Invited Speakers

Bradley Frank (University of Cape Town): Jupyter Notebooks for Radio Astronomy on the Cloud
MeerKAT and the SKA will conduct ambitious large observational surveys that will address many important astrophysical questions about the evolution of galaxies and our universe. The unprecedented sensitivity produces exciting prospects for science, but also a terrifying deluge of data products that challenges the current paradigm of astronomical computing.

I will talk about how we are using the cloud to process radio interferometric data. I will also outline how Jupyter Notebooks have been an invaluable resource for analysis, collaboration and training, especially as we develop expertise and frameworks for dealing with MeerKAT data.

Amanda Bauer (LSST) LSST: Education and Public Outreach
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will conduct a 10-year wide, fast, and deep survey of the night sky starting in 2022. LSST Education and Public Outreach (EPO) will enable public access to a subset of LSST data so anyone can explore the universe and be part of the discovery process. LSST EPO aims to facilitate a pathway from entry-level exploration of astronomical imagery to more sophisticated interaction with LSST data using tools similar to what professional astronomers use for their work. To deliver data to the public, LSST EPO is creating an online Portal to serve as the main hub to EPO activities.  The Portal will host an interactive Skyviewer, access to LSST data for educators and the public through online Jupyter notebooks, original multimedia for informal science centers and planetariums, and feature citizen science projects that use LSST data. LSST EPO will engage with the Chilean community through Spanish-language components of the Portal and will partner with organizations serving underrepresented groups in STEM.

Bruce Bassett (University of Cape Town/SAAO/AIMS): Threads of a Future Research 3.0  
Here we weave together insights and lessons taken from a range of experiments in research, collaboration and mentoring over the years focussed on the answering the question: “how can we do research better?”

Arna Karick (Tech Savvy Astronomer):  Getting the most out of hack day: Lessons learned from hacking for humanity

Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is part of a global community of technologists hacking for humanity.  Australia has one of the most vibrant and engaged RHoK communities in the world with chapters in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and surrounding regional centres. We match local organisations that have a social impact with skilled technologists that are keen to tackle challenges facing society – particularly around health, education, sustainability, and vulnerable communities.

Each year our hackathons bring together roughly ~80 people from a variety of backgrounds who want to contribute in some small way. Business analysts, software developers, web and application developers, designers, scientists – including astronomers! educators, writers, communicators, project managers and UI/UX researchers. Generally clever, interesting, and motivated people with fresh ideas. Over two days we hack our hearts out and build tech solutions that (hopefully) make a positive impact on peoples lives. I will talk about my experience as a RHoK organiser, showcase some of our awesome projects, and share my tips for getting the most out of the .Astronomy 9 Hack Day.

Wanda Diaz Merced (IAU Office of Astronomy for Development): Is the use of multimodal perception a real posibility for Astronomy research, education and outreach? 
The use of sound to explore radioastronomy information was used in 1947.  The use of this technologies was fully substituted by the use of unimodal displays ( like the eye).  This presentation is to invite people to brain storm about possible uses of multimodal perception ( use of more than one sense) for astronomy ,  numeracy and outreach purposes.

Brian Nord (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory):  The role of narrative in the culture and practice of science
Storytelling is a fundamental mode of human communication. Moreover, it is critical to how we interpret and build models of the world around us. However, it is not yet a widespread habit for scientists to access the power of storytelling and narrative in how we communicate or perform research. We’ll explore current and possible future implementations of narrative in our academic environments and research methods.

Chris Lintott (Oxford University)


Contributed Talks

Temba Matomela, Iziko Planetarium (South Africa): The AmaXhosa understanding of the night sky
AmaXhosa people like all the other communities of the world, found the evening sky fascinating. The night sky serves as a big laboratory where every community can observe, learn and identify some stars and other heavenly bodies, to tell time, seasons and other occurrences. It is therefore safe to say that the Xhosa community agricultural cycles and celebration of various rituals and customs. Here I will explore the following celestial bodies: Pleiades (commonly known as seven sisters); Orion Belt (commonly known as three sisters); Canopus (which is traditionally the harbinger of the winter);
Shooting Star (known as a lucky star); Venus (commonly known as the morning and evening star); and the Moon phases.

