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George Fritz Benedict
AAS Secretary
McDonald Observatory

The AAS needs your help in getting due recognition for our most outstanding colleagues. Nominations and letters of support for the AAS prizes for 2014 must arrive in the Secretary's office by 30 June 2013 — that's this coming Sunday! Members may obtain the prize nomination instructions online at http://aas.org/grants-and-prizes/prize-nominations.

Submissions are welcome electronically (http://aas.org/about/grants-and-prizes/prize-nomination-form) or by mail (G. F. Benedict, McDonald Observatory, 1 University Station, Austin, TX 78712). Shortly after that date they are distributed to the several prize committees. Consequently late submissions cannot be accommodated.

In recent years the AAS prize committees have noted the small slates of worthy candidates from whom they may choose. This particularly applies to the junior prizes. To address this dwindling number of nominations your Council approved a change to the rules for the Warner and Pierce Prizes. For these prizes ONLY self-nominations are allowed, with a nomination package consisting of a CV, publication list, and three letters of support. The Warner and Pierce Prize committee will be blind regarding self-nominations versus outside nominations. Please note: letters of support for the Warner and Pierce Prizes MUST NOT include the language that the letter author is nominating the person.

Bear in mind that it is not only the monetary amount but also the honor and distinction that can mean so much to a young astronomer’s career. The award of a prize also adds luster to her/his department or institution in the eyes of the academic community.

Please address any questions regarding prizes to the AAS Secretary (aassec@aas.org).
Joan Centrella
NASA's GSFC

This message is to announce the first Virtual Town Hall meeting of the NASA Astrophysics Roadmap Team 6-7 May 2013. 

The Roadmap will present a compelling 30-year vision for astrophysics. Community input and abstracts have been solicited, and selected abstracts will be presented at the Town Hall. 

The Town Hall will be held both on the Adobe Connect system (in order to see presentations) as well as a teleconferencing system (in order to ask questions to the Roadmap Team.) 

You can find more information about the Town Hall (including the program and links to all the public abstracts) at http://science.nasa.gov/science-committee/subcommittees/nac-astrophysics-subcommittee/astrophysics-roadmap/

Please join us in this opportunity to the engage and plan the next 30 years of astrophysics. 

For the Roadmap Team,
Chryssa Kouveliotou
Joan Centrella
Brad Peterson

James S. Ulvestad
Division Director
National Science Foundation

FY 2013 Budget

At this writing, on April 26, it has been approximately one month since a Continuing Resolution was passed to fund the federal government through the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, which ends on September 30, 2013. This funding action is still subject to an across-the-board rescission of 1.877% plus the sequestration cut of approximately 5%. The appropriation has not yet been translated into a prospective budget number for AST, so we cannot yet report on our budget for the current Fiscal Year. Once AST is given a budget number, our plan will be incorporated into an NSF-wide plan that is submitted to Congress for approval, which is expected to come sometime in June. Until then, with fewer than four months remaining in the fiscal year, AST will not be able to start executing a plan.

We are just winding down our last few panels in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grants (AAG) program and will go ahead to decline proposals that cannot be funded under any feasible budget scenario. But the primary consequence of the budgetary delay is that AAG research awards are unlikely to be made until at least June, if not later. The number of awards that can be made will depend on the final budget level and on what element of risk we take on by making out-year commitments in the face of continued budget uncertainty.

FY 2014 Budget Request

The President’s FY 2014 Budget Request was submitted to Congress in April and contains some excellent news for the astronomy community. A construction start for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), in the NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) line, was included in the request. The proposed start for LSST is late in the FY, approximately July 1, 2014. This start is still subject to successful passage of an NSF Final Design Review later this year, approval of a construction award by the National Science Board, and the appropriation of funds by Congress. We are very pleased by the request for initiation of construction on the first-priority large project from the 2010 decadal survey.

The AST divisional budget request also includes a small amount ($7M) for initiation of a Mid-Scale Innovations Program, the second-priority large program in the decadal survey. Present budget expectations preclude a larger request and make it infeasible to consider funding of mid-scale programs in the upper end of the $4M-$135M range called out by the decadal survey. Given the pent-up demand, the broad scope for MSIP recommended by the AST Portfolio Review Committee, and the restricted budget, we expect a modest funding rate for mid-scale proposals. AST hopes to issue a solicitation in mid-2013 that will contain more details of the prospective program.

