THE KEY ROLES OF SDSS-IV IN THE PENN STATE SCIENCE WORKSHOPS FOR EDUCATORS ON BLACK HOLES

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 http://sites.psu.edu/psiwa/

The Open Cluster Chemical Abundance and Mapping Survey

Guest post by John Donor.


Astronomers have always been fond of the Milky Way, after all, it is our home. But it’s more than just our home, it’s also our most important laboratory for studying galaxy evolution. We can study the Milky Way in tremendous detail, compared to any other galaxy. So what does our host galaxy tell us about galaxy evolution?

Let’s start at the very beginning (as Julie Andrews said, “a very good place to start”). I literally mean the very beginning: the Big Bang. While the “bang” itself was perhaps the most exciting event in cosmic history, the aftermath of the Big Bang was really rather dull. After the Universe calmed down a bit, all of existence was just endless clouds of gas; Hydrogen and Helium gas to be precise. No stars. No galaxies. Certainly no planets or life.

But fortunately this boring state of affairs quickly corrected itself. As gravity took over, gas began to collect into what would become galaxies. As the gas collected, it slowly became dense enough to form the first stars. Stars are very exciting. In their hot, dense cores, they fuse Hydrogen and Helium into the heavier elements (Carbon, Oxygen, Iron, etc.) that we’re all more familiar with. And when they die, they often die spectacularly in supernovae.

Star deaths are particularly important to our story because that’s how heavier elements (everything besides Hydrogen and Helium) are released into a galaxy. But death is not the end! There’s still plenty of gas in a galaxy, so it forms more stars, now with a slightly higher concentration of heavier elements in them from the previous generation of stars. This is the life-cycle of a galaxy: make stars, become enriched by dying stars, make more stars, repeat. Galaxies aren’t homogenous blobs though: they have interesting structure such as spiral arms and central bulges. Due to the effects of gravity, their mass tends to be more concentrated at their centers. More mass means more stars. More stars means more heavy elements enriching the gas in that part of the galaxy.

A simple illustration of the build up of heavier elements in a galaxy (credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA).

This very simple model already points us towards a key piece of observational evidence in studying galaxy evolution: chemical enrichment. Or more specifically, the rate at which that chemical enrichment changes as we move through the galaxy. To measure chemical enrichment, astronomers often simply measure Iron (Fe) and Hydrogen (H). The ratio of Iron to Hydrogen (Fe/H) gives an exact numerical representation of the level of chemical enrichment, often called “metallicity”. The exact rate at which Fe/H changes with respect to the distance from the center of the galaxy, or the Galactic metallicity gradient, has been the topic of numerous studies dating as far back as 1979.

The Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE) has made measurements of the chemical enrichment (Fe/H) of over 200,000 stars to date. But this is only half the battle. To measure the Galactic metallicity gradient, distances from the center of the Galaxy are needed as well. This might seem easy: measuring distance from the Galactic center is a simple geometry problem, if you know exactly where the object you’re measuring is. Unfortunately, finding the distance to celestial objects can be difficult.
There are a variety of methods for finding astronomical distances, but almost all of them focus on finding the actual intrinsic brightness of an object. Since brightness decreases predictably as we move farther from an object, a change in brightness (intrinsic – observed) must correspond to a certain distance. Of course the observed brightness is very easy to measure! Finding the intrinsic brightness is the focus of entire sub-fields in astronomy.

The perfect measuring stick for studying the galactic abundance gradient will then have both (relatively) easily measured chemistry and a measured reliable distance. Among the best objects fitting this description are open star clusters. Open clusters are large groups of gravitationally bound stars (meaning they’re very close together) that formed at the same time, from the same material. Remember when we discussed stars forming out of gas? Most of these gas clouds are massive (millions of times the mass of our Sun), and thus can produce tens or even hundreds of thousands of stars. The resulting stars tend to remain gravitationally bound in an open cluster.

The open cluster M67, with all the stars observed by APOGEE boxed. (Credit: SDSS)

Open clusters have a number of useful properties. Since all of the stars formed from the same cloud, they all have approximately the same chemical makeup. They are also all approximately the same age (give or take a few million years, but that’s a cosmic eye-blink). These two properties make open clusters particularly easy to model. The models predict both intrinsic and easily observable properties of the cluster (e.g. observed brightness and color patterns), so to determine the intrinsic properties of an open cluster, we only need to find a model that matches it well. With an intrinsic brightness, we can quickly calculate the distance to an open cluster.

