Hanging on the telescope: thanks and farewell Kimberly Kowal Arcand

Kimberly Kowal Arcand (@kimberlykowal), visualisation lead at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory joined Real Scientists in January. As a scientist focused on visual communication, our content expectations were pretty high and Kim certainly did not disappoint.


And since Chandra is an x-ray telescope…

how could you not heart this thing really

There were too many highlights to cover here, but this image of the Crab nebula was a simply stunning example of Chandra’s imaging prowess. And as Kim made clear, telescopes don’t simply spit out images like these – there is an incredible amount of scientific and technical expertise that goes into their creation.


Kim kindly obliged in returning our post-curation survey, and her answers are below.

In general terms, how did you find your week as a curator?

I really enjoyed it. It energized me about my own work a bit, to be honest! I’m in the process of writing end-of-year grant reports and stats reports, etc., and, well, that’s not the most exciting part of any position. So it was great to take a break from some of that and interact with folks who genuinely seemed interested in the sort of work I get to do.

It can be a shock talking to so many. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

I’ve curated for my work account @chandraxray, so the like/response frequency wasn’t surprising necessarily, though the engagement level was. Eg, it wasn’t just a lot of likes/retweets or reposts with a brief comment, but really excellent and often detailed questions – in droves. I found that aspect to be quite enjoyable. It seemed that the community was into the topic (as every curator presumably feels!)

What were the highlights? Were there any lowlights?

I enjoyed seeing what people liked the most – this image? that image? this gif? this statement? I also liked the depth and breadth of the questions, from across the expert-nonexpert spectrum. The only lowlight was that I didn’t get a whole lot of work done for my day job! It was too fun and distracting.

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I didn’t go into nearly as much detail as I was hoping to do on a few of the topics. For example, I was going to do a deeper look at how we create our 3D models from the data but by the end of the week I will admit, I was running out of time, and steam.

Did you have a plan? If so, did you stick to it?

I did have a plan as to which topic I wanted to talk about on which day. I sketched out a few tweets ahead of time, if there was something specific I wanted to say. But for the most part, having an outline and a few resources/links/images handy was how I managed it. I didn’t want to come across too pre-programmed, and I wanted to be able to flow in any direction the replies or my own thoughts led me.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

Take the time to do an outline and gather some good links and images. I also tried to be very conscientious about providing credits to the images/animations I used. If they weren’t from me or my organization, I would add the credit or follow up the first tweet with a 2nd tweet that had a link and/or credit.

What other people or accounts should people follow if they enjoyed your tweets this week?

@kimberlykowal, @chandraxray, @aestheticsastro

Thanks once again Kim from all of us here at RealScientists HQ. If you missed anything from her week, the tweets are all collated at the following link.



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