Hello, its been a while since I’ve blogged. I must admit, I’ve been very distracted and curious; it’s cool not knowing anyone outside of the apartment, it makes me want to go explore or read up on material I don’t get a chance to when I’m surrounded by family and friends. But I’ve been talking to some of the grad students, and they are all so nice, helpful and knowledgable. So far I’ve been connecting with Megan the Elder (as we call her) the most because she’s just down the hall and she’s always so open with what she’s working on and the joy or frustrations of it. I really enjoy hearing her minor struggles and victories because I totally understand, even if its on a significantly lower level. I hope to be that hard working and down to earth in the future!

So, since I haven’t talked about anything I’ve been doing at work yet, let’s start from the beginning. My project is to reduce data taken by the IMACS CCD of the Magellan telescope in Chile. My target is Supernova 2010jp, and it is unique from most supernovae in that it has characteristics of a Type II supernova while having a jet. The spectra of the supernova also shows a triple-peaked H-alpha profile, with high velocity red and blue emission lines and broad wings. The broad wings are similar to a previously discovered supernova, Supernova Ic, in that these particular relativistic jets ([could], for our case)  produce gamma ray bursts. The spectra also indicates a narrow central component that could be due to supernova ejecta interacting with circumstellar dense material. To add to the oddities, the supernova is located in a remote region, far from its neighboring galaxies:


This is an image from chip 2 (I forgot the exact image name, probably number 63), where SN 2010jp resides. I’ve had to reduce the quality because the maximum size of file that can be blogged is only 2MB, so I apologize for the blurriness. This image has been bias-reduced and flat-fielded and it uses ds9′s log and z-scale. The two very pretty celestial bodies in the upper right hand corner are the neighboring galaxies and SN 2010jp is located somewhere in the middle and is very faint and pixelated: IMG_0188

This is from Nathan Smith’s paper on SN 2010jp published in 2011. It shows us zooming in on the target from the left being the less focused image, to the right being the most focused image.The SN is indicated by the very faint hash marks on the right most image.

Given the SN’s distance from the galaxies, it is a mystery as to how it could have produced a luminous and detectable explosion (although its absolute magnitude had a relatively low peak in the first place). This phenomena is still being explored, and is outside my range of knowledge at the moment.

Now, onto my actual labor. I mentioned before that my first image had been bias-reduced and flat fielded. When reducing images, we want to remove the noise that stunts scientific evaluation. In the case of biases and flats, it is the lone noise of electrons in the detector and the variations of the gain, respectively. The bias frames are taken when the shutter is off, as so to account for the additive electron-noise effect. The flat fields were taken of a white wall, as to account for the multiplicative effect of the gain variation. So, I am going to have to subtract bias frames from the science images and divide the science images by the flat fields.

My first step was to create super biases for each chip. IMACS takes mosaics of the sky and moves around to account for the spaces in between. This CCD had 8 chips fortunately using the same filter, so I have to create super biases and super flats for each individual chip.

When creating super biases, I had to combine all the bias frames into one. Simple enough. Using IRAF (a data imaging and reducing program), I created lists of all the bias frames for each individual chip using the “ls” command (ex. $ ls iff*c1.fits > biasc1.list), and then combined them using “imcombine” (ex. $ imcombine @biasc1.list superbiasc1.fits). I then created input (unbias) and output (bias) lists for the science images ( I notice now that my choice of name is kind of confusing as the unbias title should have been for the output list, but at least I noted it to not confuse myself!). I then used imarith to subtract the superbias from each chip (ex. $ imarith @unbiasc1.list – superbiasc1.fits @biasc1.list). I also had to subtract the respective super bias from all of the flat fields, so I did that as well.

Next, I had to create my super flats. I created lists of the flats from each chip and I ran imstat on the lists (ex.  $ imstat @flatc1.list). Running this command gave me the number of pixels, mean, standard deviation, minimum and maximum values of each image. I chose to use the mean value to divide out my flats because it would average out the noise. I then created output lists and divided by the mean values from its respective image (ex. $ imarith @flatc1.list / @statflc1.list @sflatc1.list). Then I combined the images to make a super flat for each chip (ex. $ imcombine @sflatc1.list superflatc1.fits). Finally, I flat fielded the science images (ex. $ imarith @biasc1.list / superflatc1.list @sfflatc1.list). I did these processes for all eight chips.

