Campare 2014


What Do You Mean It’s 9 Degrees Outside?!

As a scientist, I am aware that when you write that something is 9 degrees, one should specify in what units that temperature is in. However, when it’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit and you’re from California, where the temperature doesn’t drop below 50 degrees in the dead of winter, the 9 degrees might have well been in Kelvin because I thought I was going to die.

I was in Washington D.C. this past week for the 223rd meeting of the AAS, where the coldest night was 9 degrees and windy. Most of the time we stayed in the hotel/ convention center; so no, I didn’t die. Yes, it was very very cold in D.C., but the conference was amazing! The first day there were two different receptions, the undergraduate reception as well as the general reception. I was able to talk to representatives from different schools and learn more about graduate school and different REUs during the undergraduate reception. The general reception was a great place to eat and mingle and get to know other astronomers.


I’m here!

Monday a group of CAMPARE students went and toured D.C. a little. We saw the White House, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial! Pictures are provided below.


Looking at the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial



I’m holding up the Washington Monument!

The rest of the week involved going to different talks/ lectures/ special sessions as well as walking around to even more booths related to Industry, REUs and Schools in the same hall as the poster sessions. The posters were really fun to look at.


Niel deGrasse Tyson speaking Monday Night at AAS 223

I presented my poster on Thursday, the shortest poster session of the meeting. Although there were far less people still at the conference on Thursday, I was able to have meaningful conversations with about 10 people about my research this past summer. I got to explain my research to a variety of different people, all at different stages in their careers and it was really exciting! I have to admit that I woke up Thursday morning and was so nervous that I felt like throwing up. I didn’t. As the morning went on I relaxed a little and had fun chatting with people about my research and their thoughts and opinions about it. I hope/ can’t wait to go to AAS again next year in Seattle!

This is, officially, the end.

So it’s Friday, August 23, and as the day comes to a close, so does our CAMPARE experience. We visited Steward for the last time earlier today, turning in our keys and getting some “UA shwag,” as Gina put it when we first met. It was kind of bittersweet when we headed back to the car and drove off…

Although I’ll still be here in Tucson until Monday, tonight is officially the night that our internship ends. And, as it’s been for the past two months, it’s clouded and overcast with a high chance of rain and thunder and lightning. In fact, here, have a glimpse of what I keep seeing outside my window:



But this being my last post, I’ll keep it short. All in all, my time here in Tucson has definitely been eventful, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I walk away from this experience having gained a lot of knowledge about and respect for the people who are actually in this field, and I hope to one day join their ranks.


* * *

To quote Dr. King Schultz from Django Unchained – or actually, to paraphrase a quote of his, I end my last blog entry with the following:

“[Dearest Reader], normally I would say ‘Auf wiedersehen,’ but since what ‘auf wiedersehen’ actually means is ‘till I see you again’, and since I [won't be seeing you] again, to you, [my friend], I say goodbye.”

Ah, Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow.

As I sit here in my office desk on the last day, I can’t help but think that by this time tomorrow, I will once again have my mom’s amazing cooking yet again!

But now, thinking back, it really will be hard to not miss these amazing people that I was stuck with for 10 weeks! From the random festivities in my room, the field trips, movie nights at SETI, the IRIS launch, colloquims and nutella sandwiches galore, to my never ending battle with Alec, this summer will definitely be one for the record books.

I just want to thank everyone for making this possible.  Changing majors to geology has been the best decision I’ve made in my academic life.  To have gone into this major just two quarters ago, being able to work with such great professors and department staff, and an advisor so awesome to have recommended applying to this internship, well… let’s just say its been an amazing journey so far.  Thankfully, I still have a little bit of time left at Cal Poly before finishing up the undergrad program, so I can further build relationships with those people mentioned and many, many more.

I’ll keep this one relatively short, so with that… Thank you CAMPARE and everyone associated with it!

and now… to finish the epicness that is my astroblog (because I hope you’ve been as entertained reading my posts as I have while writing them) here is my directorial debut…


(Almost?) Everyone :]<3

(Almost?) Everyone :]<3

I’m done…..Bye!

As today is my official last day of my internship, I figure it is the perfect time to sum up my time here in Arizona. This has been one of the most fun, eventful, and fulfilling summers of my life. I have enjoyed my time here so very much, so much in fact, that it makes me so very sad to have to say goodbye to everyone and make the journey back to California. Gina has given me some of the pictures she has taken throughout the entire summer, some of which I would like to share.


My first day!

