Version 3.1.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

Today, we launched version 3.1.0 of the UAT!

This year has been an exciting one for the UAT; on June 3rd, the American Astronomical Society formally incorporated the UAT into its journal submission process.  The UAT has also been included in the most recent call for proposals for the Hubble Space Telescope. This uptake in usage and adoption has brought the UAT to the forefront of the community’s attention and, as a result, we have received fantastic and thoughtful suggestions submitted by authors and researchers looking for a better way to describe their work.  This update reflects many of those suggestions and we are looking forward to another great year of interaction with the astronomical community as we strive to improve the UAT.

Overall, the 3.1.0 update focuses on fleshing out two areas in particular (“Comets” and “Gravitational lensing”) as well as bringing a host of corrections and updates.  In total, 54 concepts were added to the UAT, 7 concepts were deprecated, the preferred label of 18 concepts were updated, and 51 alternative labels for concepts were added.  Preparing the 3.1.0 release has also given me a deeper appreciation for how the field of astronomy has changed and evolved over time.

As our understanding of the universe grows and changes, the words we use to describe that universe also grow and change.  For example, before we were able to bring galaxies into focus and understand what they were, astronomers used to consider galaxies as nebulous regions.  As our common understanding about the universe changed, as we were able to build better telescopes, and learn better methods of analyzing information, it became clear that some of these “nebulae” were actually full of many stars, and that they existed outside of our galaxy…and eventually we discovered they were galaxies in their own right.  As great as this story is, it doesn’t have a lot of modern resonance as most of us grew up knowing that there are other galaxies.

Occurrences such as these have become rare, and yet I found myself working through one as I prepared for the 3.1.0 release.  It all started when Dr. Dan Seaton from the University of Colorado commented on an Issue about Solar coronal regions that he “[did] not know what the M corona is supposed to be referring to.”  My first task was to figure out what the concept could be about, where did it come from, and why was it in the UAT in the first place.  I dug into the source vocabularies, discovering that the concept “M region” existed in both the IAU Thesaurus and the IVO Thesaurus. With those thesauri backing the concept up, it felt like it must have had some kind of scientific source.  So I ran a search in ADS for “M region” which yielded a very inconclusive results set of articles spanning oceanic fronts to magnetic fields to mud volcanoes to planetary nebulae.

Hoping to find relevant articles, I narrowed my search to “Solar M regions,” and, even with only 21 results, I could immediately tell I was on the right track.  Reading through the abstract, most of these articles seemed to be about the geomagnetic field, the aurora, or the Solar magnetic field… concepts that were at least a bit more connected than the previous search results.  The earliest article in the result list was from 1941, and even that refers to an earlier identification of Solar M regions.  The mystery deepened! Even though the concept seemed unheard of today, it clearly had been something in the recent past.  Twenty of the 21 articles identified by ADS were published between 1940 and 1980, with a single non-refereed reference in 2003.

It was an article from 1975 titled “The solar M-region problem – An old problem now facing its solution?” which finally solved the mystery.  In this article, Dr. Arild Gulbrandsen writes “….the solar M-regions should be identified with the central portion of magnetically open solar regions, or coronal holes.” I had found an answer: Solar M regions are now something astronomers identify as coronal holes! Both Dr. Seaton and Dr. Leon Golub (AAS Solar editor) agreed with my assessment.

In this release of the UAT the historical “Solar coronal M regions” concept was deprecated and merged into the already existent “Solar coronal holes” concept and now I have modern and tangible example of how our knowledge of astronomy has grown, changed, and evolved in modern language.

The Steering Committee wishes to thank those who took the time to make suggestions for improving the UAT. We also wish to thank the AAS for continuing to support the growth of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus, especially  the editors who provided feedback for proposed changes.

As I close out this update, I want to draw attention to the Contributor Covenant Code of Conduct recently added to the UAT.  This is an open project and I want to emphasize that it is welcoming to all regardless of age, body size, visible or invisible disability, ethnicity, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression, level of experience, education, socio-economic status, nationality, personal appearance, race, religion, or sexual identity and orientation.  I am looking forward to working with the diverse astronomical community to continue improving the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus throughout the coming year and beyond!

Katie Frey
UAT Curator

Unified Astronomy Thesaurus v.3.1.0 Release Notes Summary

Version 3.1.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus consists of a polyhierarchy with 2097 concepts, 11 top concepts, a depth of 11 levels, with 586 related concept links.

 Release Date: 12/20/2019 

Overview of Changes

  • Contributor Covenant Code of Conduct has been added.
  • Minor revisions of two branches:
    • Gravitational lensing
    • Comets
  • Added 54 new concepts.
  • Deprecated 7 concepts.
  • The preferred label of 18 concepts were updated to add context, clarity, and consistency.
  • Added or updated AltLabels for 51 concepts, remove AltLabels for 4 concepts.
  • Added 1 definition and 4 scope notes.
  • Added 52 new related links, removed 8 related links.
  • Resolves Issues in Milestone Colrada.

The UAT is available for download on GitHub. For a detailed list of changes, see the full release notes.

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