APOGEE has observed stars in the fields of hundreds of open clusters (e.g., M67 seen here with observed APOGEE stars marked). But simply being in the same area as an open cluster doesn’t mean the star is part of the gravitationally bound group of stars. It’s an age-old problem for astronomers: we only see a 2D map of the 3D sky. A star in the field of an open cluster could easily be hundreds of light years in front of or behind the gravitationally bound group of stars. The Open Cluster Chemical Abundances and Mapping (OCCAM) survey considers all the APOGEE stars falling in open cluster fields. Determining whether or not a star is in fact a member of the gravitationally bound group can be difficult.

The OCCAM survey relies on the fact that cluster member stars are gravitationally bound. Gravitationally bound stars move through the galaxy together and thus will have similar velocities when measured from Earth. The OCCAM survey combines line-of-sight velocity measurements (Doppler Velocity) from APOGEE with measurements of velocity perpendicular to the line of site (proper motion) from the recent Gaia Data Release 2 to isolate cluster members from non-members.

With uniform APOGEE chemical measurements from member stars in many open clusters, and distance measurements obtained from modeling the open clusters, we can finally measure a high precision Galactic abundance gradient that will be used to calibrate models of galaxy evolution. And that’s one more piece in the puzzle of how our own Milky Way formed and evolved.

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

 

PS: a very big thank you to the DocuVana organiser Jennifer Sobeck and José Sanchez-Gallego, at the University of Washington. And also many thanks to all the participants at DocuVana without whose hard work we would not have a website for DR15: Amy Jones, Ben Murphy, Bonnie Souter, Brian Cherinka, David Stark, David Law, Dan Lazarz, Gail Zasowski, Joel Brownstein, Jordan Raddick, Julie Imig, Karen Masters, Kyle Westfall, Maria Argudo-Fernández, Michael Talbot, Rachael Beaton, Renbin Yan and Sten Hasselquist (as well as Becky Smethurst, Rita Tojeiro, Ben Weaver and Ani Thaker via video link)

SDSS-V Is Underway!

“Everything in this project makes life challenging.”

“Sure, but challenges make life interesting!”

This conversation occurred at a very special SDSS meeting in the middle of last month, and indeed no one could accuse SDSSers of ever taking it easy.  More than two years before the end of SDSS-IV, plans are well underway for its successor, SDSS-V.  Last month’s meeting was the first in-person gathering of the current major players since the Sloan Foundation awarded a $16M grant to the survey.  However, members of the team have been working hard for three years already: identifying the most exciting science goals, simulating survey strategies, and designing new hardware, among other tasks.  Dr. Juna Kollmeier, from The Carnegie Observatories, was selected as SDSS-V Director last spring, and other members of the Management Committee were chosen shortly afterwards. The core projects are now solidifying and the hardware is being prototyped. It’s an exciting (and oh so busy) time!

The science and hardware teams listen to Director Kollmeier open the meeting, in the historic library at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, USA.

The team published a description of the project last fall for the astronomical community, which you can find here. In summary, SDSS-V will consist of three “Mappers,” much like how SDSS-IV now consists of eBOSS, MaNGA, and APOGEE-2.

The Milky Way Mapper will observe millions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy and in its companion Magellanic Clouds, tabulating their motions and their compositions to study how stars form, disperse throughout space, make heavy elements, and die.  The team will also look for the signatures of planets and invisible companions (including black holes) around the stars.  The Local Volume Mapper will measure the strength of light emitted from interstellar gas in the Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds, the Andromeda Galaxy, and other nearby galaxies.  This emission tells us about how the gas interacts with stars (especially those that are many times the mass of the Sun) as they form and die, and about how the heavy elements that these stars make are transported throughout the galaxy into later generations of stars. The Black Hole Mapper will observe many thousands of galaxy clusters and supermassive black holes in the distant Universe.  Because light from these objects left when the Universe was much younger, we can use these data to “watch” how these objects grow, change, and influence other galaxies across cosmic time.

An artist conception of the 3D Universe that SDSS-V will explore. The Earth, in the Milky Way, is at the center, and scientists peer outwards in all directions to measure the light from nearby galaxies and distant black holes. Image Credit: Robin Dienel/OCIS.

 

One of the classic symbols of SDSS is its “plates” — big disks of aluminum that hold the hand-plugged fiber optic cables up to our 2.5-meter telescopes.  These plates can be thought of as mini maps of the sky, with holes punched through them at the locations of the stars and galaxies we want to observe.  But all of that is changing in SDSS-V, in two major ways.  First, we’re building a couple of small telescopes to add to the ones that already exist, which the Local Volume Mapper will connect directly to six brand-new instruments for taking their measurements.  Second, SDSS-V is replacing its plates with many little robots (500 of ’em!) that are able to position the fiber optic cables anywhere in the focal plane of the telescope.  Unlike fibers plugged into the plates, the robots can move from target to target during an observation, allowing the survey to observe each star, quasar, or galaxy cluster only as long as needed and to be much more efficient.  We’ll miss our beautiful plates, but robots are pretty cool too, right?

