Skip to main content

The TMT, India and the Indian astronomical community.

I am crazy about the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). I worked on data from the SDSS for my first summer project. I learnt about SQLquery to acquire data from the SDSS's servers and I learnt Python to do the relevant data analysis. It's an unbelievable treasure trove of data and is in my opinion, the best place to start off if one is serious in pursuing a career in astronomy. Having said that, a while back I was looking at the various institutional members of the SDSS and I found out that there were NO Indian institution involved with the project. None whatsoever. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure that there were Indians involved in the project. I'm saying that there was no institutional support meaning that Indian universities weren't funding the project or actively building instruments for the project or had priority access to the data. And it kind of made me sad.

The good news now is the fact that India is a 10% partner in the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), built in collaboration with Caltech, Yale, Canada, Japan and China. It's a mammoth observatory and a mega project, with a 1.4 Billion $ budget, one of the main reasons it needed to be collaborative in nature. I learnt the most about the project by reading these set of articles from the Journal of Astronomy & Astrophysics published by the Indian Academy of Sciences, a special issue on the TMT. The cherry on top of the cake was when I came across the Decadal vision document - Astronomy & Astrophysics (PDF file, 27 Mbytes) compiled by astronomers from across the nation, laying out a road map. This is what my weekend reading will be.

Coming back to the TMT and India's involvement in the project, you can find more about it here. I specifically love the fact that India is responsible for the observatory software (OSW), data management systems (DMS) and Image and object catalogs (CAT). One of the main reasons I love the SDSS is because of how easy it is to access their data, something that I think a lot of other people and surveys can learn from.

I started this article wanting to write about the TMT and India's participation in the project and now it has become more about the astronomical community in India than anything else. Looking back at it, I don't know if I didn't know as much about the astronomical community in India because I didn't have a better understanding of the research being pursued by Indian astronomers or if it's because I am only now looking deeper and closer at the work Indian astronomers are doing. Either way, I'm sad that I didn't know how vibrant astronomical research in India currently is and I am happy for finally starting to know about it.

Popular posts from this blog

Animation using GNUPlot

Animation using GNUPlotI've been trying to create an animation depicting a quasar spectrum moving across the 5 SDSS pass bands with respect to redshift. It is important to visualise what emission lines are moving in and out of bands to be able to understand the color-redshift plots and the changes in it.
I've tried doing this using the animate function in matplotlib, python but i wasn't able to make it work - meaning i worked on it for a couple of days and then i gave up, not having found solutions for my problems on the internet.
And then i came across this site, where the gunn-peterson trough and the lyman alpha forest have been depicted - in a beautiful manner. And this got me interested in using js and d3 to do the animations and make it dynamic - using sliders etc.
In the meanwhile, i thought i'd look up and see if there was a way to create animations in gnuplot and whoopdedoo, what do i find but nirvana!

In the image, you see 5 static curves and one dynam…

Pandas download statistics, PyPI and Google BigQuery - Daily downloads and downloads by latest version

Inspired by this blog post :, I wanted to play around with Google BigQuery myself. And the blog post is pretty awesome because it has sample queries. I mix and matched the examples mentioned on the blog post, intent on answering two questions - 
1. How many people download the Pandas library on a daily basis? Actually, if you think about it, it's more of a question of how many times was the pandas library downloaded in a single day, because the same person could've downloaded multiple times. Or a bot could've.
This was just a fun first query/question.
2. What is the adoption rate of different versions of the Pandas library? You might have come across similar graphs which show the adoption rate of various versions of Windows.
Answering this question is actually important because the developers should have an idea of what the most popular versions are, see whether or not users are adopting new features/changes they provide…

Adaptive step size Runge-Kutta method

I am still trying to implement an adaptive step size RK routine. So far, I've been able to implement the step-halving method but not the RK-Fehlberg. I am not able to figure out how to increase the step size after reducing it initially.

To give some background on the topic, Runge-Kutta methods are used to solve ordinary differential equations, of any order. For example, in a first order differential equation, it uses the derivative of the function to predict what the function value at the next step should be. Euler's method is a rudimentary implementation of RK. Adaptive step size RK is changing the step size depending on how fastly or slowly the function is changing. If a function is rapidly rising or falling, it is in a region that we should sample carefully and therefore, we reduce the step size and if the rate of change of the function is small, we can increase the step size. I've been able to implement a way to reduce the step size depending on the rate of change of …