Thoughts about StargazingABC 2018

(Article originally written in the personal blog of our member Ángel López-Sánchez).

How can I say it in just few words? It was both very exciting and exhausting, with a little bit of bitter too. But, overall, last week at Siding Spring Observatory was one of the best experiences I have had in a long time working at the telescope, combining science research, amateur astronomy, outreach and science communication during the Stargazing ABC Live shows.

The AAT is ready for #StargazingABC. Hosts Julia Zemiro and Prof Brian Cox are sit in the piano, while Brian still rehearsing. Credit: Ángel R. López-Sánchez.

When I’m writing this, at 6:44pm 30th May 2018, I’m still observing at the Anglo-Australian Telescope. I’m doing it remotely from Sydney. It is my last night in a very long run (18 nights in May) for my own research project, which I will detail here eventually. I’m exhausted and need a good break, body and mind can’t survive this crazy rhythm, sleeping an average of 4-5 hours per day, and without any break during the weekends.

But let me at least quickly mention here my contribution to the 2018 Stargazing Live shows:

1. I provided A LOT OF information about Astronomy and the Anglo-Australian Telescope to the ABC and BBC crews. This is something that I’ve been doing during the last months, and might be considered as part of my role of “AAO Science Communicator Officer”.

2. I provided plenty of astrophotography and video-timelapse material, which was used during the shows. The most important of these is the new timelapse video “Stargazing at Siding Spring Observatory“, that you can enjoy here:

3. I spent some of my scheduled time at the Anglo-Australian Telescope to prepare a nice, new image of a beautiful astronomy object, that was later discussed during the show. It was the planetary nebula NGC 5189, for which I provided extra information in the previous post.

4. But the most important contribution for the show was actually observing with the AAT two transients reported by the citizen scientists who participated in a program to search for type Ia supernova in other galaxies. After confirming that the transient was there, we got spectroscopic information using KOALA+AAOmega, reduced the data, analysed the data, confirmed that both transients were type Ia supernova in distant galaxies, and wrote a science report with the discovery!

This was something I originally didn’t plan to do, but, as I said, it was my own research program that scheduled at the AAT during the StargazingABC, so I decided to do it and it got a reward, as this also allowed us to submit two science reports with the discoveries!

These two nights were really exciting! I really want to thank my friends and colleagues Lluís Galbany and Yago Ascasibar, as well as the AAT Night Assistant Kristin Fiegert (AAO), for their wonderful help in all of this.

The discovery of the transients and the confirmation that they were type Ia supernova in distant galaxies has appeared in many media news these days, including in ABC Science News, and also here: “Citizen scientists find two supernovae and (slightly) revise the age of the cosmos“.

It was also a privilege talking with Prof Brian Cox, who is absolutely great, and even recorded a short video with me for my son. Thank you a lot, Brian!

Prof Brian Cox and me are ready for #StargazingABC.

Where is the “bitter” I mentioned in the first paragraph? Well it is when the credit is not given. And not credit was given to me during the shows. I was still hoping at least having my name in the screen, in an ideal world even participating in person during the shows. But with my name (Ángel) and my strong English accent… well… perhaps in another life… I know what I did and I know how important my contribution was, and as I said I really enjoyed a lot all the time.

I hope I’ll be back if #StargazingABC returns in 2019!

PS: If you are in Australia, you can watch anytime the 3 episodes of 2018 #StargazingABC following this link to the ABC webpages.


About Angel.Lopez-Sanchez

Dr Ángel R. López-Sánchez is an astrophysicist and science communicator working at the Australian Astronomical Optics (AAO) and the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the Macquarie University (MQ) in Sydney (NSW, Australia). His research is focused in the analysis of star formation phenomena in galaxies of the Local Universe, especially in dwarf starbursts and spiral galaxies, using multi-wavelength (UV, optical, IR, radio) data. He presented his PhD Thesis at University of La Laguna and the Instituto Astrofisica de Canarias (Spain) in 2006. In 2007 he joined CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science (Sydney) with a postdoctoral position. He then joined the AAO (formerly the Australian Astronomical Observatory) and MQ in 2011. In July 2018 he was appointed as Senior Lecturer at AAO-MQ. He has been providing instrument and observing support at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT, Siding Spring Observatory, NSW) since 2011, being the instrument scientist of several instruments: the multi-fiber spectrograph 2dF+AAOmega and the near-infrared imager and spectrograph IRIS2. He also has large experience with integral-field spectroscopy (IFS), being a very active member of the SAMI collaboration at the AAT and part of the HECTOR Science Team. He currently is the Instrument Scientist of KOALA+AAOmega at the AAT, and leads the international astronomy survey "HI KOALA IFS Dwarf and irregular galaxy Survey" (Hi-KIDS), that is getting unique, high-quality IFS data of a sample of 100 nearby dwarf and irregular galaxies for which 21cm H I interferometric data is available He has large experience teaching undergraduate and PhD students and giving lectures and classes about Astronomy. Dr. López-Sánchez is passionate science communicator who continuously gives talks and public lectures, writes popular science articles and organizes science communication events and stargazing activities. He is very active in social media, his Twitter feed is @El_Lobo_Rayado.