Welcome to the NOIRLab's Press Room, brought to you by NOIRLab’s Communication, Education & Engagement division. Here you will find information about press releases, the image gallery, video libraries, mailing lists, media visits, and more.
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NOIRLab press releases describe important scientific, technical and organizational developments and achievements, including results obtained by external and internal scientists using NOIRLab facilities. The end-goal of these press releases is to share exciting discoveries and the beauty of the Universe with the wider public.
Press release types
NOIRLab publishes three different types of press releases:
- Science Release: A science release describes scientific results usually appearing in a peer-reviewed journal that involve data from NOIRLab observatories or CSDC archives. These press releases explain the significance of the findings and provide contact information for the scientists announcing their results.
- Organization Release: Organization releases cover a range of themes related to NOIRLab operations, including news on current and future observatories, new astronomical instruments, and announcements of exhibitions. Among other topics, Organization releases also cover topics such as the appointment of new observatory Directors and observatory milestones such as major construction milestones.
- Photo Release: The science of astronomy yields beautiful, awe-inspiring images of the cosmos. NOIRLab selects the best of these images and presents them to the public in periodic photo releases. These photo releases provide a detailed description of the object in the image and explain the science behind such cosmic wonders. A photo release may be issued when an important scientific milestone from a NOIRLab observatory does not have an associated peer-reviewed journal article, or if the image tells the story.
NOIRLab also publishes Announcements, NOIRLab Stories and Images of the Week on its website.
Announcements are shorter than press releases (typically below 200 words) and highlight stories and events which are of interest to the community. This includes announcing dates and locations of upcoming events, presenting new products and highlighting interesting scientific results which are not covered in Science Releases. Announcements also cover observatory milestones such as the commissioning of a new instrument.
NOIRLab Stories are more thematic articles that take readers behind the scenes at NOIRLab with deep dives into science, technology and, most importantly, the people who are bringing the Universe into focus. The posts explores the people and personalities that enable the science and technology of NOIRLab’s observatories.
Images of the Week show beautiful or interesting photos from NOIRLab telescopes, and can highlight recent events or archival photos. They are accompanied by a short explanatory text. They are released every Wednesday.
Press release archive
View all NOIRLab, NOAO, Gemini and Rubin Observatory press releases dating back to 1994.
All press releases and most web pages are translated to Spanish.
Procedures and principles behind NOIRLab press releases
- To the best of its abilities, NOIRLab endeavors to ensure that its press releases are factually correct representations of the underlying scientific work and are written in a way that avoids misinterpretations and exaggerations. In order to ensure that the public can consider NOIRLab press releases as reliable sources of information, NOIRLab has adopted the following procedures and principles.
NOIRLab science press releases are not themselves scientific papers, but report on science claims made in bonafide scientific papers. Accordingly, NOIRLab science press releases are usually based on formal papers that follow a standard peer-review procedure and have been accepted for publication in a scientific journal.
- Should in the course of time a scientific claim reported in a science, organization, or photo release be proven false, NOIRLab will insert a proper note of retraction in the original press release, which is retained on the NOIRLab website.
Criteria for Evaluation of Papers for Science Press Releases
Requests for press releases based on scientific papers are evaluated on two criteria only: 1. scientific importance and 2. newsworthiness. A NOIRLab science press release is subject to an internal review involving a senior scientist of the organization. Their task is to verify the high quality and solid basis of the scientific claims put forward in the original scientific paper, and to verify that statements in the press release correctly reflect those claims. The senior scientists' assessment of the scientific importance of the paper is compared with an independent assessment of the public appeal or newsworthiness of a story prepared by the public information officer (PIO), and a decision is made in a plenary discussion in NewsTeam led by the PIO.
1. Scientific Importance
To qualify for a science press release, the paper should make a “significant contribution” to its field.
We do not undertake “double refereeing”: if a clear claim in a paper is passing through review, it can be taken as fact for a press release.
The scientific importance criteria are:
- the paper supports one of various conflicting theories, invalidating the others
- the paper opens a new (sub-)field by reporting the discovery of a new class of objects or by providing new insights into a phenomenon
- a new phenomenon is discovered
- an important theory or model is invalidated
The ranking of scientific importance we follow is:
- Anecdotal: characterizing an object (of which several were already known and characterized).
- Incremental: refine a parameter or a model that was already known and fairly well characterized; add a (small) piece to a puzzle whose image was already fairly well defined.
- A record: a superlative, e.g. the largest/most massive/oldest/youngest star/galaxy/black hole… Obviously, a record that has a chance to stand for some time has more “value” than one that is likely to be “beaten” soon. In order to qualify as a science press release the record has to be substantial.
- A consequential step: the paper supports one of the various conflicting theories, invalidating the others; the paper opens a new (sub-)field by reporting the discovery of a new class of objects or by providing new insights on a phenomenon.
- A breakthrough: a new phenomenon is discovered
- A change of paradigm: an important theory or model is invalidated, or a new field is opened.
An evaluation always results in a ranking, and the cut-off ranking for a press release is usually around #3 or #4.
2. Newsworthiness Criteria
Some example newsworthiness criteria are:
- Timing: The story is ‘news’ (the event has just taken place). Like the start of a new substantial project.
- Importance for NOIRLab: A story that shows some sort of significant progress, or in another way is an important development for the NOIRLab.
- Relevance: An issue that has direct or near-direct influence on people’s lives.
- Implications: A result that has profound consequences.
- Conflict: Settles a controversial debate or a much-debated topic that contains intrigues.
- Human interest: E.g. Citizen science angle
- Mystery: A mysterious phenomenon, quirky details, an unexpected result or a chance discovery.
- Major discovery: Represents a major discovery of a new phenomenon or class of object. Or an incremental gain in knowledge about a principal field of research.
- New interesting angle: Twisting an old result in a new way, such as a new, better image that confirms a known result.
- A record: First, largest, most distant, fastest, oldest ….
- A hot topic: Some topics almost always capture the attention of the public (despite not necessarily being great science) and therefore have a fast track to the headlines. Some examples from astronomy are: Solar System topics, space weather, black holes, extrasolar planets, extraterrestrial life, the future of the Earth and Sun and human spaceflight.
- Aesthetics: E.g. an exceptionally beautiful image.
- Publication in a distinguished journal: Results published in, for example, Nature or Science tend to get more interest from journalists.
- Crosslinking: Letting a result piggyback on another news story in a related, parallel or remotely related field.
A scientific paper that satisfies the criteria of both scientific importance and newsworthiness will be selected for a science press release.
NOIRLab News is a newsletter is addressed to members of the public who wish to stay in touch with the latest NOIRLab science news, photo releases, announcements, Images of the Week and more. You can subscribe here or visit the NOIRLab news archive.
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- All press releases: News about NOIRLab science and operations.
- Images of the Week: A stunning new photo every week! Click here to see all.
- Announcements: Keep up on NOIRLab Organization announcements for both the public and the scientific community.
- NOIRLab images
- NOIRLab Videos
- Data2Dome images feed
- Data2Dome videos feed
NOIRLab welcomes journalists, science writers and producers interested in visits to the observatory sites for the production of news stories, documentaries and other projects. Please read the media visit guidelines.
NOIRLab images and motion pictures may be reproduced on a non-exclusive basis without fee so long as NOIRLab is clearly credited as the source of the image material. Read more here.