AAS217 Post(er)

Right now, somewhere in Seattle, the American Astronomical Society (the US equivalent of the Royal Astronomical Society) is holding one of their regular meetings. In fact, it is the 217th AAS meeting. I'm not there but it seems many people I know are.

AAS meetings are well known as the conference that all US astronomers go to and is a chance for those early in their careers to find future collaborators, look for jobs and even learn something. I've never been to a AAS (usually pronounced double-A-S) meeting before although I have talked at one remotely from a basement room in Italy using Skype. Skype has yet to replicate the chance meetings, conversations over coffee/tea and discussions in pubs that big conferences provide. If you are at AAS217, and for some reason have failed to hear about it, Rob Simpson is organising a meet-up tonight at 7pm (Seattle time) in the Sheraton.

This year, thanks to some gentle prodding by Alberto Conti, I'm a co-author on a poster that builds on a blog post I wrote last summer. Alberto put in most of the effort for the poster (low res photo in the wild taken by Rob) with some input from both me and Alberto Accomazzi (ADS). Update: Alberto has put a full-sized copy of the poster online.

My original cartoon of an astronomer H-R diagram was a light-hearted look at astronomical careers and included some groups that I theorized might exist (Media Giants, New Media Branch, Academic Giants, and the Dark Astronomers). I was surprised how widely it got discussed in astronomy departments around the world and can only apologise for any research time lost as people tried to figure out where they would appear on it. The biggest complement was when someone I knew from Australia started telling me in a corridor about a funny astronomer H-R diagram they'd seen on xkcd! Oh, to be mistaken for xkcd.

On the AAS poster we've taken real data for all AAS members and plotted several graphs in different Google search/citation/peer-reviewed paper spaces. The biggest thing we've found is that it is very difficult to avoid namesake contamination in the search results. We tried various types of search but all had some problems. Although the plots do seem to replicate a main career sequence, it doesn't really look as though my suggested Media Giants really exist as a distinct group. If we'd had time it would have been great to colour-code the points by years since first publication (or age as a rough proxy) to see how citations/papers increase with age.


Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 10th Jan 2011 (24:00 GMT) | Permalink
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