All three Mappers will operate instruments in both hemispheres — on SDSS’s trusty 2.5-meter Sloan Telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, USA, and on the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope and the new small telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.  (SDSS-IV has already established an important presence at Las Campanas.)  By using both sites, SDSS-V will have a spectroscopic view of the entire sky, because no single place on Earth can see everything.  Even though each Mapper has different science goals, SDSS scientists from all of the Mappers will continue to meet together regularly and share results, because we’re all interested in the same Universe!

SDSS-V can’t happen without the support of member institutions, though.  So if you are (or if you know) an astronomer who wants to be part of making it happen and have early access to the data and the global network of collaborators within SDSS, talk to your chair or director, and let us know how we can help!

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.

SDSS in the Numbers

Scientists are inordinately fascinated by the turning over of odometers.  SDSS has recently passed three such milestones.  A list of all published refereed papers that mention “SDSS” or “Sloan Survey” in their title and abstract (link to the: custom ADS query) finds that:
-We have just passed 8000 published papers (8009 to be exact);
-We have just passed 400,000 total citations (401,609 to be exact);
-The paper that introduced SDSS to the world, York et al, has just hit 6000 citations.

A few other fun statistics:
-We have 90 papers with 500 or more citations;
-The survey’s h number is 242 (there are 242 papers with 242 or more citations);
-There are 849 papers with 100 or more citations.


This information was contributed by Prof. Michael Strauss (Princeton), Former Project Spokesperson and Deputy Project Scientist in SDSSI/II.

Job Openings: Observe for SDSS

We currently have two openings being advertised for observing staff to work within SDSS at the Apache Point Observatory, New Mexico.

To get a sense of a night of observing at Apache Point Observatory check out our Youtube video:

Please visit the links below to see the details of how to apply to be an SDSS observer.

Support Astronomer:  https://jobregister.aas.org/ad/970e54bd

Telescope Operations Specialist:  https://jobregister.aas.org/ad/bb55b431

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.

Job Opening at The Sunspot Astronomy Visitor Center

The Sunspot Astronomy Visitor Center includes content related to the science and observations of the Sloan Digital Sky Surveys. They are seeking a new Program Co-ordinator for Education and Public Outreach. The below is reposted


PROGRAM COORDINATOR – EDUCATION AND PUBLIC OUTREACH

New Mexico State University is seeking a program coordinator to manage the education and public outreach program at the Sunspot Astronomy Visitor’s Center.

Duties include: Oversees operations of public access to exhibits and daily tours around Sunspot Observatories. Initiates and provides local tours, plans and operates star parties: Coordinates visits from local schools and interested groups; Ensures visitor center facility is staffed during operational periods for visitors and tours as needed;  Develops a  business plan to ensure visitor center solvency; Manages gift shop including stock ordering, pricing and design and/or selection of gift shop merchandise; Manages exhibits including coordination of repairs and updates as needed; Responsible for fiscal management of Visitor’s Center;  and may require grant writing and cooperative agreements with other local tourist attractions and of state and federal agencies.  Manage staff as required.

A bachelor’s degree and/or a strong background in and knowledge of astronomy is preferred.

Job Closing Date: 08/31/2017

Targeted Start Date: 10/01/2017

Please visit to https://jobs.nmsu.edu/hr to apply

Congratulations to the APOGEE Instrument Team

Everyone at SDSS-IV wishes to congratulate the APOGEE instrument team, and especially John Wilson for being announced as the 2017 winners of the Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

John Wilson celebrates first light for the APOGEE-S instrument. Credit: SDSS.

The award citation reads:

The Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award recognizes significant observational results made possible by innovative advances in astronomical instrumentation, software, or observational infrastructure. The 2017 recipient of the Muhlmann Award is Dr. John Wilson (University of Virginia) and the APOGEE team for the design, construction, and commissioning of the APOGEE instrument located at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico – the linchpin of the APOGEE surveys that have been a part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) and Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV (SDSS-IV).

APOGEE (Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment) is a groundbreaking, high-resolution, near-infrared, spectrographic survey of red giant stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. By observing near-infrared light, the custom built APOGEE instrument can efficiently see through most of the obscuring dust to study the galactic bulge, disc, and halo. Collecting spectra from 300 targets simultaneously, APOGEE is responsible for the world’s largest high-resolution, near-infrared spectroscopic survey of stars in our Galaxy. After six years of operation, APOGEE has collected data on over 250,000 stars.

