Friday, July 29, 2016

July 29

Today we changed things up with the grill and made Kielbasa and Italian sausage. I grilled, with Nathan and Niels' help and the interns (tried) to play volleyball. 
Later, I met with Lydia and went over photometry (I had learned the theory but not the ins and outs of actually doing it). We found out that my v band images were off (the stars were hard, round circles) in the same way Tori's had initially been, so I did the photometry on Lydia's computer.

July 27

Today the interns' "snazzy wristbands" (as Professor Joel Kastner put it) arrived. The bright orange is an affront to the eyes, but the 4GB flash drive hidden inside more than makes up for the color.

I also attended a lecture by Gabe (not sure of his last name) on the research in the PERFORM lab, where Nathan, Alice, and Maria are now working. After I did some more reading, they (the visual perception interns) showed me the tutorials they were using to learn Python and I tried my hand at some (very) simple coding. Nathan, of course, already knows how to code. (The interns predicted that in the future, he'll be a stay at home coding dad. And then Niels said Nathan is my dad.)
We're taking a field trip tomorrow to the Eastman house. (Free lunch at Amiel's!) I can't believe we are about halfway through the internship already. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 28

Today was the long awaited field trip to the George Eastman House. The morning meeting was canceled because of the trip, so I got to sleep in. (At least in theory. I think I ended up waking up around 5:30-6:00 am, which was pretty disappointing.)

A docent gave us a tour of a gallery on perspective. The gallery was called Persuasion. After talking about early cameras and how photographers could influence the perspective of viewers, we headed downstairs for a private tour of their conservation lab, led by the assistant conservationist.

After some group photos (in which everyone looks very nerdy):
we headed to lunch at Amiel's, where I had a delicious gyro sub with sweet peppers on the side. I was tempted to get Jumbo size like Nate, but I held back and got a large (and then wished for the jumbo later).

Later in the afternoon, I met with my adviser to discuss what I'd be doing in the coming days and set up a meeting with Lydia for Friday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26

I can't recall exactly what happened Tuesday. I remember being really tired and trying to read and be productive like a good little intern. I've been reading some papers on BP Psc, a star similar to RZ Psc, in preparation for working on something a little different (the work with the jets I mentioned last post). I did remember something from Monday that I forgot to put in my blog: I cleaned a whiteboard. Such stereotypical intern work, I thought as I sprayed and scrubbed with Tori's kids (they had quickly volunteered to help). We had to use toilet paper because the break room in building 17 was out of paper towels. It was pretty fun until one of them stepped on a tack.

I also remember my lunch: half an Italian sausage. (I had eaten the other half the evening before. oops.)

Maybe I'll have more to write tomorrow.

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 25

Monday was quite productive. I reduced and plate solved the rest of the images, then in the afternoon meeting clarified that I was going to be looking for any jet streams RZ Psc might have. Jet streams are formed from a disk around the star. The interactions between the magnetic fields of the disk and the star cause streams of material to be ejected in the form of stellar jets. These jets can occur in both young stars (stars form from a collapsing cloud of gas and dust which eventually becomes a protoplanetary disk) or older, evolved stars (disks can form from destruction of a companion star).

During lunch, the interns played Trivial Pursuit. It was 90's trivia, so unfortunately our obscure knowledge didn't extend to the contents of the game. Cici was partying building homes and volunteering in Boston, so we were able to make four random teams of two. I got a question correct about a citrus disease. (The answer, if you're wondering, was Florida. Now you know why I got it right.) Zihao impressed everyone with getting a question right (pure luck on his part) about the US broadcasting propaganda to Cuba. (I would have said someplace in Eurasia, like Russia.) Hopefully we'll be able to play more board games in the future. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

July 22

Contrary to what Zihao, Nathan and Niels might tell you, I did play volleyball at the cookout. I was the star player, in fact. During the cookout, I ate 1.5 delicious hamburgers grilled by Nathan and covered in seasoning donated by John and used an interesting napkin from Allyse:

John also let the interns have some of the chicken he was grilling.

