Loosening the Belt

July 3, 2007 — Leave a comment

So my name is now on a (soon-to-be) published paper. How and why this happened is a little over my head, but I shall try to explain. One thing you should know however, is that I haven’t really done anything so far to help get this paper out. I haven’t written anything for it. I have never attended a meeting about it or even met most of the people I have co-authored it with. So how am I now a published scientist?

You’ll find ‘my’ first paper here on the astro-ph preprint server (Link), and you can download a PDF version here (Link). It is 60 pages, but about 20 are references and figures. It is titled ‘The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope Legacy Survey of Nearby Star-Formiung Regions in the Gould Belt’.

Science is often done in groups these days. It takes a lot of combined effort and time to get the kudos and the know-how that gets money and recognition. This isn’t always the case but it is more true now than it was a decade ago.

The other day, on the blog, I was talking about how science could be more open. This is one area where, as Stuart pointed out in the comments, astronomy is very much open already. Of the 62 authors on the paper, I would imagine only a few have had a strong, guiding hand in the paper’s creation. A good bulk of them, lets say 80%, will have been involved at least in some significant way. The remaining handful – like myself – will have none nothing or a least very little. Those numbers are guesses since I’m new at this.

In this way, trams of scientists benefit from distributed expertise – each individual contributing their own unique talents and knowledge.
I am however signed up to help execute this survey. I am scheduled to man the telescope if needed for observations of the following areas Serpens, Cepheus, Pipe Nebula, CrA. I signed for it much like you would register for a website or something. A most unusual experience I felt.

Gould Belt

The purpose of the survey as the title suggests is to look at the Gould Belt, which is an area in the sky that forms a ring around our position, roughly. It is shown in the image above along with some of the survey’s target areas. This ring, or belt, is home to many of the most active star forming regions in our neighbourhood and some of the brightest O-type stars in the sky as well. It is about 350pc in radius.

It was first seen by John Herschel, observing from the Southern Hemisphere in 1847 and later completed into a ring by a guy named Gould in 1879, hence the name.

By mapping the whole region we will achieve an impressive and broad catalogue of protostars and prestellar sources which will enable us to determine some key information about these young objects as they become stars.

So why am I on the paper? Well the whole team gets credit for each paper in the survey. If and when I go observing and reduce data on the Gould Belt, I will have the help and expertise, as well as the background papers published, by a team of incredible experts. We collaborate to achieve good science by sharing both the workload and the results.

So I’m chuffed with this incredibly low-effort publication and hope to actually have some involvement and maybe a paper ‘of my own’ in the next couple of years.

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