Skip to main content


Showing posts from September, 2014

What is race and does it matter (in astronomy)?

In my last post I gave a peek into my understanding of racism in America, and how I teach that concept to my children. The reading list posted therein also informs much of what follows, so if you’d like references please see the end of that article. See also my introduction on the subject of race in (US) astronomy. With this post I aim to give a quick overview of some key concepts that I'll rely upon in future posts. For people wishing to comment on this, please do me, yourself and the community a favor and first read this excellent reader’s guide on discussing racism. You’ll be surprised how often the first thing that comes to your mind has been previously voiced and repeated ad nauseam elsewhere in similar forums. When in doubt, frame your comment as a question.
The first concept is that of race. This subject is covered extensively in the easy-to-read textbook Seeing White(see my Twitter challenge #BloggingWhite), as well as in numerous other books, research papers, blog posts, …

Two MINERVA telescopes dancing the night away!

Soon to be at Mt. Hopkins, as nicely narrated by Rick Hedrick of PlaneWave Telescopes.

Here are Telescopes #1 and #2 in Pasadena undergoing testing, snug in their LCOGT-designed Aqawan enclosure (image thanks to Jon Swift):

Explaining racism to my child

As I often do on the weekend, I recruited my oldest sone, Owen, to help me with running an errand. I like hanging out with him and he likes riding in the front seat and feeling like a big kid. Plus, there's the magic of the car ride, which somehow causes kids to open up and talk more than they do when face-to-face in the house.
On the car's audio system we were listening to Blackalicious' "Supreme People." The chorus is pretty straight-forward---"Su-preme (Supreme, Supreme) [x8]", audio here---but something dawned on Owen:
O [looking at the media player display]: Ohhhhh! They're saying "supreme, supreme!" I thought they were saying "seriously? seriously?"
me [smiling]: Yup. That would be funny if he was saying "srsly?!" like you and Marcus do.
O: What does supreme mean?
me: It's similar to being super, or impressive, or very good at what you do. It can also mean that you're the best. 
O: Oh.
me: Do you know who…

Blogging about race, America and astronomy

I realize that my blogging frequency has been way down over the Summer. This is due to many factors, including spending more time with my family, having an incredibly productive research team, and because I've been spending a lot of time reading. Over the past year, I have read more than a book per month on the topic of race, racism and Black history. Why this sudden interest? you might ask. Well, my interest, while intensified lately, has always been thoroughly piqued. One cannot grow up in America as a person of color, and particularly as a Black person with our 400 year history of oppression, struggle, and courage, and not notice a few things.
But more recently as a professor, I have found myself in a position to make a difference. Since my very first NSF grant proposal, I have always advanced a Broader Impact statement geared toward the advancement of people of color in astronomy. I have always recognized the value of diversity in advancing science and the paucity of color in…

Kepler: Back from the Dead

This is a guest post from my graduate student, Andrew Vanderburg. Over the past few months, Andrew has been focusing his attention on data collected by the crippled Kepler Space Telescope.  After being disabled in May of last year by the failure of the second of two reaction wheels used to point itself, Kepler has been given new life thanks to some brilliant work done by Ball Aerospace and the Kepler team. Here's my previous post about the K2 Extended Mission. 
Below, Andrew describes his work, which is documented in a recently accepted paper available here and which has recently been incorporated into the Kepler team's guest observertools. Also, be sure to check out his website, where you can access corrected K2 data from an engineering test conducted in February on this interface. Who knows, you might even find a transiting planet!
Since its launch in 2009, the Kepler Space Telescope has revolutionized the field of exoplanetary science with the discovery of thousands of plane…