Dr. Alan Whiting

Have sextant, will travel

Quick reference: published papers , the book , advice to new astronomy PhD students , five-color pictures , low-tech observing .

I am an Honorary Research Associate and Visiting Astronomer with the a Astrophysics and Space Research Group here at the University of Birmingham.

I have just finished an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellowship , working in a bureau of the U.S. Agency for International Development. This is part of a long-running program to provide the government with a scientific approach to policy by placing experts inside the executive and legislative branches; in return, the scientists get an inside look at how the government actually functions.

My main project was SERVIR , an effort to make satellite remote-sensing data available to people in developing countries. It's a combination of NASA satellite data, advanced computer geospatial techniques and USAID's experience on the ground.

The Book:
How far can you trust a scientist?
Chosen by Physics World as one of the Top Ten Books of 2011; follow the link for a podcast containing their review.

Mostly for other astronomers: my research can generally be divided into the normal categories of observation and theory, or more finely into galaxy peculiar motions, the Local Group dwarf hunt and its extension the Faint Galaxy Survey, plus a mathematical look at the meaning of the phrase expansion of the universe and an evaluation of an important, but mistaken, calculation concerning the stability of gaseous stars. You can also go directly to a summary of my published papers. In addition, especially for new astronomers I have some serious advice concerning the field as a place of employment.
Mostly for non-astronomers I have a description of what it's like to be a professional astronomer and some pictures of places where astronomy is done. In addition, while astronomy often requires huge, expensive machines, I have a few examples of what can be done with minimal equipment and skill, along with a possibly surprising application of one crude instrument to an important aspect of ground-based, observational astronomy. Most recently, there's an application of the astronomer's set of filters to Earth-bound color pictures.

A Roman seal ring from the first century BC/AD. Image © the Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; all rights reserved. Reproduction by permission.

Some history: I have worked at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory at La Serena, Chile, and taught physics (and a little astronomy) at the U. S. Naval Academy, my undergraduate institution. I was a graduate student at the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Cambridge. I am a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers ; the Royal Astronomical Society; the American Astronomical Society; and the International Astronomical Union.

I have three conjectures and three queries to ponder at appropriate times.

Do look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day!
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last updated 3 October 2014