This picture is from the first time I met Gina. It was the day after beginning camp ended, also the day that I had to meet with Gina to take my modern physics final. Before my final started she showed me the office I would be sharing with Anoush. As you can see my hair still has a bit of pink in it from the month before.

chrystin and anoush

Move in day!

This picture of 5/6 of us was taken when we first moved into Altamira. All of us are tired from packing and moving that day, but I think we were all glad to be rid of college place and to live somewhere that treated its residents with kindness and respect. Altamira has been my home for the last month, and honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.

advisor pic

My Arizona advisors!
From Left to Right: Ed Prather, Don McCarthy, Colin Wallace, Gina Brissenden

This last picture is from this past Tuesday when all of the CAMPARE talks took place. The talks went great! All of us were rather nervous to speak to a room full of advisors and other students, but we all managed to overcome that nervousness to give excellent summations of our summer research. Since then, I’ve had multiple meetings with my advisors to talk about continuing my research and to discuss changes to my talk. I cannot wait to get home and continue the research that I’ve started this summer.

My time here has been so very amazing and it wouldn’t have been possible without so many people. My advisors from Cal Poly; Dr. Rudolph, Dr. Sadaghiani, Dr. Povich, and of course our lovely coordinator Jen. As for my advisors here in Arizona, Dr. McCarthy, Colin, Ed, and Gina have been so fun and amazing to work with, I am so lucky to have all of these wonderful people in my life! Thank you all!

With an open road ahead of me,


Day 67 Update

Day 67;

I have finally  gained the trust of the circle of scientists at the SETI institution, yet they do not yet suspect that I’m the extraterrestrial intelligence they seek.

I have to make this quick as my home in the Orion system is calling me (or perhaps its somewhere in Southern California, I’m not sure yet).

Over the past 10 weeks I’ve been trained to act, think, and eat like a human scientist and I have come to accept their gentle way of life. Their methods for searching for the next big thing are still in development, and I have been sent here to help them in that quest. I have done all I can to help them understand our diverse universes by searching through their radio telescope data and imaging a gas cloud falling into a black hole at the center of our galaxy.

As they are not technologically superior as the researchers from my home planet, I had to improve the images of the gas cloud one step at a time. I ran through various months of data, and the radio images produce would help observe the gas cloud on a daily basis. Within the year or so, the gas cloud will be shred apart by the black hole, and this will help the SETI astronomers better understand how matter behaves as it comes closer to a black hole. Coming from a more advanced society, I of course know many of the answers these scientists seek, however I’m not allowed to talk about these confidential matters just now.

I want to thank Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire for giving me this opportunity to travel to Earth it was a chance to see how a developing society conducts its research. I also want to thank CAMPARE for giving me an entrance into the wonderful environment that is SETI. Having been working as a moisture farmer in my home planet of Tatooine, I never imagined myself one day working at an office were there are endless opportunities to succeed in. The humans, and especially the REU students gave me a great impression of this planet. This internship has also helped me with my desire to continue with grad school here on Earth. Afterwards I will apply all my knowledge to help the people of this planetary system. And then maybe one day, I will join our great and mighty Galactic Empire and serve the leaders who helped me travel to this strange planet.

Below: An artist representation of the gas cloud being stretched apart by a black hole at the center of our Milky Way

Gas Cloud on Black Hole

What an Experience


If you can make it Here, you can make it Anywhere!

If you can make it Here, you can make it Anywhere!

Words cannot begin to describe my experiences this summer. Just sitting here reflecting on it all is simply unreal. I remember first applying for this program during the Winter break. To be honest, I myself never thought I’d be accepted. I remember when my schools Physics Department chair walked into my lab, simply shook my hand, and congratulated me. That particular morning I had forgotten my iPhone at home so I was a bit confused as to what was he talking about. As soon as he told me to read my email, I knew that I had been accepted. I literally felt like every textbook that I read cover to cover, every exam that I aced, every presentation that I gave, all those sleepless nights of solving problems had lead up to this very moment. I literally became a Physics major in order assist in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence at the SETI Institute or NASA.

I remember for my high school senior project I wrote a paper on extraterrestrial intelligence. We went around the classroom articulating our subjects to the entire class, and I’ll never forget the response that I got. Everyone including my teacher laughed at my topic. I told them all that life does exist outside of the Earth and they were wrong for thinking otherwise. But that wasn’t enough; I had to become a scientist like the SETI/NASA scientists that I was citing from TV. I told my friends that I would become a 4.0 Physics major, and eventually work at either NASA or the SETI Institute.They also laughed at me and said I could never be like the NASA/SETI scientist that we watched on TV. I got my 4.0 during my 1st year at California State University, Sacramento; and that still wasn’t enough in my mind. I had to complete my promise to everyone who said “I couldn’t” and actually obtain a position at NASA or SETI.