As one of the nominators stated, the APOGEE instrument “produced scientifically viable data the moment it was deployed onto the sky and functioned far better than anyone expected.” The instrument was so successful that a copy has been fabricated, installed, and started operating at the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Northern Chile. This instrument, in a Southern Hemisphere location, together with the first instrument, provides the APOGEE Survey access to the entire Milky Way.

The award will be officially given at an Awards Gala on October 28, 2017.

Congratulations to John and the entire instrument team from all of us, and here’s to many years of APOGEE data to come from two hemispheres!

The APOGEE team in front of the instrument after it was delivered and installed in the instrument room at Las Campanas Observatory. Kneeling, from left: Garrett Ebelke, John Wilson, Jimmy Davidson. Middle: Matt Hall, Mita Tembe, Fred Hearty, Juan David Trujillo. Back: Nick MacDonald.

SDSS Fourteenth Data Release

This post was written by Anne-Marie Weijmans, the SDSS Data Release Coordinator.


It’s the last day in July, and that means that it’s time again for a Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) data release! This year, we are very happy to announce our fourteenth public data release, DR14.

Making data publicly available is an important aspect of SDSS, as it allows SDSS data to be used world-wide by anyone with an internet connection. For more than a decade, SDSS data has been used by astronomers for their science, by teachers in their classrooms[1], by students for their school projects, and by the general public to learn more about the Universe. In order to have this broad impact, we work hard to not only make our data available, but to also ensure that it is accessible. All our data is thoroughly documented, and we have various tools, tutorials and examples to assist anyone interested in using our data — from professional astronomers to high school students. Just go to the SDSS data access website to find out how you can work with the SDSS data!

All the SDSS data are stored at the servers of the Center for High Performance Computing (CHPC), at the University of Utah. This particular server holds all the SDSS data releases, including DR14. Just DR14 alone is already a whopping 156 TeraBytes (TB = 1000 Gigabyte = 1012 bytes): that is more than 33,800 DVDs worth of data! Image credit: Adam Bolton

So, what is available in DR14?

  • APOGEE-2, or the APO Galaxy Evolution Experiment-2 is very proud to announce its first public data release! APOGEE-2 studies the structure of the Milky Way by taking infra-red spectra of stars, to learn more about how the Milky Way formed and evolved over time. You can explore these spectra using our webapp and find stellar parameters and chemical properties in the APOGEE-2 data release.
  • eBOSS, short for extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, is also celebrating its first public data release! eBOSS is mapping the structure of the Universe, by taking optical spectra of distant galaxies and quasars. These spectra provide distance measurements to galaxies, quasars, and intervening gas, all of which enable eBOSS to make a 3D map of the Universe, and learn more about how galaxies cluster in space. Ultimately, eBOSS aims to precisely measure the expansion rate of the Universe, and reveal more about the nature of the mysterious Dark Energy that accelerates this expansion. The eBOSS spectra are also available in our webapp.
  • MaNGA or Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory already released its first data last year, but they’re back with even more data cubes, 2,812 in total! MaNGA uses integral-field spectroscopy to map the properties of galaxies, and find out more about how different galaxies form and evolve. The MaNGA team has prepared a very handy set of tutorials to explain the data cube format, so that anyone can make use of the wealth of information hidden in these galaxy integral-field spectra.

Finally, we’re also very excited to share our new Image Policy with you! We have updated our image license to a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY), which means that any image on our website may now be downloaded, linked to, or otherwise used for any purpose, provided that the image credits are given.

We hope you’ll have fun with all the spectra, catalogs, and tools included in our Fourteenth Data Release, and that they will help you with your science, outreach, teaching, school projects, and anything else!

Anne-Marie Weijmans

SDSS Data Release Coordinator

University of St Andrews

[1] If you are a teacher, we invite you to check out our latest educational guides and activities at SDSS Voyages! We are also developing a Spanish version, available here.

Spotlight on APOGEE: Engineering with Garrett Ebelke

Garrett Ebelke (center), with his wife, Stefanie, and their daughter, Madeleine

We have featured the building and delivery of APOGEE-2 several times before (like here, here, and here), so you may recognize the person we are spotlighting today. Garrett grew up in Kansas, but took an early interest in triathlons that brought him to the University of Colorado at Boulder, with all of its lovely mountains, for college. While there, he majored in astronomy. He took a class in observational astronomy that sparked his interest in working with telescopes. So after graduation, when a position as a Telescope Technologist on the 2.5-m SDSS telescope at Apache Point Observatory opened up, he jumped on it…and has been associated with SDSS ever since.

