Fluno Center Hosts SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting

Jul 07, 2016

Last week, while many in the United States prepared for the 4th of July weekend, over 150 astronomers from around the globe flocked to Madison, Wisconsin, to take part in a week-long series of meetings related to the latest iteration of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-IV).

SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting

The main event of the week was the SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting. This three-day long series of meetings and talks began on Monday, June 27th, and ran through Wednesday, June 29th.

Though each morning consisted of a coffee break sandwiched between two plenary sessions at the picturesque Memorial Union Terrace, during the afternoon, participants were encouraged to drop into various parallel sessions of their own choosing. During these parallel sessions, attendees were able to sample a wide variety of talks related to all the various and unique projects which make up SDSS-IV.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which began way back in 2000, is one of the most successful astronomical surveys of all time, and is responsible for the most detailed three-dimensional maps of our Universe to date. This fourth generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-IV) is divided into three main projects:

APOGEE-2, a follow-up to a previous SDSS-III project, is expanding on an infrared spectroscopic survey of both the northern and southern hemispheres of the Milky Way. By gathering the spectra for hundreds of thousands of Milky Way stars, researchers are working to find patterns in both the stars’ motions and compositions, which will help them determine precisely how the Milky Way evolved over time.  

The eBOSS project is a cosmological survey of distant galaxies, quasars, and variable stars that will help reveal the precise expansion history of the Universe dating back eleven billion years. In addition, eBOSS hopes to shed light on the true nature of dark energy. The eBOSS project is actually made up of two different surveys. The Time-Domain Spectroscopic Survey (TDSS) will take spectra of 100,000 variable sources, such as quasars and variable stars, while the SPectroscopic IDentification of ERosita Sources (SPIDER) survey will gather spectra for an additional 50,000 X-ray emitting quasars.

MaNGA is a massive and spatially resolved spectroscopic survey of 10,000 nearby galaxies. In this project, researchers will explore the detailed inner structure of galaxies by using a novel spectroscopic technique involving optical fibers. By tightly packing the optical fibers together and then taking spectral measurements through each fiber, MaNGA can capture over 100 spatially distinct spectra for a single galaxy, which will help researchers investigate galactic evolution.

When in Madison

The SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting was not the only event on the docket last week. There were also multiple spin-off meetings and informal gatherings scattered throughout the week.

First, there was the APOGEE Team Meeting, which took place June 25th-26th at the Pyle Center before the SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting. Here, members of the APOGEE-2 team met for a series of talks intended to both discuss recent developments, as well as identify potential problems related to the APOGEE-2 project.

The SDSS Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Committee also took advantage of this rare gathering of SDSS collaborators by hosting both the EPO/Educators Team Meeting and two additional events during the week—Plates for Education (June 26th) and Education Hack Day (June 28th).

The EPO/Educators Team Meeting took place on June 26th at the Pyle Center before the main SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting. Here, both teachers and scientists met to discuss ways to increase the effectiveness of both education and public outreach for SDSS-IV.   

MaNGA Day in Madison

To round out the caffeine and curiosity-filled week, on Thursday, June 30th, the Fluno Center hosted the MaNGA Team Meeting, which was largely coordinated by UW-Madison Grainger Postdoctoral Fellow, Aleks Diamond-Stanic.

The start of MaNGA Day—as was the case for the main SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting—kicked off with two larger group sessions sandwiching a coffee break. During these sessions, project scientists not only discussed the overall status of MaNGA, but also presented a series of short talks on MaNGA science—including a talk by UW-Madison Associate Scientist, David Wake, entitled, “So, you want to start MaNGA Project?”

By Thursday afternoon, MaNGA Day was in full swing. Building on a week of scientific talks, the team broke into smaller groups to outline specific near- and long-term goals for various MaNGA topics of interest. In the final session of the week, the individual groups met back together to both present and debate their visions for the future direction of MaNGA.

Both the SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting and the MaNGA Team Meeting were made possible thanks to the generous support of Jere and Anne Fluno, as well as the vital efforts of Christy Tremonti—Assistant Professor of Astronomy at UW-Madison and Chair of the Local Organizing Committee for the SDSS-IV Collaboration Meeting.

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