GSoC 2020: The Start of my summer with SunPy

Group of youngsters looking at Planets through Binoculars
Observing Jupiter’s moons and Saturn at 2:00 AM in a pre-Exam hangout with my friends at Campus :)

The time I am writing this, the temperature has already shot up to 45 degree Celsius; clearly, Sun is usually unkind to me in the city of Vadodara, India. Everything was great, I was chilling out at my Campus IIT Mandi until the Corona thing happened. It changed my google search results for “Corona” from this …

Stellar Corona; Image Source: Wikipedia

To this :/

CoronaVirus Image


Going back in time to my school days, I developed a great interest in Astronomy. I enjoyed Planetarium trips, national competitions; even remembering just numerical data about the cosmos! Fast-forwarding a few years, I’m at IIT Mandi completing my bachelor in Computer Science.

The best thing happened to me at my institute was STAC…

STAC’s telescope assembled for Moon observations, place: SAC Terrace, IIT Mandi

STAC is Space Technology and Astronomy Cell of IIT Mandi which allowed not only to continue my passion for Astronomy but also to develop interest among my juniors. I was selected as a coordinator of the Club and organized various astronomy sessions as telescope night outs with students of our institute. I got to learn and engage in a lot of astrophysics and python owing to the open-source culture established by our seniors in the STAC and Programming Club of IIT Mandi.

I actively coordinated in organizing AstraX (the annual Astro-meet) which also witnessed Dr. Stuart Mumord and Dr. Nick Murphy as keynote speakers. I introduced students of a local college with using Python for Astronomy in an event sponsored by Python Software Foundation.

Newspaper cutting, image of students organizing a coding session
Bhavya Bhatt, Tanmay Rustagi and I featured in a local newspaper for organizing a PSF workshop.

Stepping in the world of Open-Source

I was introduced to “What is Open-Source?” and “how to use git?” in my first year. I initially started my contributions to STAC Github repositories. I opened some issues, created silly PRs, and messed up my git history many times while resolving reviews. Looking at those PRs now, I feel grateful to those who patiently reviewed them. I went through many StackOverflow threads to fix my git sins.

Github page for STAC
STAC on GitHub

I applied to LSF for GSoC 2019. I lagged in community interaction as I felt shy and started very late. Thus, my proposal wasn’t accepted. I decided to give it a go again in 2020. I started early and joined several chat channels(mostly of organizations under OpenAstronomy) for interacting with developers out there.

Me and SunPy

I started with exploring raised issues on the repository and expressed a desire to work on the trivial ones initially. Though I was quite comfortable dealing with conflicts but contributed to a repo with a thorough test-suite for the first time. I was helped a lot by the SunPy community with my PRs and celebrated my first contribution in December of 2019. I owe a lot to the community; being part of them helped to polish my skills and increase my confidence.

My first pull request in SunPy

The `net` submodule was more intriguing for me. I tried to bring back the old client pull requests. After the ideas list was out, I was very excited to work on Fido(Federated Internet Data Obtainer).

I was also invited to Python in Astronomy Hack Days that took place in April this year. I worked on adding a `Gong Synoptic Map Client for Fido` with David Stansby.

Video screenshot of PyAstro HackDay
PyAstro conference hackday liverstream screenshot | Solar magnetic field maps for pfsspy

At 11:00 PM IST on the 4th of May, I received an email from Google. I was going to spend my summer on improving an interface which fetches solar physics data from satellites and observatories!

GSoC Project Link

I had a meeting with my mentors Stuart Mumford and Nabil Freij to formalize the full scope of the project. I feel very fortunate to work with them. I am looking forward to having a great summer ahead in their awesome guidance!