When APOGEE-1 arrived to Apache Point Observatory in 2011, Garrett was working the day shift as a fiber optics technician. His job was to plug plates for each night’s observations. As the telescope shut down for regular summer maintenance, he was asked to support the installation of APOGEE-1. This was the first time that Garrett was exposed to the engineering side of astronomy, and he says that he “was very intrigued”. Below is a picture of Garrett in the clean room with APOGEE-1, along with Principal Investigator Steve Majewski, Instrument Scientist John Wilson, and project scientist Gail Zasowski.

From left to right: Garrett Ebelke, Gail Zasowski, Steve Majewski (reflected), and John Wilson, standing together in the clean room with the APOGEE-1 instrument.

After 18 months at APO, Garrett transitioned to a job as a Telescope Operations Specialist, in which he was up at night running the observations of the SDSS telescope. He used this opportunity to begin taking engineering courses during the daylight hours, so that he could build a better background for instrumentation in astronomy. After several years (and several courses), he was approached about taking place in a unique opportunity: building APOGEE-South. In Garrett’s words: “Since I had seen both the day time plugging and night time operations, I was uniquely qualified to train the Chilean observers/pluggers. Shortly after, I began to design the Plugging and Mapping station with [Chief Engineer] French Leger. As I was handing this design off to French to finalize and fabricate, my wife Stefanie gave birth to our first daughter, Madeleine, and two weeks later, we relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia, so I could become involved in building the APOGEE-South instrument.” Talk about a busy two weeks.

From all accounts Garrett has stayed busy in Virginia ever since. It would take too long to explain everything that he has done to assist with the construction of APOGEE-South; suffice it to say that the end product, safely delivered and installed at Las Campanas Observatory, is a testament to his and many others’ hard work — see the team photo below. He has additionally assisted with upgrades at the University of Virginia’s Fan Mountain Observatory, and is in graduate school at Iowa State University pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Garrett says that his graduate coursework has been hugely beneficial to his work with APOGEE, and his impact on the team has been equally so.

The APOGEE team in front of the instrument after it was delivered and installed in the instrument room at Las Campanas Observatory. Kneeling, from left: Garrett Ebelke, John Wilson, Jimmy Davidson. Middle: Matt Hall, Mita Tembe, Fred Hearty, Juan David Trujillo. Back: Nick MacDonald.

Work for SDSS – Senior Software Developer for Apache Point Observatory

Many people contribute to the success of SDSS, not least the staff working at Apache Point Observatory, where our 2.5m Sloan Telescope is located.

The below job add for a Senior Software Developer to support engineering and observing at Apache Point Observatory is copied from a posting on the New Mexico State University website: http://jobs.nmsu.edu/postings/28105


New Mexico State University is seeking a technical and computer-oriented person for a Senior Software Developer position to support daytime engineering and night-time astronomical observing at Apache Point Observatory (APO), in Sunspot, NM. The observatory at Sunspot NM will be location of work place. Work schedule on site is generally M-F 8-4:30.

Responsibilities include; designs, implements/installs, maintains, and administers computer, network, and phone infrastructure including hardware and software. Monitors Zenoss, overall performance to proactively identify potential issues and tune appropriately. Providse 24/7 high reliability systems with security and analysis – splunk and Bro. Performs root cause analysis on failed components and implements corrective measures. Works with others to address problems, implement new instrumentation and capabilities. Internal and external customer support and good communication skills are required. Familiar with cluster and virtual systems.

Relevant experience includes hands-on system administration, computer system and network management and development and system security. Proficiency in Unix/Linux, RedHat KVM, C, Python, VxWorks, RTEMS,FreePBX, Vyatta and VyOS,Mac OS, Modeling language – UML. Technical writing, HTML5, CSS, js, frameworks and nodej applications.

Must be able to work at 9500 ft MSL, provide critical support off hours, holidays and weekends.

Benefits: Group medical, hospital, life, dental, and disability insurance. State educational retirement, workers compensation, sick and annual leave, and unemployment compensation.
See http://hr.nmsu.edu/benefits/

Paper/email documents will not be accepted. Required documents (CV/Resume, 3 references, unofficial copy of transcripts) must be attached to the NMSU electronic application system at http://jobs.nmsu.edu.

Employment is contingent on funding and eligibility for employment in U.S. and results of a background verification. Target start date is July 1, 2017.

Direct link to the posting on the NMSU website: http://jobs.nmsu.edu/postings/28105