It was a healthier cookout than normal-Zihao brought a massive watermelon that Niels and Madi cut with a plastic knife and Madi brought a box of grapes. I think someone substituted the planned veggie tray with fudgsicles and ice cream, though (NOT complaining).

For most of the day, I struggled to calibrate the h alpha images. My self-proclaimed hippie friend, Lydia, came to my rescue and told me to check for jet streams first before worrying too much about image reduction. 

Zihao made a beautiful portrait of me on the whiteboard. It's a very accurate depiction, too:
Emily, by Zihao

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21

Today, I am lacking inspiration for my blog. We started the day with "Worst thing that's happened at your school," and, predictably, the things at RH and Fairport were worse than the things at Penfield Mendon and Brighton. Prank ideas, however, were more sophisticated at those schools (someone wanted to create a program that would crash all the computers on the network).

Then, the interns all went out for lunch. Thursday is intern eat out day. Of course, I, along with about four other interns, forgot and brought their lunch. Even though I didn't buy anything, I got a handful of free fries (some from Nathan who let me try his malt vinegar/ketchup concoction).

(It tasted like ketchup with a hint of cleaning chemicals. I liked it.)

I also had a paragraph on the actual work I did today, but Blogger deleted it. Essentially, I continued working on image reduction and plate solving.

July 21

Today, I am lacking inspiration for my blog. We started the day with "Worst thing that's happened at your school," and, predictably, the things at RH and Fairport were worse than the things at Penfield Mendon and Brighton. Prank ideas, however, were more sophisticated at those schools (someone wanted to create a program that would crash all the computers on the network).

Then, the interns all went out for lunch. Thursday is intern eat out day. Of course, I, along with about four other interns, forgot and brought their lunch. Even though I didn't buy anything, I got a handful of free fries (some from Nathan who let me try his malt vinegar/ketchup concoction).

(It tasted like ketchup with a hint of cleaning chemicals. I liked it.)

I also had a paragraph on the actual work I did today, but Blogger deleted it. Essentially, I continued working on image reduction and plate solving.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 20

Just the other day, I was watching Elementary (Sherlock Holmes tv show) with my family. In one of the episodes, Professor Isaac Pike, part of an apocalypse think tank, and his student, Erin Rabin, framed a computer program, Bella, for a murder they committed (by uploading a virus onto the computer which flashed images across Bella's screens and induced a fatal seizure in her creator).

The motive? Well, as President Truman believed, the only way to provoke public action is to "scare the hell out of the American people." Prof. Pike believed that the instant true AI (artificial intelligence) was developed was the beginning of the end of the human race.

Anyways, as we listened to Prof. Kanan's wonderful talk on his work on, among other things, deep machine learning & perception, and active vision, all I could think of was Sherlock asking Bella questions to see if she was an example of true AI and how his (Kanan's) work was contributing to the end of humanity.

And then I thought: maybe I'd like to study this in college.

Besides pondering apocalypse scenarios, I participated in another part of the visual perception interns' study (which was actually quite difficult). (Also, I've always wanted to be a test subject.) The free pizza before the lectures is always a bonus.

Then, I got some more real work done. I reduced the R band images, then moved on to plate solving. First, Astroimagej decided to be a pain, so I had to upload the images onto to plate solve. The I band plate solving went well, but when I was almost done with plate solving for the R band images, I noticed that the image, while beautiful, was full of donuts and had a vignette!
Part of the image.
I checked to see what folder I had uploaded from and realized I had accidentally used the raw images instead of the calibrated ones. Everytime I uploaded a picture when I switched to R band it went to a new folder and I had to navigate back to my folder with calibrated R band images (which didn't happen with the I band images). Clearly, I missed it at least once. It wasn't a big deal but it would have saved me some time to download it correctly the first time! Just to be sure, I re-plate solved the previous images too (I also double checked all the plate solved I band images in ds9 to make sure I had used the calibrated images).

Despite that, it was a very productive day. Tomorrow, I will continue with image reduction and plate solving.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 19

Today I started reducing images! I was confused on the tutorial (they use different data and it wasn't clear to me if some parts still applied to our data or which file they were referring to) and Lydia nicely met with me after lunch and answered all of my questions.

