

Jennifer Johnson is an Asssociate Professor in the Astronomy Department of The Ohio State University. Her science interests are in stellar abundances, the origin of the elements, nucleocosmochronology and the formation of our own Galaxy and Local Group. She is the Science Team Chair of the APOGEE survey of SDSS-III, and the Spokesperson for SDSS-IV (as well as working on APOGEE-2).

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

The SDSS Spokesperson has two main roles. She is the main person in charge of making sure the SDSS collaboration is running smoothly and fairly. As part of this, the Spokesperson Chairs the SDSS Collaboration Council (which has a representative from each institutional member of SDSS). This group are the first point of approval for requests for Architect Status (ie. people who have contributed so much to SDSS development they can request to be on any publication) and External Collaborator requests (non-SDSS members working on specific projects), as well as for drafting our publication and other collaboration policies. They also organise the annual SDSS Collaboration Meetings (the next one to be held in Madrid, 20-23rd July 2015).

The SDSS Spokesperson is also responsible for representing SDSS to the press and the public. As such she is responsible for working with the SDSS Communications Director (Jordan Raddick) to draft the text of press releases and maintain the SDSS website, as well as with the SDSS Director of EPO (Karen Masters) on our collective public engagement and outreach efforts.

Added: here’s a storify of Tweets by Jennifer during her week.

Joint BOSS+eBOSS Collaboration in Cloudcroft, NM

Apache Point Observatory_Cloudcroft_20141203

SDSS collaboration members gathered around the telescope at an unfortunately beautiful sunset.

The SDSS-III BOSS and SDSS-IV eBOSS are in the middle of a 4-day meeting to discuss the continuing great science coming out of BOSS, looking at the first data from eBOSS, and planning for the bright future of SDSS-IV.  The location is Cloudcroft, New Mexico, which is only 17 miles from the Apache Point Observatory, home of The Sloan Foundation 2.5-meter Telescope, which has been the main telescope for SDSS for the past decade-and-a-half.  This proximity allows for collaboration members to visit the telescope and meet the hardworking mountain staff who keep it all running smoothly.

Cloudcroft has been a central landing point for all of the years of the SDSS survey, and in recognition of this, honorary membership was granted to a certain permanent member of the staff at The Lodge Resort at Cloudcroft:


MaNGA Pre-Survey Review and Team Meeting in Portsmouth, UK

Around 45 astronomers have been in Portsmouth, England this week attending the MaNGA Pre-Survey Review and Team Meeting.

MaNGA  (Mapping Nearby Galaxies at APO) is part of the plans for the next phase of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (along with eBOSS and APOGEE2) due to start in July of this year.


The MaNGA Team and Review Panel in front of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth. Image Credit: Edd Edmondson

As well as the full science program, the astronomers have been enjoying the British pubs, Indian Food, and historic Naval ships to be found in Portsmouth.


The MaNGA Team enjoyed a special tour of HMS Warrior 1860 in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Here shown just before sunset on Wednesday. Image Credit: Karen Masters

The MaNGA Team are happy with the outcome of the review, and it’s full speed ahead to survey operations. The discussions continue today and tomorrow with open issues and plans for early science papers.