Gaia star data with D3 – part 1

TL;DR: I’m going to show you how to take a fairly large dataset – in this case the galactic stars – and make some nice visualizations with a JavaScript library called D3. They look great.

Basic view of data.

Did you see the recent news from the ESA Gaia mission? It will eventually give the precise position and motion of one billion stars in our Galaxy (which is actually “only” one percent of the stellar population!). An initial release of data happened on 13th September 2016 and included the position, motion and distance of two million stars.

I wanted to take this data and play around with it and I like to play around with data with the help of D3. This is a web based visualisation tool, which unfortunately is restricted by the capabilities of today’s browsers. This means I’ve had to reduce the data points, however, I suspect we can still get some nice results.

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Hydroponical Crop


Just put my hydroponics windowsill kit back to work after I cleaned it up months ago – hopefully we’ll get a nice harvest this time. Last time my mountain strawberries grow very well… they just didn’t produce any fruit. I’m hoping that was just a consequence of the plant dying off before it had a chance, and that I’ve now removed the reason for it’s death too. I think I also made the mistake of letting them grow as tall as they could, when a better idea would have been too cut them back going for more outward than upward growth.

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Advances in Astronomy – Continuing Education Oxford : Second half

This is the conclusion to my previous blog on the “Advances in Astronomy”. The lectures are run by the Department for Continuing Education at Oxford University every year, it is now in it’s 32nd year. More information can be found on their website here. They run various courses throughout the year, across many different subjects.

The first four lectures where covered in the previous blog, this one wil cover the last three lectures:

  1. Advances in exoplanet studies by DR ANDREW NORTON (Open University)
  2. Astrochemistry by PROF NIGEL MASON (Open University)
  3. Extremely large telescopes by DR FRASER CLARKE (University of Oxford)

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Advances in Astronomy – Continuing Education Oxford

Just back from a weekend long group of lectures about some of the latest advancements in astronomy. The lectures are run by the Department for Continuing Education at Oxford University every year, it is now in it’s 32nd year. More information can be found on their website here. They run various courses throughout the year, across many different subjects.

The loose theme of these lectures was “Exoplanets” but cover a ride range of themes too. The course starts on Friday evening with a meal and the first lecture – usually an introduction covering some of the basic themes that you’ll meet over the weekend. Saturday is the busiest with a further four lectures, and includes Two, three course meals with Tea/Coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon, there’s also some time in the afternoon to yourself or go along on an organised tour. Sunday includes another two lectures and lunch. You can opt out of the meals if you wish, or opt into accommodation also, which includes breakfast.

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Popular Science’s 137 years

The magazine Popular Science holds a remarkable piece of history spanning 137 years covering science progress and future predictions back till 1873.

To celebrate this years birthday they have partnered with google to bring you their complete back catalogue, something like 1500 individual magazines. Each has been scanned to digital and appears as it was published – original artworks, adverts and text. To easily find what you are intersted in the entire collection has been fully text search enabled.

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Stardust success?

The Stardust project, four years since the probe landed (or more accurately since the probe crashed slowly), the Stardust@home project has, no, might have, actually found some interstellar material – ancient material older than the Solar System.

I say maybe as it’s not been confirmed yet. Of course, it’s also possible it’s a publicity stunt to get interest back in the old project…

I joined the project back just before I first blogged about it back in Jan 2006, still I hope it is genuine, and maybe I’ll dig out my old login details too!

Hydroponics fun

Hydroponics toy
Hydroponics toy

Just spent a few hours rescuing my hydroponics greenhouse. OK, so that’s a slight exaggeration, it’s probably more realistic to call it a hydroponics TOY. But it’s been sitting on my Kitchen windowsill for many months in desperate need of some attention – all the plants are long dead…

It was doing the job of growing a strowberry plant with only water very well, but then it caught a nasty infection – almost certainly from the mouldy leftovers next to it meant for the compost heap.

So my first job was to clean up the growing medium which no doubt had remanents of the attacking spores as well as all the dead plant material. I’m not sure what the growing medium is but it looks like small white pebbles, that absord water, a bit like packing paper but harder… anyway, I had to filter all the rubbish out, so I commandeered the kitchen for its utensils.

First a filtered out the large things with the collinder, then used the strainer to get out the tiny particles – I attempted to seperate again by shaking up the particles in a bottle and by floating in water, but neither gave satisfactory seperation, but that was ok as much of the filtering had been successful.

Then to wipe out any remaining infection I boiled up the growing material in some water (the smell wasn’t very nice, you might like to cover you mouth here), now it’s sitting on the side drying. I also washed the plastic parts thoroughly, and I think it’s no ready for another go.

Ad the fast show once said: This year I’ll be mostly growing tomatoes. I’ll let you know how it goes. I might also attempt some scientific tests on it. Check out amazon for your own:

Galaxy Zoo Two

It’s back, and better than ever before. Now you can help classify galaxies in even more detail, but still with the excitement of exploring the cosmos and helping expend human knowledge further.

Take part here.

But to see some great evidence of why it’s helpful to take part see this page. It shows galaxies never before seen and certainly not categorised neatly divided up into lots of categories. The “anything odd” section has some really interesting objects in. More info from the Galaxy zoo blog here.

See also: Human computing power. (2008-10-20), Intergalatic Explorer. (2007-07-13)

Mars goes Google.

The beautiful Google Earth program has gone Martian. The planet Mars is now explorable in full 3D (not just an overlay).

See Olympus Mons rise above the distant horizon or fly down Valles Marines in a full 3D projection. You can even follow the landers progresses, and view some of the panaromic high resolution shots just as the rovers Spirit or Opportunity saw them.

This video from the official “unoffical” Google Earth blog clearly shows of some of the best features:

Just download Google Earth, click on the planet button in the toolbar and select Mars. Some informative pictures here too: