• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2013 - CM4Sy

The summer visit to Caltech is 3-4 days long and is the only time during the year of work when all the participants on the team come together in person to work intensively on the data. Generally, each educator may bring up to two students to the summer visit that are paid for by NITARP, and they may raise funds to bring two more. The teams work at Caltech; the summer visit typically includes a half-day tour of JPL, which is a favorite site for group photos. Reload to see a different set of quotes.

The CM4Sy team came to visit in July 2013. The core team educators attended, plus 11 students.


  • I knew that astronomers conducted most of their research with computers accessing data from distant telescopes and spacecraft, but I didn’t realize how much of it is available to the general public and how readily available it is to amateur astronomers and other interested folks.
  • The most important thing I learned is that doing astronomical research is easily doable by anyone, anywhere who is inspired to do so. You don’t need to have your own telescope or even to go to an observatory. You can access archival images, photometry, and other data for just about any question you might have regarding not only galaxies, but so much more. Tools are being created and refined by NASA and its outreach programs all the time that allow students and regular citizens to participate in authentic research. The sky is no longer the limit! I will be able to engage my students in our own projects like this. Our only limit will be our ability to come up with questions.
  • [student:] It seems that many people believe that astronomers are either extremely geeky people who live with their noses buried deep in their computers and whiteboards or people who chart stars by looking through telescopes all night. In reality, they are people who are very smart, love their jobs, and are extremely excited to share their work with others. I did expect to be working with computers (particularly Excel), but I was grateful for the history of our project and the ability to learn more about our project before diving straight into the more complicated aspects. For example, plotting all the data we were given was much harder and took longer than I had formerly expected.
  • I also learned that modern astronomy research is often conducted using vast databases of archived data collected years previously. When my past students did astronomy research projects, they used data that they themselves collected[..]. After working at Caltech with the group, though, I have come to realize that what my students have been doing previously were small projects compared to our AGN study—they were really just glorified lab activities. I have been giving a lot of thought to this since I returned home and am planning major changes in the sort of projects that my research students will be working on in the future.
  • [student:] The best part of our trip was probably collaborating with other students from different areas of the U.S. I thought it was very cool and exciting to be working with kids from places very different from where I live and to become good friends with them.

Summer Visit - 2013 - CM4Sy