Music in the Stars – Quasars – Anne-Katherine

This week has been an exciting one in terms of project development. To begin the week I sent in a revised proposal outlining my plans for next semester. Here is an excerpt from the proposal:

Over the course of this semester I have had great success my endeavors. Through a series of complicated steps I have turned raw Lyman-alpha Forest data into a first round of crude sheet music. I have connected with many many interesting people in the field of astrophysics including two of my primary contacts Dr. Khee-Gan Lee of the Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie and Bill Carithers who works with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the leading institution for the collection of Lyman-alpha forest data. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned thus far in the process is the power of asking for help. Asking for help has led me to both having success in my goals as well as allowed me to network with people like Dr. Khee-Gan Lee and Bill Carithers.

I then outline my goals,

1. To write a formal research paper on my findings.

2. To investigate the possibility of having said paper published in a science journal of some kind (student or otherwise).

3. To continue to improve the sheet music I have.

4. To find new ways of analyzing the data and to create new sheet music.

5. To learn to play the sheet music I have produced on my violin.

and talk about the format of my final presentation of the project which will occur in January or February of 2015.

Later in the week I came to the realization that I had a major gap that needed to be filled in preparation for my progress report on the 21st, knowledge about the quasars themselves. My first step was to attempt to find information about the quasars online by googling their identification numbers found on the data sheets I have been using. When this failed I emailed KG and Bill to ask them for help. They lead me to a very cool offset of the SDSS-III website that allows you to look up objects using their celestial coordinates. Using this tool I was able to find images and data on both quasars which can be seen below. Having the chance to see an image of the quasar who’s data I have turned into (dare I say it?) music was so amazing. Seeing the photographs served as a much needed reminder for me that I am working with not arbitrary numbers, but data from actual quasars, so cool!

I am still basking in the feeling of success from creating sheet music, alas, I know it will not last. Another problem will inevitably come up and I will once again be frustrated and wondering to myself why I’ve chosen to take on this endeavor, however, I am determined to enjoy the positive feeling while it lasts. Until next time, I’ll leave you with a not very good physics joke: a day without fusion is like a day without sunshine.

The Two Quasars I’m Working With,




1 thought on “Music in the Stars – Quasars – Anne-Katherine

  1. margaretjhaviland

    So cool. You have quasars to work with! I think your research points to one of the truths of research of any kind be it in history or in astro-physics: everything is grounded in some reality such as quasars and every triumph is followed by another set of questions and challenges.


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