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This category contains 21 posts

Beyond Chi-Squared: An Introduction to Correlated Noise

A common measure of the quality of a fit is the chi-squared statistic. While common, implementation of this statistic assumes uncorrelated noise, which is much less common. Today, we discuss how to deal with noise that is correlated and why it’s important.

The Strange Naming Conventions of Astronomy

Let’s face it: some astronomical systems don’t make any sense. Join us for a look at the history of some of these terms, as we try to understand why stellar spectral classification and the magnitude system work like they do.

A classic paper: how did the largest scale structure in the Universe form?

A relatively detailed discussion of a classic paper in cosmology, which basically covers everything you might want to know about how structure forms in the Universe on the very largest scales.

The Problem of Exascale Computing

Computational physicists are already looking to the next milestone on the horizon: exascale computing, or supercomputers whose performance peaks in the exaflop range. But we need to get a lot better at parallelization before we can successfully compute at the exascale level.

2012: My Favorite Doomsday Scenarios

Let’s be serious for a moment: nothing dire is going to happen on December 21st. Rest easy. But in celebration I’ve decided to count down my top five favorite astronomical doomsday scenarios, ordered from most to least plausible.

Gravitational Lensing in the Canary Islands

I recently attended a two-week crash course in the “Astrophysical Applications of Gravitational Lensing”. In this post, I overview a few of the ways astronomers employ lensing to study the Universe, from extrasolar planets to distant quasars and large-scale structure.

Stuff Hitting Jupiter: A Retrospective

Fact: Jupiter is the best planet. What’s not to like? Big, beautifully stripey, four exciting moons, hurricane three times the size of the Earth, lots of fascinating hydrodynamics…I could go on. But Jupiter isn’t just awesome on its own. It was also the site of the first observed extraterrestrial impact event, and is routinely struck […]

The verbal GRE: dirty secrets on its role in grad school admission

For many of you, this September may be a time when, in addition to enjoying the autumnal crunch of leaves underfoot, you begin seriously to consider graduate school in astronomy.  Most application deadlines are in late December or early January, so perhaps the more enterprising folks have even begun to draft essays that tread the […]

Let’s Lasso Us Some Space Rocks: Asteroid Mining And You

A coalition of willing billionaires, spaceflight professionals, and scientific advisors under the banner of Planetary Resources have announced their intention to go out there and mine themselves some asteroids. Are they serious? What’s going to happen? What does it mean for astronomers and planetary scientists? What contributions will the scientific community make, and what data do we stand to gain?

The WISE way to deal with 2.7 million images: a public data release

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) data release promises many new and exciting discoveries!

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