First I practiced on the V band images, getting used to the program and the process:
Here are before and after pictures of the V band images.

Later, I struck out on my own (with Lydia right next to me for support) to reduce the I band images. I made a beautiful master flat:
Due to variations in pixel size, dust grain in the optical surfaces and more, even if there is a uniform light source the count level across the image can vary significantly. 
The master flat accounts for variations in count level across the image (we subtract the master flat from the science images).

It was a very productive afternoon!

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18

Not much to say about today. It was a Monday and it felt like a Monday. We started off the day with peer review of abstracts (which was terrifying but helpful). I was told I had to explain more so the general public could have a better understanding of my research. Zihao and Cici had a nearly flawless abstract; we only gave them a few suggestions.

Afterwards, I continued reading about image reduction and then ate lunch with some of the interns. We attributed the uncharacteristic silence during lunch, and the day in general, to Allyse's absence. Madi, however, couldn't take it and burst into giggles everytime someone so much as looked at her. I explained to a flabbergasted Nathan that this was seminormal behavior for teenage girls, and then he seemed to accept it and go back to his computer.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 15: Abstract

Stellar associations are made of young stars that have a common origin. Our research aims to determine whether RZ Psc is a young or old star, so we are searching for a group of young stars that may have formed at the same time and place as RZ Psc. To do so, we are examining the stars in the same field as RZ Psc using different filters and wavelengths. ­­­I will be reprocessing raw CCD images from I band data (8333 angstroms) and producing calibrated images that are feasible for photometry. Then, I will compare them to the 2MASS (Two Micron All Sky Survey) data to verify that the results are similar.

Friday, July 15, 2016

July 15

Twinkletwinklelittle star
How I wonder what you are. 
Up above the world so high. 
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkletwinkle little star.
Now I know what you are.

A line in a guide I was reading today reminded me of something I learned in my textbook: why stars twinkle. The turbulence in the earth's atmosphere causes some of the light from the star to refract in different directions, causing a twinkling (or, as astronomers put it, stellar scintillation). Childhood mystery solved.

In other news, I was told during my morning meeting that I should be focusing on data reduction, not photometry. Images must be reduced before photometry can be done (I had just been following the order given to me in the lecture series). So I will be reading a user guide or two so I understand how CCD image reduction works before diving into the tutorial. I will practice with the raw vband images Lydia and Tori have already reduced so I can compare my results to theirs before starting on the iband images I will ultimately be working on.

After doing some more reading, I headed down to the intern picnic and had a hot dog (slightly crispy) grilled by Nathan and Niels and ice cream brought and scooped by Allyse (thank you Allyse!). I also figured out that she brought two scoops because she had two cartons of ice cream! Lunch was followed by a volleyball game during which we counted ourselves lucky if the ball made it over the net more than once (with or without hitting the ground). Next stop, Olympics!

My abstract (take one) will be posted in a separate blog post by Monday morning.

July 14

I think I've done more troubleshooting in this internship than I have in my entire life (and learned a lot more about computers in general). I now know what a GUI (pronounced "gooey") interface is and how to extract/uncompress files. And I've dug up several files that saved to an odd spot on my laptop and downloaded multiple programs (and then successfully found them and opened them-the "using" part I'm having a little more trouble with).

Besides that revelation, I saw a master's defense on using imaging techniques to analyze the nutritional quality of wine grapes on the vine. Sample analysis costs vineyards quite a bit of money, and anyway to reduce those costs would be much appreciated by the industry. What I saw terrified me for my own presentation: a whole gaggle of professors and researchers with macbooks, dress shirts, and kahkis asking questions like "Why would you use a stepwise function?" and "If the industry standard is the petiole, why are you using the leaves? It seems you are mixing your petiole and leaf data." The researcher (Grant, according to Zihao) was able to answer the questions and got some help from an audience member, though.

Later, all the interns went out to lunch. The Crossroads, where we had originally planned to go, was closed, and we started to worry that all the lunch places would be closed (most of us did not have a backup plan). Luckily, the Cantina & Grille was open, and I had a tasty (but overpriced) quesadilla. 

