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Pauline Barmby - University of Western Ontario. London, ON, CA

Pauline Barmby Pauline Barmby

Professor | University of Western Ontario

London, ON, CANADA

I use big data from the world's largest telescopes to figure out galaxies.





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Bucke prize lecture 1080p24 Reach for the Stars: Citizen Science & Astronomy Lightning Talks 2




I grew up fascinated by science fiction but changed my career plans to "scientist" upon finding out about the eyesight requirements for potential astronauts. I received degrees from the University of British Columbia and Harvard University. My PhD thesis, on the star clusters belonging to the Andromeda galaxy, involved many trips to telescopes and much more snow than most people associate with Arizona.

After receiving my PhD, I was a staff astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, working as part of the team responsible for building and testing the IRAC camera on the Spitzer Space Telescope. In 2007 I joined Western's Department of Physics and Astronomy. From 2015-17 I was associate dean (graduate and postdoctoral studies) and from 2017-18 I was acting dean of Western's Faculty of Science.

I'm interested in communicating science to the public and teaching computational techniques to scientists.

In my astronomy research I use computer data-mining techniques and community-developed software to facilitate knowledge extraction from astronomical data. I'm currently co-chair of LRP2020, the panel to produce Canadian astronomical community's Long Range Plan for the next decade.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (9)

Space and Astrophysics



Science Education


Digital Imaging




Accomplishments (3)

Florence Bucke Prize

Western Faculty of Science, 2014

Outreach Award

Western Faculty of Science, 2010

Group Achievement Award

Awarded to Spitzer Space Telescope Payload Team, NASA, 2004

Education (3)

Harvard University: Ph.D., Astronomy 2001

Harvard University: A.M., Astronomy 1998

University of British Columbia: B.Sc. (Hons.), Physics and Astronomy 1995

Affiliations (8)

  • Dunlap Institute : Review Committee
  • Software / Data Carpentry Code of Conduct Committee : Chair
  • International Astrostatistics Association Membership Committee : Member
  • International Astronomical Union : Member
  • COSPAR : Member
  • Canadian Astronomical Society : Member
  • American Astronomical Society : Member
  • Canadian Astronomical Society Equity & Inclusivity Committee: Member

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (4)

Mayan apocalypse: The end of time, or just the beginning?

The Globe and Mail  


The proliferation of predictions of astronomical disaster can get on Pauline Barmby’s nerves. The University of Western Ontario astronomy professor isn’t too hard on some end-times believers who think Planet X is heading our way. Outer space is tough to understand, she says. “The scale of how far apart things are in space, that’s really hard to picture,” she says. “You see pictures of the solar system and all the planets are lined up together.” But it’s a bit frustrating when former students call her up to ask whether Earth will be wiped out by an asteroid on Friday...

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Cosmology Standard Candle not so Standard After All

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (NASA)  


"Everything crumbles in cosmology studies if you don't start up with the most precise measurements of Cepheids possible," said Pauline Barmby of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, lead author of the follow-up Cepheid study published online Jan. 6 in the Astronomical Journal. "This discovery will allow us to better understand these stars, and use them as ever more precise distance indicators."...

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MakerCulture: Dr. Everyman  


Pauline Barmby, an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario in physics and astronomy, said Galaxy Zoo works by capitalizing on the skills of people like Sheppard. "It's easy to program a computer to find the galaxies in an image, but it's very hard to program a computer to tell you what kind of galaxy, what shape it is and whether there are any other interesting features. So I think it's a fantastic idea to train a bunch of volunteers to do this." She said astronomy has traditionally been more receptive to nonscientists getting involved. Galaxy Zoo is furthering this. "Astronomy, compared to a lot of other fields, has had a fairly long tradition of being open source. Galaxy Zoo pushes the envelope a little bit because it's not just making data available and letting them look at the pictures, but actually asking them to contribute."...

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Galaxy's 'cannibalism' revealed



Pauline Barmby, an astronomer from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, who was involved in the study, told BBC News the pattern of the stars' orbits revealed their origin. "Andromeda is so close that we can map out all the stars," she said. "And when you see a sort of lump of stars that far out, and with the same orbit, you know they can't have been there forever."...