So I fulfilled both of my promises, and that still wasn’t enough. My mentor Cynthia Phillips told me upon starting my project that previous interns had been unsuccessful in producing 3-D images of Europa; so I didn’t rest until I figured out why and produced several 3-D images of my own. After presenting the data that I obtained, my mentor Dr. Phillips invited me to submit an abstract to a Planetary Science Conference in Houston Texas. I honestly feel like Lebron James after he won the NBA Finals, I’m not even supposed to be here. I grew up an inner city child from Oakland, CA. I went home to Oakland last weekend and there were 24 separate shootings in two days. In the last week teenagers, children, and even literal babies have been violently killed in my neighborhood. My own people told me that I couldn’t, and for a moment I believed them. Every day that I walk into the SETI Institute I see my picture on the employee wall and I know that I’m blessed, I’ve even been on TV representing the SETI Institute, and to top it all off Dr. Frank Drake wrote that I was his potential successor. Everyone who doubted me could say what they want because “I ain’t got know worries”! This is the SETI Institute, if you can make it here; YOU CAN MAKE IT ANYWHERE!

It’s already over?

I can’t believe that it is already the last week of this program. I have had an amazing experience here at UA. Being able to do research for my mentor, Nathan Smith, has been really fulfilling. My research project dealt with doing photometry on SN2010jp. SN2010jp is a type IIn supernova. For this type of supernova you can observe narrow hydrogen lines in its spectrum. SN2010jp is not any regular type IIn, though, as its hydrogen lines also have very broad wings. Its spectrum also has a very noticeable triple peak at the H-alpha lines. This triple peak was interpreted as evidence that SN2010jp is actually a bipolar jet-driven supernova. The two jets were seen to have velocities of approximately 14000km/s and 16000km/s. Supernovae don’t always have jets, but even when they do, they aren’t usually that fast. For my research, I analyzed and reduced data that Nathan collected from the 6.5m Magellan Baade Telescope in Chile. Here is one of the reduced images that I created. I think its pretty amazing because in this image you can see a bunch of galaxies in the background of two huge merging galaxies.


In order to get my images to look like this, I had to become friends with IRAF. IRAF (Image Reduction and Analysis Facility) is a program created by NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatories) that is run in a computer terminal used by many astronomers to reduce and analyze data. For those of you who don’t know, trying to learn how to use IRAF on your own is quite frustrating. Luckily, when I was having a little too much trouble understanding IRAF, Nathan would help me out. Once I finally learned how to use all the commands that I needed in IRAF, I realized how useful of a program it is. It allowed me to obtain relative brightness values  for my supernova that I could use to get an apparent magnitude of SN2010jp.

The main goal of my project was to determine the region that the supernova occurred in, whether or not SN2010jp is part of the galaxy merger seen in the above image, and what the late-time light curve for SN2010jp tells us. Based on my light-curve data, Nathan and I came to the conclusion that the higher than expected luminosity for the late-time light curve is either due to a star forming region or  supernova shock interaction with circumstellar matter. We need to take more data on SN2010jp in the future to determine with more certainty which it is. From my final reduced images I determined that it shows that SN2010jp is actually part of this galaxy merger. In the picture below you can see a faint tidal tail extending to SN2010jp, inside the red circle.


With this knowledge I was prepared to make a successful presentation about my research on SN2010jp. I actually presented just yesterday and many of the mentors in CAMPARE and faculty at the Steward Observatory told me I did a good job, and that definitely made me feel good. All in all I have loved this research experience and hope that next year I can participate in another research project as fun as this one.

Perseids, Presentations, and People – Oh my!

Just got back from giving our presentations to all the other CAMPARE participants and their mentors, and I can comfortably say we all did pretty well! I think it’s safe to say we were all fighting nerves, but all went well.

Well, granted I’ve been wanting to update for about a week, I can do so now without the presentation nagging at me for my time.

I flew back to Tucson last Monday, and that same night, 5 out of the 6 of us here in town drove out to the base of Kitt Peak to get some dark skies for the Perseids meteor shower – we initially wanted to drive up to the top (and probably could have, but shhhh, no one should know…), but decided against it, in case we got stuck up on the mountain with no one to open the gate for us on the way down. That, and the fact that we had a practice run for our presentations the next morning, kept us at the base of the mountain instead. The view was phenomenal though. We had a decent dark sky, and the Milky Way shone directly overhead, stretching from horizon to horizon. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t stop craning my neck back to take in the view. Now, given I only had my phone and no decent camera on me, I couldn’t really take any pictures. But this picture from APOD is a pretty realistic representation of what we saw that night:

For details about the photo, visit:

We each saw about 3-4 of the bright meteors, but the funny part was that we rarely ever saw the same ones. I’d be looking up and see it, and immediately yell out “OH MY GOD, DID YOU SEE THAT?!” and the others would turn to see where I was pointing but they’d be too late. Of course, I missed a few that they saw, so all in all, we saw some and we missed some. But altogether, we probably saw 10 or so really bright meteors, which was the highlight of my night.