The total AST Budget Request for FY 2014 is $243.6M. Although this is higher than the appropriations for FY 2011 and FY 2012, it is still lower than the FY 2010 AST spending of $246.5M. Readers are reminded that the Budget Request is just that, only a request! In FY 2011 and FY 2012 the appropriated budget for AST was approximately $15M below the President’s Budget Request, while the final number for FY 2013 (see previous item) is not yet known.  For more information on the FY 2014 Budget Request, please see http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2014/index.jsp.

Partnerships in Astronomy and Astrophysics Research and Education (PAARE)

We are pleased to announce that we expect to call for proposals for the PAARE program this summer. PAARE is designed to stimulate the development of formal, long-term, collaborative research and education partnerships between minority-serving institutions and partners at research institutions. The new solicitation for PAARE has not yet been released. Pending final clearance, we anticipate an August submission deadline. Interested proposers should look for the final solicitation in the near future, or contact Dan Evans at devans@nsf.gov.

ALMA Inauguration

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) was officially inaugurated in Chile on March 13. The President of Chile and the NSF Director were among the distinguished speakers at the ceremony, which included a special message of congratulations from our NASA and Canadian Space Agency colleagues on the International Space Station. At present, 55 of the 66 ALMA antennas are located at the ALMA observation site, while the remaining antennas are undergoing their final assembly and outfitting at the mid-level support facility.

Management Competitions for National Facilities

Several of the national observatories funded by AST will be undergoing management competitions over the next few years; we anticipate the release of solicitations this summer. For more details, please see the Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs) for NRAO/ALMA, NOAO, and Gemini on the AST web page at http://www.nsf.gov/div/index.jsp?div=ast. Related to the NRAO competition, interested parties should note that AST is exploring operational and management models for the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Long Baseline Array that could result in reduced costs to AST; for further details, see DCL NSF 13-074, dated March 22, 2013, available at the above URL. Although we have reached or passed the nominal deadlines for competition conferences that were given in the Dear Colleague Letters, NSF still welcomes inquiries and requests for competition conferences if they are made before the end of May, 2013; contact information for inquiries is given in the individual Letters.

Questions? Contact the author at julvesta@nsf.gov

Jonathan E. Grindlay
Harvard-Smithsonian, CfA

The first of 12 planned Data Releases, DR1, for production scanning of the ~500,000 Harvard glass plate images covering the full sky from 1885 to 1992, has been released at http://dasch.rc.fas.harvard.edu.

The Digital Access to a Sky Century @ Harvard (DASCH) project (see Grindlay et al. 2012 and references therein) has developed the precision high-speed scanner and software pipeline for processing the digital images with WCS (UCAC4) for each plate. Photometry is calibrated (~0.1 mag) spatially against the GSC 2.3.2 or APASS catalogs, and astrometry and lightcurves of all resolved objects on each plate are derived down to the local limiting magnitude, typically B ~12-17, depending on plate series. Results are stored in a MYSQL database and file system that allows rapid (~10 sec) extraction of lightcurves for any object (up to 10 at a time). Thumbnail images of the object for any point(s) selected in its lightcurve are displayed and can be downloaded.

Production scanning (up to 400 plates/day) is proceeding in galactic coordinates, from the north galactic pole (NGP) down to latitude b = 15 deg; then the SGP up to b = -15 deg; and finally the galactic plane (b = -15 to +15 deg). DR1 covers b = 90 to 75 deg. This first DASCH data release also includes the five "development fields" (5-degree-radius regions centered on M44, 3C 273, Baade's Window, the LMC, and the Kepler field) that were scanned and processed to develop the DASCH hardware and software systems and plate-processing procedures, as well as conduct early science. Their photometry, particularly in crowded fields, will be further improved when they are processed in production scanning.

The full scanning and final data release (DR12) can be finished by 2016 depending on continued support. Thanks are due to my team members Sumin Tang (UCSB), Edward Los (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), George Miller (CfA), Mathieu Servillat (CEA/Saclay), Robert Simcoe (CfA), Alison Doane (CfA), Jamie Pepper (CfA), and David Sliski (CfA). We gratefully acknowledge support from NSF grants AST0407380 and AST0909073.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer & Director of Communications
American Astronomical Society

Seven AAS members have been honored by three eminent organizations for contributions to the advancement of astronomy, astrophysics, and planetary science.

National Academy of Sciences

Each year the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) elects new members in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to the Academy is widely regarded as one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. Among the 84 researchers elected in 2013 are the following AAS members:

  • Michael E. Brown, Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
  • Chryssa Kouveliotou, Astrophysicist and Senior Scientist for High-Energy Astrophysics, Science and Technology Office, NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
  • Ramesh Narayan, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences

One of the nation's most prestigious honorary societies,the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts, and education. Three AAS members were recently elected to the Academy:

  • Timothy M. Heckman, Dr. A. Hermann Pfund Professor, Director of the Center for Astrophysical Sciences, and Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
  • Marc Kamionkowski, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
  • David W. Latham, Astrophysicist and Lecturer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.