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Event Appearances (5)

Stellar populations in the outskirts of M31: the mid infrared view

IAU Symposium 321, Foundation and Evolution of Galaxy Outskirts  Toledo, Spain


Pieces of Andromeda: machine-learning and big data techniques applied to M31

Canadian Astronomical Association Meeting  Winnipeg, MN.


The M31 nucleus in the mid-infrared

American Astronomical Society  Seattle, WA


The Story of Space Telescopes

David Dunlap Observatory Star Talks  Toronto, ON


Astroinformatics: the Big Data of the Universe

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, London Centre  London, ON


Research Grants (5)

Assembling the big picture in nearby galaxies

NSERC Discovery Grant $135k

2013 - 2018

Far out: Tracing the mass in M31

Spitzer Science Center $16k



Western University ADF $84k

2012 - 2014

Star Formation Histories of Nearby Galaxies

NSERC Discovery Grant $125k

2008 - 2013

Star Formation Histories of Nearby Galaxies

Ontario Early Researcher Award $140k

2008 - 2013

Articles (5)

The Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) for the Spitzer Space Telescope

The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

2004 The Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) is one of three focal plane instruments on the Spitzer Space Telescope. IRAC is a four-channel camera that obtains simultaneous broadband images at 3.6, 4.5, 5.8, and 8.0 μm. Two nearly adjacent 5.2'× 5.2' fields of view in the focal plane are viewed by the four channels in pairs (3.6 and 5.8 μm; 4.5 and 8 μm)...

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Star formation in AEGIS field galaxies since z= 1.1: The dominance of gradually declining star formation, and the main sequence of star-forming galaxies

The Astrophysical Journal Letters

2007 We analyze star formation (SF) as a function of stellar mass (M*) and redshift z in the All-Wavelength Extended Groth Strip International Survey. For 2905 field galaxies, complete to 1e10 (1e10.8) M☉ at z< 0.7 (1), with Keck spectroscopic redshifts out to z= 1.1, we compile SF rates (SFRs) from emission lines, GALEX, and Spitzer MIPS 24 μm photometry, optical-NIR M* measurements, and HST morphologies...

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Dusty Waves on a Starry Sea: The Mid-Infrared View of M31

The Astrophysical Journal Letters

2006 Mid-infrared observations of the Andromeda galaxy, M31, obtained with the Infrared Array Camera on board the Spitzer Space Telescope are presented. The image mosaics cover areas of approximately 3.7deg × 1.6deg and include the satellite galaxies M32 and NGC 205. The appearance of M31 varies dramatically in the different mid-infrared bands, from the smooth bulge and disk of the old stellar population seen at 3.6 μm to the well-known "10 kpc ring" dominating the 8 μm image..

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Galactic Cepheids with Spitzer. II. Search for Extended Infrared Emission

The Astronomical Journal

2011 A deep and detailed examination of 29 classical Cepheids with the Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed three stars with strong nearby extended emission detected in multiple bands which appears to be physically associated with the stars. RS Pup was already known to possess extended infrared emission, while the extended emission around the other two stars (S Mus and δ Cep) is newly discovered in our observations. Four other stars (GH Lup, ℓ Car, T Mon, and X Cyg) show tentative evidence for extended infrared emission..

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Astronomical observations: a guide for allied researchers

Open Journal of Astrophysics

P Barmby


Observational astrophysics uses sophisticated technology to collect and measure electromagnetic and other radiation from beyond the Earth. Modern observatories produce large, complex datasets and extracting the maximum possible information from them requires the expertise of specialists in many fields beyond physics and astronomy, from civil engineers to statisticians and software engineers. This article introduces the essentials of professional astronomical observations to colleagues in allied fields, to provide context and relevant background for both facility construction and data analysis. It covers the path of electromagnetic radiation through telescopes, optics, detectors, and instruments, its transformation through processing into measurements and information, and the use of that information to improve our understanding of the physics of the cosmos and its history.

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