The rest of the week was spent finalizing my PowerPoint presentation, and after days of constant editing and reformatting, I finally finished and submitted it yesterday – one day before our actual talks. But now that they’re over, I can blog happily without constantly worrying about having to edit this or fix that or copy-paste things … so I’m glad that’s done and over with!

The director of Steward Observatory, Buell Jannuzi, spoke to me after the presentations had concluded and complimented the way I explained the VLSR maps I’d created in Miriad (see below). As he said, “it’s tough to be able to speak about them in a way where the audience will be able to visualize it,” and it seemed to me as though I did a good job at that. I think that’ll be something I won’t ever forget. [Disclaimer: I really don't intend for this section to sound like I'm bragging; I'm just so surprised that the director had something so positive to say about my presentation! I'd been doubting myself a lot while putting the presentation together, and I hope it didn't translate through... Seems like it didn't, so that's always a good thing for me to fall back on.]


“3D representation of phase space.” Each of these separate images are emission from 12CO molecules moving at specific speeds shown by the number at the top left of each individual tile. To “convert” this into a mental 3D image, just take the tile at the top left as the tile closest to you, and begin stacking the images until the one at the bottom right is the tile furthest away from you, and you’ve created a “cube” with three axes – galactic longitude along the horizontal axis, galactic latitude along the vertical, and the third axis (the “z” axis in Cartesian coordinates) is referred to as the velocity axis. This really gives you a good understanding of the structure of the molecular cloud.
Phew, what a mouthful of words!

All in all, though, this has been a great experience, and now, it’s bittersweet that it’s almost done.

But not to worry, this will most likely not be my last post! Hopefully I’ll stay true to my word.

…until then!

Galactic Center

I’ve been working on data from the galactic center for weeks now, and there always seems be room for improvement. Currently astronomers are observing a gas cloud that is being pulled into a black hole at the center of our galaxy. And I’ve also been looking at that data, which the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) has been taking over the past 4 months, for a few hours of exposure each night. I am able to run several program scripts that depict the radio image of that gas cloud and the black hole at the center of it. However, its impossible to be able to see the black hole (because it doesn’t give off any light), hence the name “black” hole. But we can detect the gas cloud, and the picture at the bottom is an example of what an image of the event looks like. And sometime soon the gas cloud should “erupt” as it gets dragged onto the black hole.

Also I’ve been working on a top secret formula that will help the world understand the meaning of a lot of things, which I dub the

Garcia EquationTM

But its top secret, so I won’t say much about it…………………………………………

Galactic Center


Last week Dr. Bieging took us over to visit the UA Library Dept. of Special Collections. We viewed up close (and even got to touch!) original first editions of major works in the history of astronomy, including works by Copernicus, Tycho, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Huygens- this was amazing! We were given a couple of hours to look through and admire these books. I spent most of my time looking through and appreciating two specific books by Newton and Galileo. Even though I cannot read Latin, I couldn’t believe I was flipping through the same pages that Newton and Galileo flipped through. Definitely a memory I will not forget.

Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 5.10.20 PM20130806_102124

If you look closely you can see Galileo’s own correction he made on one of his pages!!


Research is going well. I’ve been able to produce a model in python that will make artificial data of a planet transiting its parent star with and without a starspot. Right now I am in the middle of comparing multiple sets of artificial data to the one set of data we took in the beginning of the summer. We are trying to fit certain parameters for the GJ1214b exoplanetary system. Once we are done, we will be able to figure out what the radius of the planet is, along with other important parameters – very exciting! I feel very lucky to be apart of this process and I am grateful for this experience.  Hopefully in the future we are able to get more data that we need in order to determine the obliquity of the exoplanetary system. Oh, and I finally remembered to take a picture of the Kuiper 61” the last time we went up for observing.

Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 5.13.24 PM


Along with doing my research, we have our presentations coming up on Tuesday. I am not ready yet, but I should be by then. We had our practice run in the beginning of this week, so I know what I need to do to prepare for Tuesday. It’s crazy to look back and see how much I have done this summer. It’s an awesome feeling.