the wonderful [new] world of .astronomy

I first heard of .Astronomy last year when I was at Oxford university. My friend Phil Marshall had just returned from (or was about to head off to?) the fourth conference, aptly named .Astronomy 4. At the time I knew that it involved hackathons between Galaxy Zoo, SpaceWarps, Zooniverse folks, and perhaps others. But I did not know much else. It’s possible that early on it didn’t have the same web presence it clearly has now, or perhaps a reflection of my own ignorance. I did know that Phil and quite a few other Oxford Astros had quite a few more programming languages up their sleeves, a much better knowledge of APIs, Analytics, and data visualization tips and tricks.

Simpson et al. (2012)

Simpson et al. (2012)

Following that conference, Bruce Berriman from IPAC – the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at California Institute of Technology – wrote a really nice summary of highlights on his Astronomy Computing blog. The full "unproceedings" (screenshot bellow can be downloaded from astro-ph. As far as I'm aware this is the only .Astronomy proceedings. No formal proceedings exists for earlier or later conferences (so far..)

Last year’s conference had ~ 50 participants, astronomers from various research groups around the world, and a smattering software developers from companies including Microsoft. This years conference (.Astronomy 5)  was held in September, at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center (NERD). It included a mix of hack day sessions and talks about eResearch, data visualisation, and communication strategies. Topics that I’ve since become more aware of and come across in my job. You can still check out their Live blog.

If thats not impressive enough, in July this year they launched a new journal - Astronomy & Computing - "intended to serve the community sitting, sometimes slightly awkwardly, between those two fields". What I love most about .Astronomy is that it actively encourages blue-sky thinking, playtime (inevitable creation of sandboxes) and innovation. Hopefully I'll have the chance to participate in .Astronomy 6!

Oh and they keep up a really great blog...