Starting with the basics: Outreach Videos and Learning to code – Weeks 1&2

I think I’ve been thrown straight into the deep end with this project, but it’s leading to a lot of growth and learning on my part. As a first year, I’ve never coded and many of the concepts of the Lyman-Alpha emitting galaxies started off being completely foreign. So I thought I’d start with the relatively simple aspect of my project, outreach videos, while following along on an online course to learn Python coding.

For the first two weeks of the project, I created video tutorials for some of the masterclasses that the Lancaster University Astrophysics Department provides for groups of students, teaching them how the Cosmos Redshift 7 galaxy was found, including some background on Lyman-Alpha high redshift emitters, and helping them map out a 3D version of the SC4K galaxy catalogue on Topcat to get cool looking images like shown below in order to spark an interest in physics, particularly astrophysics, in the students following the masterclasses, with interactive and visually appealing methods.

Figure 1: SC4K galaxies plotted by their RA and DEC coordinates, as well as their distance in MegaParsecs, with a color scale of Lyman-Alpha Redshift

While doing this, I was also learning how to code on Python, starting off with the classic print(‘Hello World!’), that anyone that’s ever learnt how to code has begun with. Starting with absolutely no knowledge of coding whatsoever, I have made massive progress and can now understand some astropy codes, and even write basic ones of my own.

The final outcome of this project, as well as the outreach videos, is meant to be a flyby of the 3908 SC4K galaxies as they are situated in space formed of colored images of them. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been testing how to combine Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images (that are high resolution but in black and white) with SUBARU images of three different filters (COSMOS.B,, COSMOS.rp) that give color to the image but are low resolution. The quality of the images I have produced has gone up over time (starting with the…. interesting psychedelic image I first created), as I learn the scale parameters that are appropriate to get the right coloring of the galaxies (progress shown below).

Figure 2: Progress of an image produced of the SC4K-NB392-2 galaxy

At points in the internship, I’ve felt like I’ve not made progress, and often felt very very dumb when comparing myself to the other fantastic interns working with me. However, they’ve done a fantastic job to reassure me that, after all I am only a first year and that this experience is serving to learn a lot, and that I’m making really good progress considering how little knowledge I had when I started. Further along in the project, a code needs to be made to automate this process (because doing it by hand for 3908 galaxies is quite the job!), as well as a code to create the actual flyby.

I also now have Heather Wade that has joined me on the project, meaning that hopefully we’ll be making faster progress in order to get this project done in time, and having her to work with has so far made the experience even more enjoyable.

So far I truly am really enjoying this internship, it’s been a great learning experience and something that I can take forward into future projects. I’m loving working surrounded by interesting people, and getting an insight of what I’ll eventually be able to do with my degree and how the department works.

If you have been interested by the work I have been doing keep checking this blog, as I shall upload further updates in the next week or two.


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