Welcome to Akarsh Simha's homepage


Picture of Akarsh with his telescope taken at the 2015 Okie-Tex Star Party

Brief bio

In short, I'm a software engineer by day and amateur astronomer by night. I am in my 30s and presently live in the bay area in California.

I got a PhD in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin. I was advised by Phil Morrison and co-advised by Mark Raizen. My thesis was on theoretical and experimental aspects of Brownian Motion in Liquids. I was very fortunate to work both on theoretical and experimental aspects of the same problem, picking up a diverse set of skills in the process. My publications are listed on Google Scholar. Despite specializing in my PhD, I like to think of myself as someone who is competent in many things, rather than a specialist that has a very specific field of expertise. I currently work as a software engineer with a focus on applying machine learning techniques to real-world product use-cases.

In my personal time, I have fun doing astronomy as a hobby, tinker around with Linux machines, learn some math, go hiking / car camping / road tripping / photographing, build small DIY things, write code (occasionally, although more so in 2020), process old photos, and work out.

Amateur Astronomy and selected personal projects

As for deep-sky observing, I use an 18" f/4.5 Obsession telescope that is 20 years old on a Gregg Blandin equatorial platform. Typically, I don't work on systematic observing projects and like to pick objects from various places. The only systematic list I am currently working on are the Hickson Compact Groups. I have a somewhat recent listing of deep-sky objects I have logged notes on over here

A long while ago, I created a pipeline to auto-generate observation logbooks for deep-sky observing using KStars and LaTeX. The code isn't particularly clean or something I'm proud of, but I am definitely pleased with the results. Here is a link to The Logbook Project. The code is on my Github.

One of my recent projects has involved adapting plate solving to visual astronomy, by attaching a camera to my finder scope. Ever since I developed this system, I have stopped star-hopping. The system uses a combination of open-source plate-solving software and a custom private software stack integrating an NGS-POSS image server and an Arduino-based 9-axis IMU to provide a way to turn my telescope into a push-to system. Details can be found here.

Over the years, I have developed a DSS Query web tool, which is designed for amateur astronomers' needs: it resolves object names using SIMBAD and fetches DSS/SDSS images and allows you to adjust rotation to match your eyepiece view. Also can click on a position in the image and it will query SIMBAD to find the designation nearest to the cursor. It also makes querying other surveys like PanSTARRS, Hubble Legacy Archive etc. easier. It also makes annotating a DSS image with labels easy, so you can share it on forums etc.

I have also compiled a List of Peculiar Galaxies that I observed which showed interesting structure in the eyepiece of my 18" telescope.

Talks

For the Bangalore Astronomical Society, I gave a series of informal amateur astronomy talks on various subjects which are available on the BAS YouTube channel: I also spoke about my plate-solving project at the Portland Alt-Az Workshop 2021. The recording is found on the Alt-Az workshop's YouTube channel, specifically here.

Some links of interest


You may contact me at akarsh at kde dot org