This is a guest post by William N. Brandt (Penn State).

One of the many university outreach programs with SDSS-IV connections is the Penn State Science Workshops for Educators. This longstanding program at Penn State, with more than 20 years of successful history, provides week-long summer workshops for 10-20 high-school and middle-school teachers, aiming to help them teach their students better about astronomy and astrophysics. Each of these teachers will teach hundreds of students in the coming years.

The first 2018 summer workshop (July 9-13) focused on “Black Holes: Gravity’s Fatal Attraction”, a topic where the SDSS has made fundamental contributions. The lead instructors were Prof. William N. Brandt (Penn State), Dr. Chris Palma (Penn State), and Mr. Glenn Goldsborough (Pennsbury High School). The workshop program included lectures on the subject material; discussions about pedagogical approaches; hands-on activities (inexpensive classroom labs, PC-based software activities, WWW-based labs); examinations of curricular materials; and guest presentations by professional astronomers. The workshop introduced teachers to the predicted properties of black holes and the astronomical evidence for their existence. Along the way, they studied modern ideas about the nature of space, time, and gravity. Topics covered included the predicted properties of black holes, stars and their fates, stellar-mass black holes in our cosmic backyard, supermassive black holes in galactic nuclei, active galaxies and jets, Hawking radiation, and singularities.

Among the guest lecturers, Dr. Kate Grier (Penn State) gave a talk on the exciting results from the SDSS Reverberation Mapping Project, which has now measured direct black hole masses over half of cosmic history (see attached image). Observations for this project are ongoing as part of SDSS-IV, and this work was recently featured in an SDSS-IV Press Release. Dr. Vivek Mariappan (Penn State) furthermore presented a guest lecture on the variability of quasar winds as probed by SDSS and how these winds can provide feedback into quasar host galaxies. Observations of such wind variability continue presently as part of the SDSS-IV Time Domain Spectroscopic Survey. The attending teachers had a chance to inspect SDSS plug plates and learn about how these are used to conduct the massive SDSS spectroscopic surveys (see image below).


These workshops were partly funded by the “Broader Impacts” component of an NSF  grant supporting studies of quasar winds with the SDSS.

Further information about the workshops is available at

SDSS-IV in South Korea

Last week the SDSS-IV collaboration has been having its annual all survey collaboration meeting in Seoul, South Korea. Hosted by SDSS-IV member Graziano Rossi of Sejong University, over 120 collaboration scientists from all over the world enjoyed 3 days of formal science meeting, with two days of working meetings after.

Photo of seoul plaza. The view many attendees enjoyed of the Seoul Plaza. Credit: Racheal Beaton

Conference group photo. Credit: Sejong Univ.

Photo of Korea. Many members stayed to enjoy some sightseeing before or after the meeting. Credit: Jennifer Johnson

The next collaboration meeting will be held next June in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico hosted by scientists from UNAM Ensenada.

Text written by Karen Masters (Haverford/Portsmouth).

Documentation Fun: DocuVana 2018

We had DocuFeest in 2016, DocuCeilidh in 2017, and now it was time for DocuVana 2018. Last month, a group of enthusiastic SDSS IV-midables traveled to the University of Washington in Seattle, to prepare the SDSS webpages for its next big public data release. Data Release 15 (DR15) is planned for December 2018, and will contain new MaNGA data. It is also the first public data release for the MaNGA Stellar Library, MaStar, so lots of new documentation was needed! And it was not just the new data that created a lot of work: the APOGEE-2 team took this opportunity to go through their existing webpages, and update and improve where needed. And they already made a head start for the many new stellar spectra that they will release in 2019 in DR16.

SDSS IV-midables hard at work at DocuVana (credit: J. Sobeck)

Lots of writing was done, lost of new pages created, but in between all that typing and editing, the documentation team also took some time to explore Seattle. They enjoyed some amazing food, visited the Museum of Modern Pop Culture, and got a tour from engineer Curtis Bartosz through the UW machine shop, where all the SDSS plates are made.