I prefer to call this an indigenous astronomy even though it somewhat lacks the scientific part of astronomy. As much as we have lost most of the knowledge on the subject, which regretfully went down to the grave with our forefathers undocumented, we should consolidate and preserve whatever we have, so that our children and grandchildren would be fore-armed with the rich cultural history and conquer the future well informed.

Susan Murabana, Travelling Telescope Africa (Kenya): The Travelling Telescope
My oral presentation will focus on our work in Kenya and Africa. The Travelling Telescope is a company dedicated to promoting science and technology in Africa. We work mainly in schools and have a tourism branch to our business. So far we have reached more than 40.,000 students in schools and hundreds of schools in Kenya. We have also recently received a one-year grant from Airbus foundation to promote STEM education with their Space program using Robotics. We have a mobile planetarium, a 12 – inch reflector telescope and other smaller interactive devices that we use to engage our audience especially school children. We have recently been featured on CNN, BBC, Aljazeera and many other local and international media houses. Please visit our website for more information. www.travellingtelescope.co.uk

Lisa Ballard, SETI Institute (USA): Postcards from the Outer Planets
I work for NASA’s Planetary Data System on a search interface and API serving data and images from missions to the outer solar system. We provide easy access to complete datasets and web-ready images from several NASA missions including the Voyager probes, Cassini, New Horizons, and Galileo. I’ll demo the tool and API and show examples of how hackers, hobbyists, and artists are using it to make cool things.

Fernando Becerra (Harvard University, USA): Astrollytelling: Astronomy through visual stories
The evolution of the web in the last years has offered many opportunities to develop novel tools to communicate science and engage people. In this context, interactive web visualizations arise like the perfect candidates to use as medium to teach astronomy. Motivated by this, we have created http://astrollytelling.io, a project that was born to bring together astronomy and storytelling. Scrollytelling has gained huge popularity in the last years, especially in journalism, and it is used as a way to tell visual stories step by step by simply scrolling down a webpage. Astrollytelling has adapted this technique to explain basic astronomy concepts and ideas through visual stories in a compelling and easy to understand style using the JavaScript library d3.js. Originally aimed to undergrad and grad students, this visualization tool is also useful for any astronomy enthusiast who wants to learn more about the science astronomers do.

Day Zero Presenters

Charl Cater is a undergraduate astrophysics student in Cape Town. He holds a previous degree in Information Design, does freelance animation work and lectures motion graphics at the Cape Town Creative Academy. He is especially interested in the future of data science and astronomy, and visualisation of complex data.

Ben Cook is a 4th year PhD at Harvard University, working on modeling the photometry of nearby galaxies. He is passionate about high-performance computing, machine learning, and science outreach, and is the Organizing Committee Chair for the Communicating Science National Workshop for grad students.

Nicholas Earl works for the Space Telescope Science Institute as a research and instrument analyst where he develops science software for use with JWST and other observatories. In his science time, he studies the circumgalactic medium in hydrodynamic simulations to figure out galactic feedback mechanisms.

Kevin Govender started off in nuclear physics and moved into astronomy as head of the SALT Collateral Benefits Programme at the SAAO, where he led various Africa-wide and global initiatives related both to advancing astronomy and using astronomy for development. He was appointed to lead the OAD in 2011 and since then has been trying to wrap his head around astronomy, development and parenting (in order of increasing difficulty!)

Brett Morris is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the maintainer of the astropy affiliated package astroplan, and works on observations of stellar activity and transiting exoplanets.

Brian Nord is a scientist at Fermilab and University of Chicago who focus on applications of artificial intelligence to problems in cosmology. He also develops science communication programming for those institutions, including training and workshops in communication for scientists. 

Josh Peek is an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Project Scientist of the Data Science Mission Office, and the Principle Investigator of the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes. He has a scientific focus on the interstellar medium and diffuse universe, and is especially interested in extracting information from complex astronomical images and the infrastructure of astronomical data. 

Brigitta Sipocz is an astronomer living in the United Kingdom. Her science interests are with exoplanets, low mass stars, and asteroids; but in reality she spends most of her time writing and maintaining software within the Astropy Project.

Becky Smethurst is a research fellow at the University of Nottingham who has some fun presenting physics interest YouTube videos on the side. Most of the time she’s coding up tools in Python to search for statistically supported observational evidence of quenching in galaxies due to AGN feedback.