Tacos and science in Texas
I am in the airport of Houston on my way from Chile to the UK. The direct flights from home became are so terribly expensive that I had to stop in Houston for 11 hours. Houston is very close to Austin. That makes me remember the great time I had in March 2022 when I visited my dear colleague Keith Hawkins at the University of Texas Austin as my very first international trip after the pandemic.
That visit was really nice. In addition to trying so many different tacos, the scientific exchange with Keith, his group and other colleagues from the Department was the perfect energy dosis I needed to start the semester. We discussed plots, showed each other paper drafts, came up with new ideas to work on, and explained our plans for the year. Keith had thought in advance how to handle the arrival of Gaia DR3 in June 2022, having observing time reserved at Mc Donald Observatory and booking workshops to dedicate full time exploiting the data. I was, as usual, just trying very hard to progress simultaneously on the many projects I had on my plate, and finding ways to relate these works with Gaia to ease my anxiety about the coming data release.
There was one interesting draft Keith showed to me back then, his first single author paper, a beautiful analysis of the young stars in the Milky Way as observed by LAMOST. Combined with Gaia astrometry, it is possible to make chemical maps of the Milky Way and see how there are significant azimutal variations, and how these variations do not agree with the spiral arms of the disk. The more data we have, the more complicated the galaxy looks like! That is exciting, because to characterise the galaxy we have to use simple models but we know that nature is not that simple.
Today, which is the day that I am passing through Houston, is one of these moments in which a mere coincidence makes me very happy: today is also the day that Keith’s paper was published in the archive. I was impressed to see that there was further analysis to the one we discussed in March by including Gaia DR3 data, noting that indeed Keith has been pushing hard to accomplish his goals. I’m proud to have colleagues that show me that it is possible to keep up with everything while enjoying simple things in life, like tacos.
I cheer for Keith with breakfast tacos at Houston airport!