In the stars group meeting at CCA, there was huge attendance today. David Spergel (CCA) opened by giving a sense of the WFIRST GO and GI discussion that will happen this week at CCA. The GI program is interesting: It is like an archival program within WFIRST. This announcement quickly ran into an operational discussion about what WFIRST can do to avoid saturation of bright stars.
Katia Cunha (Observatorio Nacional, Brazil) spoke about two topics in APOGEE. The first is that they have found new elements in the spectra! They did this by looking at the spectra of s-process-enhanced stars (metal-poor ones) and finding strong, unidentified lines. This is exciting, because before this, APOGEE has no measurements of the s process. The second topic is that they are starting to get working M-dwarf models, which is a first, and can measure 13 element abundances in M dwarfs. Verne Smith (NOAO) noted that this is very important for the future use of these spectrographs and exoplanet science in the age of TESS. On this latter point, the huge breakthrough was in improvements to the molecular line lists.
Dave Bennett (GSFC) talked to us about observations of the Bulge with K2 and other instruments to do microlensing, microlensing parallax, and exoplanet discovery. He noted that there isn't a huge difference between doing characterization and doing search: The photometry has to be good to find microlensing events and not be fooled by false positives. He is in NYC this week working with Dun Wang (NYU).
Jeffrey Carlin (NOAO) led a discussion of detailed abundances for Sagittarius-stream stars as obtained with a CFHT spectrograph fiber-fed from Gemini N. These abundances might unravel the stream for us, and inform dynamical models. This morphed into a conversation about why the stellar atmosphere models are so problematic, which we didn't resolve (surprised?). I pitched a project in which we use Carlin's data at high resolution to train a model for the LAMOST data, as per Anna Y. Q. Ho (Caltech), and then do science with tens of thousands of stars.
In the cosmology group meeting, we discussed the possibility of evaluating (directly) the likelihood for a CMB map or time-ordered data given the C-ells and a noise model. As my loyal reader knows, this requires not just performing solve (inverse multiplication) operations but also (importantly) determinant evaluations. For the discussion, mathematicians Mike O'Neil (NYU) and Leslie Greengard (CCA) and Charlie Epstein (Penn) joined us, with Mike O’Neil leading the discussion about how we might achieve this, computationally. O’Neil outlined two strategies, one of which takes advantage of a possible HODLR form (Ambikasaran et al), another of which takes advantage of the spherical-harmonics transform. There was some disagreement about whether the likelihood function is worth computing, with Hogg on one end (guess which) and Naess and Hill and Spergel more skeptical. Spergel noted that if we could evaluate the LF for the CMB, it opens up the possibility of doing it for LSS or intensity mapping in a three-dimensional (thick) spherical shell (think: redshift distortions and fingers of god and so on).
Between meetings, I discussed deconvolutions of the TGAS color-magnitude diagram with Leistedt and Anderson, and low-hanging fruit in the comoving-star world with Oh and Price-Whelan.