Afterwards, I continued working on the first practical in the lecture series, p03. I got stuck on some of the setting for multi-aperture photometry in AstroImagej, so I emailed Kristina. She replied promptly and we also set up a time for our lab group to meet the next morning.

July 13

I started off my day with a cup of coffee from the k-cup machine. They finally have lids that fit the cups, so my coffee stays warmer than before, but I always end up with an inch or so of cold, bitter liquid in the afternoon. (According to Google, microwaving Styrofoam is not a good idea because it contains styrene, which will leach into the food/drink and is likely to be a carcinogen. Which just shows how much kitchen experience I have.)
As I was helping Alice put her icee away, I noticed some people had whole tubs of ice cream in the freezer. I mentioned bringing ice cream to the other interns, and Allyse immediately decided we would bring ice cream this Friday.  Poor Zihao was initially listed as bringing ice cream, but he looked completely overwhelmed as people tossed out flavor suggestions and reminded him of their allergies, so Allyse took over and also promised to bring a scoop or two (why we need two ice cream scoops for one tub I do not know).
I finished L04 and than attempted to open the fits files Lydia had emailed me in AstroImageJ. Nathan nicely helped me when I got stuck and we were able to open the file but instead of looking at stars, I was looking at a Spanish vocabulary sheet!

I checked to make sure I had downloaded and was opening the correct file. Nathan and I couldn't figure out the problem, so I brought my computer to the tech guys down the hall. At first, Jim was confused about what exactly I was asking, but then he realized that I hadn't unzipped the file. Apparently, files are compressed to make them practical to move between computers. Compressing removes redundancy so files are transferable. He wasn't sure why AstroImagej was opening Spanish vocab instead, but put it down to the program not being able to handle the unzipped files.
Finally, I was able to open the correct image in AstroImagej:
Then, Kristina told me I had to hold off on the practicals anyways, at least until I learned about bias files. At least I know how to open the files for when I do start!
I also attended the Wednesday lecture series (which came with 6 sheets of free pizza for attendees). Dr. Pelz, who works with Nathan, Alice, and Maria in the visual perception lab, gave a presentation on Perception & Recognition and how what we see everyday is an illusion. After seeing an optical illusion (or, as he put it, a neural illusion) and how the motion imprinted on our brains, one of the RU's asked if that was why when he stopped his car if felt like he was going backwards. Dr. Pelz replied that he was probably speeding and not looking at his surroundings because the motion when driving a car shouldn't be enough to imprint on your brain. 
Afterwards, I went to building 17 and continued reading L12.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12

Today began as expected before the fire alarm went off. Startled, I looked around, at first thinking it was the RU's computer (his computer had been making funny noises all morning). Then, I noticed the flashing lights. Allyse, Madi and I left the building, following the RU and Mr. Callens. The public safety vehicle and the firetruck came and swept the building while some of the interns hypothesized that the MRI interns had triggered the alarm (they hadn't-it was a false alarm).
After returning to the building, I caught up on blog posts and finished and took notes on my first lecture series. The second link for the lecture series was a practical for AstoImageJ (which I desperately need), but the dataset is local and unavailable to me. I emailed Kristina about it, but then Professor Kastner asked if I had any questions so I showed him the webpage. He told me I could probably do the tutorial with our own image stream, so I will most likely do that tomorrow or Thursday. The images I'd use for the tutorial would be vband (visual) images and would be like a practice run for what I am actually doing with iband images (infrared images). I will be doing data reduction and photometry on these images. 
From what I read, photometry is measuring the flux (brightness) of a star. However, corrections need to be made for time variable transparency and seeing variations. There is also the extinction correction which converts the instrumental magnitude, which is measured on earth, to what it would be if the data was collected outside of earth's atmosphere. This type of calibration of photometry is necessary because many factors come into play from the time when the star emits light to when it reaches the CCD, and therefore effects the readings. 
With the problem with the P03 lecture, I moved on to L04, where I learned about photometric systems. 

