.Astronomy in Leiden, Netherlands.
For those that don't know, .Astronomy was created by Rob Simpson to provide a conference to bring together astronomy with internet-based technologies. The first .Astronomy was hosted in Cardiff and it went so well that Sarah Kendrew and Carolina Ödman suggested that a second be held in Leiden. The planning for .Astronomy 2 started many months ago and I'm glad to say that all the emails and telecons were well worth it.
Morning talks have covered topics ranging from Sixty Symbols to Galaxy Zoo, Sky Map and the Virtual Observatory. The afternoons saw 101 sessions covering things such as Google Maps, podcasting and LEGO as well as discussions about everything from open science, to new citizen science projects and astronomy in the developing world. Being a networked conference, the talks were streamed and one was even given direct from the speaker's bed! Is that a first for an astronomy conference?
In the middle of the week we had a bit of an experiment with Wednesday kept free for those attending to think up new ideas, create websites and develop widgets. This "hack day" worked very well and it was amazing to see an idea dreamt up in the pub the night before get fleshed out, have a website created and a database back-end sorted out all in a day. In fact it was the creativity, enthusiasm, range of skills and "let's just make it" attitude that made the week so enjoyable for me.
Almost everything I saw could be considered a highlight but I'd like to say that I was particularly impressed by the excellent WWT from Jonathan Fay (Microsoft Research). Jonathan has put a lot of effort into WWT and I overheard several Mac users saying that having seen it they had considered installing Windows. Thankfully such drastic measures weren't necessary as WWT can now run in a web browser using the SilverLight plugin (Windows and Mac) and will soon be available on Linux via the MoonLight plugin. As Rob said, it was impressive to be able to load a FITS file into WWT and start doing work with it.
During the week we also managed to launch a new tool that I've helped to develop over the past few months but more on that in the next post.
Thanks to all the brilliant people that attended .Astronomy 2009 for making it a thoroughly fun week.