Sunday, July 24, 2016

Messing Around in Aladin, part 1 - Tabby's Star and the missing star.

Last Update: 11 August 2016

This is another one of those draft entries that I will publish before it is done. I invite comments, questions and criticisms as always.

Looking into some of the stories I've been covering lately that live right in the imprecise border between astronomy and SETI, I've gotten interested in astronomical catalogs. It turns out that there are a lot of them, compiled over the years by a number of different scientific groups for different purposes. With the advent of astronomy outside the visible spectrum, the number of catalogs has multiplied, and it can be a daunting job to sift through them. I invite you to join me in my confusion and delight as I attempt to navigate my way through this glorious mess our civilization has built.

Aladin Sky Atlas is astronomy software made available for free from the University of Strasbourg in France. It gives you a graphical interface to a wide range of astronomical catalogs and image libraries. One thing it lets you do is overlay various catalogs across the electromagnetic spectrum around an object, so you can see for yourself what's nearby an object of interest and what its known properties are.

It turns out astronomers have cataloged far more objects than they have been able to study closely. As a result, there are many things not know about most of the cataloged objects. These are nearly all things that could be known if someone had the time and resources to look into them, but no one has yet.