Sunday, October 04, 2015


Dumb bell nebula, M27.
After just being perversely interested in space and stars for ever I have actually started with what everyone really dreams of. Astronomy and telescopes (if you don't agree, you're probably in the wrong place on the internet). Anyway, I have been building up to getting a telescope for a long time, it's hard to choose. On one hand we want a telescope that gives good results so as not to get disheartened, on the other hand we don't want to get in too deep. So, I did what any amateur worth his salt would do, I surfed the internet. A lot. No, not alot, a lot.

Eventually I decided on a telescope, or three, but today we'll discuss learning proper astrophysics online. While surfing around I came across these wonderful astronomy courses on given by Paul Francis and Brian Schmidt at the Australian National University. There are four courses: Greatest unsolved mysteries of the universe, Exploring exoplanets, The violent universe, and Cosmology. Together they correspond to ANU's first year of astrophysics. If you would like to start a bit more basic there's also the Introduction to solar systems astronomy given by Frank Timmes at Arizona State University.

Genetics and medicine has little compared to astronomy when it comes to data availability. It turns out that most catalogues of stars, galaxies, etc. get turned into public databases fairly quickly, which is reasonable given the small number of really large telescopes and space missions compared to the amount of data one of these can collect (Oh, and the number of undergrads astrophysics departments around the world have to contend with). So, I downloaded the Hipparcos and Tycho2 catalogues and played around with them in R. Good fun for summer vacation. I might write a bit more about that later. Here's a star density plot of the Tycho2 data for now.

Tycho2 star density in a galactic aitoff projection produced using R. We can clearly see the dust clouds that obscure parts of the galaxy from view.
 With that I have decided I am now an Astronephrologist, bringing knowledge of the stars back to nephrology. I'm sure this combination will bring new insights into the development of diseases and future fortunes in a way astronomy and nephrology by themselves never could. I shall call this new science: Astrology!