July 11

As Kristina and Mr. Pow quickly found out, I am directionally challenged. My method of finding things is to either ask or go to the floor I think it's on and walk in circles until I find it. Despite this, you'd think I'd be able to find the stairs on the third floor in Carlson. Its wide black steps are lined with gleaming silver rails, yet somehow, I keep either walking past them or turning the wrong way. Yesterday, I finally started to find the stairs on the first try. Perhaps it isn't the hardest thing I'll do this internship, but it is an accomplishment I am proud of. Maybe soon I'll be able to walk from building 17 to Carlson without taking a wrong turn.
In between my navigating adventures, I finished my required textbook reading. Just as I was ending chapter 17, I received an email with Kristina with more to read. The "basic" overview for AstroImagej was completely lost on me, but I'm sure it'll make sense after I read the user guide and lecture series she sent me. I don't mind the reading-most of it is quite interesting-and I know it will help with the work I will be doing.
After that, I downloaded AstroImagej, ds9, and fv (fits file reader) with help from Lydia. Lydia was also quick to answer any questions I had on photometry and data reduction, and assured me that I wouldn't have to create Point Spread Functions by hand, and Kristina helped clarify some of the information in the lecture series I'm reading. With my new knowledge in astronomy, some of the information I've heard Joel and Kristina discuss with the RU's is starting to make more sense.

July 8

Friday is my favorite day of the week for two reasons now: it's the last day before the weekend and it's the CIS picnic day. After discussing the looming deadline for a preliminary abstract during our morning meeting and reading more of my textbook, I headed down the stairs (I found them without walking twice around the second floor this time) and to the grill.
It was drizzling and cloudy, so Mr. Callens set up the grill under the overhang by Carlson. It didn't stop the interns from playing volleyball in the grass, though. I got to meet some of the other RU's (undergraduate researchers) before grabbing my stuff and going to the IT Collaboratory where Kristina's office is. We had a small going away party for Dr. Ben Sargent, who is going to Baltimore to work on the James Webb Space Telescope (successor to Hubble-I had just read about it in my textbook a couple hours before).
As I read my textbook, I listened to Lydia and Tori discuss their work with Kristina. I looked up some words or terms I kept hearing and tried to absorb as much information as I could.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

July 7

Day two of my internship was less hectic than day one. We began with our daily meeting in the Reading Room, where we went over a basic timeline for our presentations and the interns organized food for the Friday picnic tomorrow. I agreed to bring chips and convinced Allyse, who had quickly taken charge of preparations, that 24 hamburgers were too many for only nine interns.
I ended up staying in the Reading Room today to work. The Reading Room, to my (admittedly limited) knowledge is one of the best spots in Carlson-equipped with a microwave, refrigerator, comfortable chairs and a couch, it's also a turn away from the break room and ten paces away from the bathrooms.
After struggling with the wifi, I created my blog and read my astronomy textbook the rest of the day. I got done with about half of my required reading and learned more about ancient timekeeping systems than I'd ever thought I'd know.
The history of astronomy provided in the textbook, however, emphasized the importance of this field in our lives in ways I hadn't previously considered. Although I'd always had a vague understanding of how human existence is a blink of the eye in the history of the universe, the textbook truly illuminated our relative insignificance.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

July 6

On my first day as an intern, we spent two hours in the Red Barn (which, unfortunately, did not have air conditioning) doing team bonding exercises. Mr. Pow and Mr. Callens watched as we struggled to flip over a magic carpet in the "air," purify toxic waste (water in a jar) protected by force fields and more. While mostly successful, the best lessons came from our failures: we learned the benefits of communication and trust as Zihao plummeted from our carpet and we accidentally knocked over our tin of purified water.
After a tour, where we peered wide-eyed into various labs, and a lunch at Salsarita's, we were sent off to meet with our advisors. My group, with the exception of Professor Joel Kastner, is all female. Everyone was welcoming and eager to explain their work. Essentially, they are trying to figure out if a certain star is young or old. This particular star has distinctive features that apply to both young and old stars. I was given an astronomy textbook to read and learned about the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and the idea behind their work from Kristina and Joel. I have a lot to learn but I'm looking forward to the summer here at RIT.