Franklin Institute

Founded in honor of one of America's first scientists, Benjamin Franklin, The Franklin Institute is one of the oldest and premier centers of science education and development in the country. The Franklin Institute Awards, given annually since 1874, are among the most prestigious science awards in the world, with winners recognized for their formidable and ground-breaking contributions to science. Recipient of the 2013 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics:

  • Alexander Dalgarno, Phillips Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Alex, who served as editor of the Astrophysical Journal Letters from 1973 to 2003, was cited "for his many fundamental contributions to the development of the field of molecular astrophysics, which led to a better understanding of interstellar space, including the giant molecular clouds that are the birthplaces of stars and planets."

Congratulations to all! 

George Fritz Benedict
AAS Secretary
McDonald Observatory

The AAS needs your help in getting due recognition for our most outstanding colleagues. Nominations and letters of support for the AAS prizes for 2014 must arrive in the Secretary's office by 30 June 2013 — that's this coming Sunday! Members may obtain the prize nomination instructions online at http://aas.org/grants-and-prizes/prize-nominations.

Submissions are welcome electronically (http://aas.org/about/grants-and-prizes/prize-nomination-form) or by mail (G. F. Benedict, McDonald Observatory, 1 University Station, Austin, TX 78712). Shortly after that date they are distributed to the several prize committees. Consequently late submissions cannot be accommodated.

In recent years the AAS prize committees have noted the small slates of worthy candidates from whom they may choose. This particularly applies to the junior prizes. To address this dwindling number of nominations your Council approved a change to the rules for the Warner and Pierce Prizes. For these prizes ONLY self-nominations are allowed, with a nomination package consisting of a CV, publication list, and three letters of support. The Warner and Pierce Prize committee will be blind regarding self-nominations versus outside nominations. Please note: letters of support for the Warner and Pierce Prizes MUST NOT include the language that the letter author is nominating the person.

Bear in mind that it is not only the monetary amount but also the honor and distinction that can mean so much to a young astronomer’s career. The award of a prize also adds luster to her/his department or institution in the eyes of the academic community.

Please address any questions regarding prizes to the AAS Secretary (aassec@aas.org).
Lisa Idem
Meetings Manager
American Astronomical Society
Due to popular demand, the "Probes of Dark Matter on Galaxy Scales" and "Exascale Radio Astronomy" conferences in Monterey, California, have extended their abstract-submission deadlines to 15 May!
 
Probes of Dark Matter on Galaxy Scales (14-19 July 2013) will bring together international experts on dynamics, gravitational lensing, kinematical studies of dwarf galaxies, and indirect probes of dark matter. We welcome participants who are working on these and related areas.
 
Exascale Radio Astronomy (21-26 July 2013): The topics covered by the next-generation of radio telescopes will touch upon cosmology, dark ages, epoch of reionization, galaxy evolution, dark energy, dark matter, general relativity, cosmic magnetism, and pulsars, etc.
 
Both meetings are part of the new AAS Topical Conference Series (AASTCS).
 
Nikolaus Volgenau
Assistant Director for Operations
CARMA

CARMA, the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy, is accepting observing proposals for its 2013b semester, which will extend from 12 August 2013 to 24 February 2014. All 23 telescopes are equipped with receivers for the 3 mm (85-115 GHz) and 1 cm (27-36 GHz) wavelength bands. The 15 largest telescopes are equipped with dual-polarization receivers for the 1 mm (215-265 GHz) wavelength band. For the 2013b semester, proposals will be accepted for the 23-element array and for subarrays of 15 telescopes and 8 telescopes. Approximately 30% of the awarded time will be given to PIs outside the partner universities.

In addition to regular proposals, CARMA seeks Key Projects that are of sufficient scope and potential scientific impact to justify a significant investment of CARMA resources. Key Projects that complement ALMA or lead to follow-up programs with ALMA are encouraged. A Key Project can request any combination of standard antenna configurations for up to 1,000 hours of observing time spread over 1 to 5 semesters. However, Key Projects that seek primarily wideband/continuum observations should consider delaying a proposal submission until after CARMA's new 8 GHz correlator is commissioned (Fall 2013). In addition to the science and technical justifications, the proposal must outline a plan for the management, production, and distribution of science-quality data products. CARMA anticipates accepting 1 or 2 Key Projects in the 2013b semester.

