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This past week Stuart and I joined a host of technology savvy astronomers in New College, Oxford University (although being 'new' is relative because it was founded in 1379) for .astronomy 3. It is a grand conference venue and it is unsurprising to learn it was used as a set in the Harry Potter films.
.astronomy (pronounced 'dot astronomy') is hard to define, but brings together people who work in astronomy and want to explore web and emerging technologies. The fruits of this, benefit research, outreach, and the grey area in between (as demonstrated by Zooniverse and Citizen Science Alliance). It brings together a mixture of traditional researchers, coding and web experts, people who blog about science, and exciting things happen.
The week did not follow the usual structure for conferences, with every afternoon being left open for informal "unconference" sessions to be arranged ad-hoc, and Tuesday afternoon (and into the late night) being reserved for a "hack day". Every morning there were talks with 2 excellent keynote speakers and 13 other invited speakers (myself included).
Jill Tarter, Seti Institute and David Hogg, NYU gave excellent keynote talks ranging from the search for extraterrestrial life to why a kitten was mistaken for a comet. You can find them and all the talks on the USteam channel for dotastronomy. In truth, I was slightly star-struck at meeting Jill, and hope I didn't embarress myself.
I gave a short introduction to LCOGT and gave demos of some of our recently released web apps, particularly Virtual Sky, Observations, and the alpha release of Star in a Box. If you missed the talk completely or the UStream cut out on you, you can download a copy of my slides.
Some of the other marvellous things from .astronomy were: Jonathan Fay (Microsoft) exploring World Wide Telescope using a Kinect, by waving his arms in the air; Thomas Robitaille (CFA) on exploring the Virtual Observatory with his python library ATpy; Michael Johnson on launching matchbox sized satellites into orbit for education science projects; Chris Lintott (Zooniverse) on why the internet is terrible, and how we can make it better.
Several videos were produced during the conference (see Markus Pössel's The .A Team, and Boris Haeussler's Why the network broke), but my favourite is the musical number Pluto the Previous Planet, written by and starring Amanda Bauer (she's a super science fellow in AAO, but she doesn't wear a cape to work). The sharper-eyed amongst you might notice me in the backing singers (or Trans-Neptunian Objectors). Sing along in the chorus.
Pluto, the previous planet from carolune on Vimeo.
I was very pleased to be on the team of hackers which won the hack day top prize for "embodying the spirit of hack day". We produced Chromotone, a way to vizualise (or rather audialize) multi-wavelength astronomical images (it's still a bit buggy so might take a little while to load).
As always .astronomy was an amazing and inspirational experience. It is so very refreshing, partly because of the diverse range of interests and skills but mainly because of the spirit of open-mindedness of the participants.
Have a look at the .astronomy Flickr group for more action shots!
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