Hacking the Universe with the Astronerds

I was glad I had some time in my schedule last weekend to stop by Hack the Universe at the American Museum of Natural History. The final demos of this astro-oriented hackathon were given at one of my favorite public spaces in NYC, The Rose Center for Earth and Space.

With the giant orb of the Hayden Big Bang Theatre suspended above and small meteors and interesting astro-gadgetry surrounding us, the mood was set for the hackers to show off their stuff. I couldn’t stay for the all the presentations, but a few made an impression on me. By the way, the projects are on github

I really liked Comsosis project, which used the Digital Universe dataset provided by the Hayden Planetarium int a visualization hack. You can pretend you’re Captain Kirk as you take the helm and navigate through the universe– ahead warp factor 3!

Thanks to the “Dark Ones” team, we have another good visualization. Their project shows indirectly the effects of dark matter on the rotation of a galaxy. I wonder if it involves one of the few things I remember from Astro. 101 the Virial Theorem? The instructors always turned to that when explaining big rotating things.

You know there had to be an API hack. The Star API, though, is not you an interface for retrieving in JSON format all the films that George Clooney appeared in. This team built a REST-ful toolkit to access the aforementioned Digital Universe dataset. Looking for a habitable planet on which to relocate civilization? You’ll need the Star API for your tricorder.

Another visualization that wowed me was called Planit. You pick stars and planets and then set them into motion. And using Occulus, you can interact with your toy galaxy by moving heavenly objects around and watch them obtain new orbits. Heady stuff.

Shout out to exocats for using kitties to represent celestial objects.

We can thank the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation for providing the money for this STEM initiative ad helping the next generation of true Cosmos women! This hack event had an amazing 50-50 split between male and female asrtronerds.