Music in the Stars – Nervous Planning – Anne-Katherine

If you had asked me how my project was going on Tuesday around 8:30 in the morning you would not have received a confident answer. That morning it hit me; I have two weeks in December and two weeks in January to finish up Music in the Stars. My presentation date is January 30th but I have a firm self-imposed deadline for completion of the end of the first semester, a week before. This way I will be able to have at least a week, or ideally more, to prepare for the presentation. So, I used my go-to strategy for coping with fast approaching deadlines: I took out my calendar and worked backwards week by week to compile a schedule that would allow me to finish on time with as little worry as possible.

Here is my game plan by week:

Before the week of December 1st: Prepare paper to be sent to Dr. Carone at William and Mary by making edits suggested by my mentor, Gabriele, Teacher Margaret, and others.

Week of December 1st: Email paper to Dr. Carone and others for final edits. Finalize the list of journals that I plan to submit my paper to. Work on composition.

Week of December 8th: Make edits to paper as comments come back. Work on composition.

Before the week of January 5th: Finalize paper.

Week of January 5th: Finalize paper. Email all mentors sharing my conclusions about the project. Submit paper to journals.

Week of January 12th: Write speech for presentation. Finalize music.

After I made this schedule I felt much better about the whole affair. As I was in the middle to writing   on Tuesday I felt overwhelmed but after pausing and reflecting on the work that needs to be done, I realized that my tasks are completely manageable.

Last week I met with Teacher Susan Waterhouse, my Linear Algebra teacher, to talk about some of the math behind the project. Because I have sorted by intensity (flux) thereby transposing the data set, T. Susan suggested I compare the graphs of wavelength vs. flux and flux vs. wavelength. These graphs can be seen here. These graphs allow me to see the patterns in the notes and how they have changed as a result of the transpose operation. While the unedited data is clearly a scale starting from a low wavelength and increasing continuously with varying intensity, the edited data skips around in wavelength creating interesting sound and the opportunity to create music as opposed to noise.

I feel like recently I’ve been immersed in the theory of the project and haven’t been mindful of the tangible astrophysics responsible for making music possible. Below is a picture of one of the quasars that I am working with. This image never ceases to amaze me.


Image Citation: [Quasar SpecObjID = 5702702365896274944 (RA: 332.02038857, dec: 9.67536828) whose Lyman-alpha forest spectra was given in the form observed wavelength, spectral flux, and estimated continuum.]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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