I am now working on creating master images for each chip (probably/hopefully to combine into one master mosaic?) by choosing the same star (from images 52-63 of each chip) from each image in hopes to combine them all neatly. I have since then taken the coordinates of one star in each chip, which was actually pretty laborious because IRAF would systematically freak out. But I got through! I am now trying to figure out what my next step is.

Although the process seems smooth on paper, carrying it out was quite frustrating. I’ve concluded that the computers in the computer lab hate me. I’ve had to run around to get help with the technical problems (frozen accounts, choppy ds9 images, etc) for most my time here, but I’m still powering through. A huge lesson I’m learning is patience; patience and good judgement to not get angry when I encounter a problem, to just say to myself “Okay how can we fix this”. I honestly think I’m a little late in learning this mindset, but hey better late than never!

Outside work, I’ve been relaxing, working out, and reading up on the things I’ve been meaning to. Kickboxing classes are really fun! Everyone has been doing it for 4+ years, but I think I’ve caught up with the movements. I just lack the strength to hit hard and take hard hits. I’ve also been learning the basics of cooking, and it is actually quite fun! Just very time consuming.

Well, that’s all for updates, until next time!

PS. I like the sunsets here.

arizona sunset

Half Way!!!!

I’ve expressed this sentiment before but it is even more pertinent now: I’m both excited and scared! This time it’s to be half way through my internship! My project is going very well; it continues to be as fun as it is challenging. I’ve even managed to study for the GRE and to prepare my research poster and abstract for the condensed matter experiment research I did last academic year at my university, Cal State Long Beach.

     Coming back to a research project after 5 weeks in a very different field is quite hard. I have definitely learned the value in a detailed notebook. My condensed matter research project was atomic force and magnetic force microscopies imaging of ferromagnetic thin films. Learning to use such a sensitive, intricate, expensive machine (the microscope) was really fun. I never would have thought I’d love machinery so much. My fondness for ‘tinkering’ was reconfirmed in my electronics class last semester. Processing the images and analyzing them for information on the compositions and creation techniques of each sample was great investigative learning. I did thoroughly enjoy myself all year. The difference between enjoying condensed matter research and the unquenchable curiosity I have for astrobiology and astrophysics, in particular deep outer space, is what will give me an exciting career and fulfilled life that my current astrobiology mentor, Dr. Gerry Harp, and my previous condensed matter mentor, Dr. Jiyeong Gu, both have. From this I’ve realized I’m in the right field, astrobiology/astrophysics.
     Past the hard work and soul searching, these last 5 weeks have been incredibly fun. my roommate and I have a fun new tradition of sipping tea and eating vegan sushi on Castro Street, Mountain View’s adorable downtown/restaurant row. Learning about my fellow interns’ home lives, views and research is so neat. Even physicists are such a diverse, interesting group. We even make weather ‘”small talk” an interesting, educational event! It’s been a great confirmation to become friends with such diverse nerds! :) Apparently, not all physicists speak Klingon and live in a basement. (Though, I love the ones that do!) I was very happy to meet fashionistas, musicians, rock climbers, crafters, jewlwery makers, filmmakers and chefs.
     Lastly, this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised by my conservative family’s reaction to alien-hunting and Mars colonies. My amazing, 76-year-old mother just told me she would have DEFINITELY volunteered to move to Mars before she had kids. Apparently, space is no place for children. (Though, I tend to disagree.) It took me a great deal of convincing my mom, sister and bro-in-law that we have in fact not yet found aliens. My family even excitedly listened to me prattle on about possible liquid oceans on various moons  in our solar system. It’s nice to know that even stubborn conservatives enjoy science, too!

More pictures of Astronomy Camp

Astronomy Camp is over, here are some pictures I took. WP_20140624_001















































Astronomy Camp

Astronomy Camp

Universal History in 5″

I can fit the history of the universe in the palm of my hand! Human ability to make anything relatable amazes me. I haven’t quite decided if it’s a really neat trick of the human brain or a poor trait that doesn’t allow us to fully grasp the magnitude of concepts. Today we watched NASA’s “Are We Alone?” press conference event. It was great and inspiring and I can’t wait to, hopefully, be one of the astrophysicists who get to work with data from the James Webb Space Telescope or even the next generation space telescopes. What struck me more is this image:


That’s the history of everything put into a images just a few inches long! What?! These are the things that blow my mind. Dr. Jill Tarter talks about having searched through a mere “glass of water” in the universal ocean for extraterrestrial technology. I work in those collected signal databases for my project; it’s a HUGE glass of water. Another common simile: there are more stars in the universe, an estimated 10^22, than there are grains of sand on Earth. That hurts my brain!