The food is always good at our documentation feasts! (credit: J. Sobeck)

Inspecting plates in the University of Washington workshop (credit: J. Sobeck)

So, why did all these people take part in DocuVana? Because they care about documentation: they want to make sure that their data is not just available for downloading, but that people also can use their data: for science projects, teaching projects, or just to have a look at for fun. And to be able to do that, the data needs clear and easily accessible descriptions, examples, and tutorials.

Stay tuned for December, when you will be able to see their hard work as DR 15 goes live!


Anne-Marie Weijmans

SDSS Data Release Coordinator

University of St Andrews

APOGEE and Amateur Spectroscopy

Drew Chojnowski, APOGEE plate designer and lead of the emission-line stars science group, discusses SDSS and Be stars observed with the APOGEE instrument.

This weekend, APOGEEans David Whelan and Drew Chojnowski attended the Sacramento Mountains Spectroscopy Workshop. The workshop’s goal? To get amateur astronomers interested in pursuing spectroscopy. With a mix of amateurs and professionals in the room, the expertise was readily available, and the excitement was palatable.

On Friday, David Whelan lead a discussion on spectral classification of intermediate- and high-mass stars. This is a science effort that is essential to both APOGEE’s emission-line stars group and high-mass stars studies more generally. Perhaps some knowledgeable amateurs can begin to contribute?

Then on Saturday, Drew introduced the group to observing with the Sloan Telescope. Below, he is shown with one of SDSS’s APOGEE plates.

Drew and an APOGEE plate – teaching people how the SDSS is done.

These kinds of workshops break down the barrier between the amateur and the professional, and opens both groups to new possibilities. With special thanks to the organizers Ken Hudson and Joe Daglen, as well as François Cochard from Shelyak Instruments, we very much look forward to pursuing the science generated by this workshop.

The attendants of the Sacramento Mountains Spectroscopy Workshop. David and Drew are on the far right.

Amateur astronomer Joe Daglen, center, tells workshop attendants about the equipment that he uses to teach undergraduate students about imaging and spectroscopy.

A Visit to Las Campanas

Following the 2017 SDSS Collaboration Meeting, a small number of the scientists in attendance travelled to La Serena, to the North of Santiago, to participate in a trip to Las Campanas, where the APOGEE-2S instrument has been installed on the Irene du Pont Telescope. We made our own way to La Serena (by plane, or overnight bus) and met at 9.30am in the La Serena Plaza del Arms to travel to Las Campanas together.

We started our journey under thick cloud, but quickly climbed out of it for spectacular views of the Chilean Andes.

Finally Las Campanas is visible in the distance (spot the speck on the mountain).

Las Campanas is just visible as a speck on a mountain to the right of centre. Credit: Karen Masters, SDSS.

We arrived at Las Campanas around lunchtime, for a quick meal, before touring both the Irene du Pont Telescope, and the Clay 6.5 Meter Telescope (one of the two Magellan Telescopes).

Both the Magellan Telescope (right) and the du Pont Telescope (left) on Las Campanas. Credit: Karen Masters, SDSS.

We were of course especially interested to see the APOGEE infrastructure, now installed in the Irene du Pont Telescope.

Plug plate storage at the du Pont Telescope. Credit: Karen Masters, SDSS.

The APOGEE-2S Instrument. Credit: Karen Masters, SDSS

Then it was back to La Serena to head out many different ways home. Scientists from as far apart as China, Mexico, the UK, Chile and the USA had joined the trip and enjoyed visiting one of the observatories used by SDSS together.

Group shot outside the du Pont Telescope.

2017 Collaboration Meeting in Santiago, Chile

The scientists who are part of the Sloan Digital Sky Surveys gather once a year for a collaboration meeting. One of the themes of this meeting is looking for synergy and collaboration across the different surveys, and institutions which are part of SDSS.

