Foundations of Astronomical Data Science Launch

Interested in teaching skills at the intersection of data science and astronomy? Sign up for onboarding or to host a workshop today.

The long-awaited Data Carpentry curriculum for working with astronomical data is now available to teach! The Foundations of Astronomical Data Science curriculum was actively developed during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Astronomy Curriculum Data Carpentry Committee (ACDC; composed of Erin Becker, Azalee Bostroem, Allen Downey, Rodolfo Montez Jr., Brett Morris, and Phil Rosenfield) and has undergone The Carpentries incubation process including two alpha workshops and two beta workshops. The first official offering of the stable curriculum will be at the summer meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) this June in Pasadena, CA. This is the first new curriculum released by The Carpentries since August 2018 and represents the first curriculum designed for intermediate learners! The curriculum is now ready for any certified Instructor to teach! Keep reading to learn more.

What’s in the material?

This Python-based astronomy workshop introduces database-centric efficient astronomical research using databases of stellar motions and distances from the Gaia space-based mission, and photometric data from the PanSTARRS project, to teach common database operations and data visualization. The curriculum offers foundational knowledge on the Astronomical Data Query Language (ADQL), which is an SQL-based database querying language with added utilities designed specifically for astronomical research, and open source Python packages (AstroPy, AstroQuery, and pandas). The curriculum guides a learner on building scalable database queries, working with data structures and storage formats, filtering data for discovery, and visualizing large data effectively and efficiently. The Foundations of Astronomical Data Science curriculum assumes prior knowledge of Python and some exposure to the Bash shell, equivalent to that learned in a Software Carpentry workshop. Find more information on the curriculum homepage.

Want to teach this material?

An onboarding video and slide deck are available to help new Instructors teach these lessons. The onboarding material helps the Instructor with the material and covers the science concepts behind the research. Institutions interested in hosting a Foundations of Astronomical Data Science workshop can request a workshop using this form.

Curriculum background and next steps

The curriculum was developed through an American Institute of Physics (AIP) Venture Partnership Fund (VPF) award (PIs: Azalee Bostroem, Diane Frendak, and Rodolfo Montez Jr.) to the American Astronomical Society (AAS). You can learn more about the material and the alpha pilot workshops at this previous blog post. The workshop materials were initially piloted in alpha lessons held November 2020 and January 2021, then two beta workshops in July 2021 and November 2021.

The work of the ACDC will now be transferred to the Lesson Maintainers (Azalee Bostroem and Rodolfo Montez Jr.) and the newly formed Curriculum Advisory Committee (CAC; composed of Heather Andrews, Azalee Bostroem, Adam Hughes, Rachel Lee McClure, Ivelina Momcheva, Brett Morris, Meredith Rawls, and Phil Rosenfield).

Thanks to all the community members who took part.

Special thanks go to:

  • AIP for the Venture Partnership Fund (now the Venture Fund) award and the AAS and The Carpentries for facilitating use of the award.
  • Diane Frendak and American Astronomical Society, Susan White and American Institute of Physics.
  • Matthew Bourque, Jules Fowler, and Rodolfo Montez Jr. for developing and Matthew Bourque and Jules Fowler for teaching the early prototype SQL lessons at a Software Carpentry Workshop.
  • Allen Downey, who carried out the bulk of the lesson development.
  • Preliminary design and contributions from the rest of the ACDC: Erin Becker, Azalee Bostroem, Rodolfo Montez Jr., Brett Morris, and Phil Rosenfield.
  • Our learners and hosts for the pilot workshops:
    • Azalee Bostroem and Allen Downey, the Instructors, and Meredith Rawls, Ivelina Momcheva, Rodolfo Montez Jr., the helpers, at the pilot alpha workshop organized by the ACDC.
    • Azalee Bostroem, Allen Downey, and Rodolfo Montez Jr., the Instructors, and Meredith Rawls and Ivelina Momcheva, the helpers, at the alpha workshop organized by ACDC and held virtually at the AAS winter meeting.
    • Heather Andrews and Johan Hidding - the Instructors, Jelle de Plaa, Daniela Huppenkothen, Leon Oostrum, Hanno Spreeuw, and Maxwell Tsai - the helpers, and Paula Martinez Lavanchy - organizer, at the beta workshop organized at the Technische Universiteit Delft in the Netherlands.
    • Annajiat Alim Rasel, Brian Gue, and Adam Hughes - the Instructors, Yotam Cohen, Catherine Martlin, Erik Tollerud - the helpers, and Jody Charles - organizer, at the beta workshop organized at the Space Telescope Science Institute in the United States.
  • Erik Tollerud for advice on improving the introduction to the science case used in the curriculum.
  • European Space Agency (ESA) and the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) for collecting, processing, and making the data available from the Gaia mission.
  • The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) public science archive for collecting, processing, and making photometry available.
  • The developers and supporters of the AstroPy and AstroQuery Python packages for enabling and empowering the astronomical community.
  • Folks at The Carpentries, past and present:
    • Erin Becker for guiding lesson developments and assisting on The Carpentries lesson infrastructure.
    • Zhian Kamvar for transferring the lessons to the current lesson template.
    • Tracy Teal for early conceptual and logistical work in lesson development.
    • Talisha Sutton-Kennedy for administrative and financial support.
    • Toby Hodges for supporting the pilot workshops.

Want to get involved with the Astronomy materials?

  • Watch the onboarding video and let us know so we can give you priority consideration in teaching upcoming Astronomy workshops.
  • Request a Astronomy workshop at your institution using this form or
  • Self-organize an Astronomy workshop using our workshop checklists.
  • Apply to become a Maintainer for the Astronomy lesson (announcement coming soon!)

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