Today while I met with my mentor, Dr. Gerry Harp, I caught myself almost nonchalantly agreeing that in the interstellar medium there’s about 1 electron per every cubic centimeter. Once I try to visualize it, it’s a daunting picture. Next we began talking about the possibilities of analyzing the intergalactic medium using radio astronomy and dispersion measurements and what implications that may have. Once again, my brain came to the brink of explosion. So much inspiration is thrown out regarding science and scientific goals, sometimes it’s numbing, sometimes it’s addictive. Sometimes, the grandeur must be set aside so actual work can get done. It’s such a difficult balancing act to keep the big picture in mind when working in the minute details.

much dark. very matter. such blog.

Wow, it feels like just yesterday I moved into my apartment and almost killed myself trying to skateboard down one of the many hills Irvine has to offer. My time here at UCI has been jam packed with all things space and I have been loving every second. I started out by simply familiarizing myself with all of the tools I would be using for the remainder of the summer, Fermi tools and Python/IPython, which are now both my best friends and worst enemies.(For all the python users out there, if you haven’t heard of IPython yet, look it up. It’s basically like if Mathematica and Python had a baby and it’s magical.) I am for the most part finished with my first official project, which was to make a sweet movie of the emerging dark matter from the galactic center. This was done by creating a residual map of the data provided then subsequently subtracting the different sources of  photons to eventually show the “dark matter”.

It'll look more exciting when the movie is done, but yah, there it is. (the axis are just pixel numbers in this picture)

It’ll look more exciting when the movie is done, but yah, there it is. (the axis are just pixel numbers in this picture)

I’m excited to show off these beauties later this week in a friendly competing of who can give the best presentation of their summer project, undergrads vs grads. The grad students offered to buy everyone pizza, so obviously we couldn’t refuse.

I have also been keeping busy outside of Irvine. As co-captain of the CSUF Physics Club Pumpkin Launch Team, I have been working hard to make sure that our plans to build the BEST trebuchet ever, go as smoothly as possible. So far we have a solid blueprint, collected all of our supplies, and have started measuring/cutting all the wood for the framework. Unfortunately with me being so busy here throughout the week, they had to start without me, but because they are the best team ever, they have kept me up to date with lots of pictures and stories of their shenanigans.

I'm just thankful nobody lost a finger.

I’m just thankful nobody lost a finger.

I have been learning so much here and can’t wait to see all of my projects come together and get started on the next one.


Time is definitely flying by. The HCRO trip was awesome and honestly, I didn’t even miss the internet. What I missed most up there was being able to communicate with people that were out of sight. That said, having the internet back is nice, but it seems to be a very utilitarian experience. With presentations coming up this Friday, it’s crunch time and everyone is having to work really hard to get both their presentations done and their normal work for their mentors.

Almost Half Way There

Since my last post I’ve been able to get through some of the data reduction process. It’s been a little difficult and there has been a lot of trial and error, and error, and error but I have made progress! The steps I’ve gone through with the raw data are as follows;

Separated the data by filter and by type of image (bias frame, object frame & flat field) Made a superbias (combined all bias frames) and subtracted them from the object frames and flat fields. Then I made a superflat and divided that from the object frames to normalize each image. I’m currently finished with shifting the images and co-adding them for one filter and I thought I was finished with the second one but I have since learned I need to separate the images by exposure time. This one of the finished images from the first filter. Trust me it looks a lot better now then when it did from the raw data.

SN2009ip is to the left of this galaxy

SN2009ip is to the left of this galaxy

On the  of June our professor Dr. Nathan Smith took us up to Kitt Peak to go observing with him and we got to see what a real telescope looked like as well as how it operates. The unfortunate thing was that we had “the second half of the night” which means from midnight to 6:00am. Thank goodness monster energy drinks are a thing because it was the main reason I made it!

I may have been a little delirious by 4:00am

We ended up getting to the mountain before the sun set so we were able see a desert sunset and I thought I should share it with all of you.

photo 3 (1)

Getting back to the internship experience I would like to mention that I’ve met some new people. I’ve been able to establish a relationship (hopefully a non-annoying one) with the graduate students and I got some really good advice about applying to grad school. I also mustered up the courage to go across the street to meet the NOAO students who were weird, but a good weird, a weird I can get along with.

