Armando Gil De Paz talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's New Hot Paper in the field of Space
Article Title: The GALEX ultraviolet atlas of
nearby galaxies Authors:
De Paz, et
Journal: ASTROPHYS J SUPPL SER
Year: DEC 2007
* Univ Complutense Madrid, Dept Astrofis, Madrid 28040,
* Observ Carnegie Inst Washington, Pasadena, CA 91101
* CALTECH, NASA IPAC Extragalact Database, Pasadena, CA
(addresses have been truncated)
Why do you think your paper is highly
This paper presents the analysis of ultraviolet images obtained with the
NASA satellite GALEX for a sample of nearby galaxies (closer than 300
million light-years) unprecedented in its size. Previous studies on
ultraviolet imaging were reduced to only a handful of objects. Therefore,
this new work allows, for the first time, a means to do statistics on the
ultraviolet properties of nearby galaxies.
In addition to that, many astronomers now have the chance of looking at how
their favorite extragalactic object looks when viewed through this new
window. It's also worth noting that all images are now publicly available
for astronomers to look at and also to analyze and measure the data
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
The work presented in this paper consists mainly of new discoveries, since
very few observations of nearby galaxies had been obtained prior to GALEX.
To some extent, it also introduced new methodologies, given that such a
huge amount of data existed in an almost unexplored window which had to be
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
"...sometimes, opening new windows
it is just, per se, a good
This work has described, for the first time, how the galaxies that are
closer to us look in the ultraviolet, a type of light that shows us where
stars much more massive than our Sun are located in galaxies. While
previous works could have only taken ultraviolet images of a handful of
these galaxies, given that the ultraviolet have to be observed above the
atmosphere using satellites, we (NASA's GALEX team) have observed over
1,000 of these objects and definitively characterized how the galaxies look
in ultraviolet light.
How did you become involved in this research, and
were there any problems along the way?
I am part of the GALEX Science team and, between 2002 and 2005; I was a
GALEX postdoc working at the Carnegie Observatories, which are part of the
Carnegie Institution of Science. During that time, I worked on preparing
the GALEX observations and analyzing the images obtained by the satellite
which finally led to the publication of: Gil de Paz, et al., "The
GALEX Ultraviolet Atlas of Nearby Galaxies," Astrophysical Journal
Supplement Series 173: 185-255, DEC 2007.
I must say that the professionalism of the entire GALEX team (both
scientifically and technically) allowed us to make use of the images only
weeks after they had been taken by the satellite. Even when we had a very
small problem with one of the two detectors, the GALEX team was able to
recover it successfully in just a short period of time.
Where do you see your research leading in the
In 2005, I moved from the Carnegie Observatories to the Universidad
Complutense de Madrid, in Spain, thanks to one contract of the European
Union. Now I have a "kind-of" tenure-track position in the same University
(they are called "Ramon y Cajal fellowships") and soon I should (hopefully)
become a full professor here.
The experience with GALEX and the GALEX Atlas taught me that having a large
program with people of different backgrounds, both scientifically and
technically, is a major key to success. I hope we begin here in Spain to
believe in such a philosophy and start thinking big. Although these may not
be the best economic times to start thinking large-scale, perhaps this
could be precisely the best moment to try.
Do you foresee any social or political implications
for your research?
The only implication which I can envision may come from the fact that,
despite GALEX being a modestly small explorer (in NASA's terms) it is
providing huge scientific revenue with some major discoveries having
already been accomplished. Sometimes, the opening of a new research window
is quite simply a good investment, whereas exploring it even further can be
rewarding and should be encouraged much more that I think it is at the
Armando Gil de Paz
Ramón y Cajal Associate Professor
Astrophysics Department (GUAIX group)
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Madrid, Spain Web