For 2017 the meeting happened July 24-26th 2017 on the beautiful Campus San Joaquin of Pontifica Universidad de Catolica in Santiago, Chile, hosted by the Chilean Participation Group of SDSS (a collaboration of seven different Chilean Universities).

SDSS Collaboration Members attending SDSS2017. Around 120 scientists from all over the collaboration attended the meeting. The plates shown are APOGEE-2S plates brought down specially from Las Campanas.

Where there’s a data release, there’s documentation!

Last week, more than a dozen SDSS IV-midables gathered in St Andrews, Scotland for a very important task: preparing the documentation for the Fourteenth SDSS Data Release.  This information — from high-level overviews of the surveys to column-by-column description of the files — is one of the reasons SDSS is the most highly cited dataset in the history of astronomy.  (Too strong?  No, it’s actually true: Madrid & Macchetto 2006, 2009.)

The APOGEE-2 Team love documenting – Gail Zasowksi succeeds in breaking Jen Sobeck’s concentration.

SDSS holds one of these documentation workshops for every data release: e.g., DocuFeest (DR13), DocuLuau (DR12), DocuGras (DR10), and DocuFiesta (DR9).  As the DR14 incarnation was being held in Scotland, it was dubbed the DocuCeilidh — “Ceilidh” is a Gaelic term for an evening full of traditional music, dancing, and storytelling.

The MaNGA documentation team (plus Bonnie) lay out their plans for the week.

Over four days, the DR14 DocuCeilidh team added or updated 180 webpages and rewrote more than 50 data models.  There were 12 operating Slack channels, meters of emails, and almost non-stop discussion across the tables, even as people ducked in and out of the room to sit on numerous telecons and other meetings.

More evidence of the team hard at work documenting SDSS-IV data.

Rita Tojeiro and Johan Comparat took charge of updating the information for eBOSS, which is releasing its first data in DR14.  MaNGA’s updates were overseen by Kyle Westfall, Amy Jones, David Stark, David Law, and Anne-Marie Weijmans.  In addition, José Sánchez-Gallego, Brian Cherinka, Sofia Meneses-Goytia, and Renbin Yan (joining remotely) made some advance preparations for MaNGA’s DR15 data products.  For its very first data release, APOGEE-2 was represented by Jen Sobeck and Gail Zasowski, with Jon Holtzman in close email contact (even outside of reasonable working hours…).

Jordan Raddick, Bonnie Souter, and Joel Brownstein (joining remotely) were kept busy answering technical questions, keeping a schedule, and making sure everyone had a functional platform in which to work.  SDSS-IV Spokesperson Karen Masters made great progress on the DR14 release paper, and also started adding credit lines to all images on the data release site, in advance of switching to a Creative Commons Attribution license for all SDSS images.  And Anne-Marie — in addition to the MaNGA documentation — kept a masterful hand on the organizational details and provided a steady stream of delicious treats to keep everyone fueled.

When docuCeilidhing we recommend you eat shortbread.

But even among the many, many person-hours of work put in (over 400, through the week), the Sloanies (of course) found a way to have a good time.  They explored St Andrews’ castle and cathedral ruins, sampled a wide range of Scottish whiskies, and attended a classical concert starring SDSS’s own Dr. Weijmans.  They even engaged in an exhilarating spot of ceilidh dancing, and spent a morning spying on some of the 46,200 nesting pairs of puffins on an island in the Firth of Forth.

Some of the team too a break to climb the St Rule’s Tower in St Andrews Cathedral.

A more traditional Ceilidh. Spot the SDSS-IV team members….

More evidence of dancing.

Walking for science on the Isle of May. We saw some Puffins. We went home happy.

DR14 is scheduled for July 31, and while there’s still some work to do before we deliver our latest product to the world, the DocuCeilidh accomplished quite a bit of the legwork for it to be a success.  In the meantime, plans are already in the works for the DR15 DocuTBD…stay tuned!

This post was written by Gail Zasowski.

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!