I hope to get further with my research and I will leave all of you with a telescope mirror selfie… that Annah took because the angles were weird.

photo 2 (1)

Sleuthing & Adventuring

I feel like a galactic sleuth! As I prepare for our Journal Club assignment (a 15-20 minute presentation on a published paper assigned by our mentors) my self-assigned homework keeps growing. So far I want to learn more about the giant pulses out of the Crab pulsar, the most powerful supercomputer in existence, Fast Fourier Transform processors, primordial black holes, Hawking Process evaporation, blackbody radiation and super nova explosion EMP. Mind you, these don’t include the questions I’m compiling for my mentor. As daunting as this appears, I can’t help but have a Cheshire Cat smile. It’s just all so exotic and exciting and I get to wade through it looking for signs of alien technology! Really, I feel like I’m deep inside a science fiction movie. Then I look up from the black and white terminal window filled with numbers on my computer screen to realize I’m actually working at the SETI Institute.

Even with the sci-fi Dick Tracy movie playing in my head, being back in the office this week is taking some getting use to. Staying in the houses at Hat Creek Observatory all last week was basically magical. I hiked a volcano and it was quite difficult; elevation is not kind. I “soaked” in sulfuric acid steam, as in, I walked through the plume purposefully a few times. I stuck my noggin inside a radio telescope while Dr. Ellie Arroway, I mean, Dr. Jill Tarter, taught us interns about the telescopes home built mechanics. After a presentation on glow in the dark rocks by retired SETI scientist, Dr. Rick Forester, I decided I’m going to collect fluorescent and phosphorescent rocks!** I climbed up a Red Wood tree and scampered bare foot across tide pools. The best part, all our adventures were entertainingly educational thanks to the sweetest astrobiologist I’ve ever met, Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi.

If I wasn’t before, I’m thoroughly convinced now that the best science company to ever be a part of is SETI.

**Many of my friends, including my hubby, have awesome collections of their favorite things from Star Wars figurines to awesome Batman stuff to everything Muppets. Knowing that it’d be probably impossible to collect all things physics, I never started a collection. Then, I saw fluorescent and phosphorescent rocks. Plus, they’re free! Granted I have to spend some money to show them off but it’s much more economical, educational and fun to collect than Legos.

Rosalba, the sweetest astobiologist ever! She's, also, a sulfur-based life form, but shhh.

The sweetest astobiologist ever! She’s, also, a sulfur-based life form, but shhh.

Tajana, Divya, Lindsay and I at the base of the biggest Red Wood in Memorial Park

Tajana, Divya, Lindsay and I at the base of the biggest Red Wood in Memorial Park

tide pools near Pescadero State Beach

tide pools and river warn pebbles

They glow-in-the-dark!!!!

They glow-in-the-dark!!!!

A few of the 6 meter telescopes at the Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek Radio Observatory

A few of the 6 meter telescopes at the Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek Radio Observatory

I did it!!!

Top of the Cinder Cone at Lassen National Park -> I did it!!!

lunch stop on our way back from Bumpass Hell... we collected some high school interns

lunch stop on our way back from Bumpass Hell… we collected some high school interns

A week of “I can’t believe they’re paying us to do this”

The week at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory and Lassen Volcanic National Park was just that fun. Yes.

But first a picture about another fun thing. We went to San Francisco, saw sights, and freaked out over driving on the hills ;p.


The fun things continued with visiting and learning about the Allen Telescope Array. The 42 telescopes that actually search the sky for intelligent radio signals. This number will hopefully climb to 350, with a .9 km baseline that would make the most sensitive radio telescope in the world. If you have a spare 60 million floating around it would be nice thing to see happen. BUt anyway I have cool pictures.


Looking at something. The one facing down is, unfortunately, in need of some repairs.


Me with my first name on one. yay coincidences :)

The rest of the week was spent hiking Cinder Cone, Bumpass’ Hell, and a local waterfall. These were accompanied by learning things about the geology of each site.


Looks small but cinder is harder to hike on than you might think.


View of the crater :)


Bumpass’ Hell seen from the far side. It is a large area with every kind of geothermal feature: mudpots,  boiling springs, and steam vents.


Burney Falls a beautiful if popular attraction.


I’m on a boat!… It was fun for the others too even when Sara lost her hat briefly.

For all this how is my research going?
I think I have all my initial conditions found, but the internet was down today. :(
Hopefully I can start modeling things tomorrow.