Proposals should be submitted using the electronic form. Detailed information, including tools to assist you in preparing proposals, is available on the CARMA website. If you require help in understanding CARMA instrument capabilities, please contact CARMA's Help Desk.

Deadline: 21 May 2013 at 22:00 UTC (18:00 EDT).

Laura Trouille
CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow & Astronomer
Northwestern University & The Adler Planetarium

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Monica Young, an astronomer turned web editor for Sky & Telescope. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment on the same post at http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.com.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit http://aas.org/jobs/career-profiles. We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every first and third Thursday of the month.

What field do you currently work in?

Science Communication / Writing

What is the job title for your current position?

Web Editor.

As Web Editor for Sky & Telescope I manage online content, writing and editing news stories, commissioning blog authors, and scouring press releases and astro-ph for news topics. I also manage app development, and I'm working on a long-term overhaul of the website. In my copious spare time, I answer customer questions about our website, apps, digital issue, and why the Moon is sometimes red.

What is the name of your company/organization/institution?

Sky & Telescope.

As a print magazine, we provide astronomy news, observing guides and charts, and feature articles on topics ranging from amateur astronomer participation in research to the latest knowledge of how Saturn's rings formed.

What city, state, and country do you live in? Work in?

Cambridge, MA.

What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received?

PhD

What is/was your ultimate/final academic position in astronomy/physics?

Postdoc (1st)

What has been your career path since you completed your degree?

During my final years of graduate school and during my year as a postdoc, I wrote on a volunteer basis for a variety of venues, including AWIS magazine and Penn State's media relations. In fact, I took my postdoc at Penn State in part because of the prospect of working with Penn State's media relations department — my experience there helped me decide to pursue writing full-time.

During these years, I also started a blog about the "the moving universe," I guestblogged for Science in My Fiction, and I wrote a book review for a local newspaper that I ended up reading for a local radio station.

A few months into my postdoc, I decided that I would never feel fulfilled pursuing research as a career and decided to pursue science-writing instead. I left my postdoc after a year and took some time off to be at home with my newborn son before applying for jobs.

Ultimately, luck played a huge role in my current position — when I applied for an internship at Sky & Telescope, they happened to be accepting applicants for a job there at the same time. The internship essentially served as a trial run and they ended up hiring me full-time after two weeks as an intern.

What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia?

This is really a complicated question. There were a lot of factors that played *some* role — for example, I hated the prospect of moving from city to city every couple of years. I also didn't like the many-hour workweeks, although I'm now in a position where I do appreciate the flexibility that even those long weeks offered me. However, I think I would have ultimately have dealt with those downsides if I had the passion for research that others around me had.

At the end of every day, I never really felt complete unless I wrote in my blog or edited an article. So in other words, there were many days I felt incomplete. Research was fun at times, but it never produced that same feeling of fulfillment.

If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time?

I left my postdoc at age 30.

What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?

I am probably one of few where my PhD experience is directly relevant to my current non-academic career. I use my background daily while reading astro-ph and press releases, examining new publications for newsworthiness. Even when I'm not familiar with a topic, I'm generally able to assess whether a result is valid and interesting before I email an expert for their opinion.

What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications?

No additional training, aside from what I learned on my own by writing/editing in my free time.

Describe a typical day at work.

I typically catch up on email for the first hour of my day. This means reading through press releases, answering reader questions, and organizing news content for the week. After that, each day is different. Some days I'm pursuing a news story, which involves lots of reading (I always read the original article at the bare minimum) and interviews. Other days, I'm analyzing our website's information architecture and making wireframes, thinking of how we can optimize the site's organization during the overhaul. I might spend all day editing an article for the magazine, which also involves finding illustrations to accompany the text and writing captions. And occasionally, I'll be managing app development, which means coordinating between our designer, who puts together the basic interfaces, and our app developer, who does the coding.

Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.

I conducted informational interviews, which led to my internship, and that led directly to my current job.

What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?

Mention non-academic career options and enable networking outside of academia. For example, Neil Brandt at Penn State helped me connect with Penn State's media relations department.

How many hours do you work in a week?

40–45 hours.

Because of daycare and owning only one car, I typically work 35 hours in the office, and another 5 at home.

What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?

Very satisfied.

My job allows me to read about science and write about science. I'm always at the forefront of every field. There's nothing better.

What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?

Too many to count. Every article I write or edit, every caption I write, every decision I help make is an opportunity to be creative. Opportunities to take initiative have largely come with answering readers' questions. As readers make me aware of certain issues, I can take initiative (assuming it's within the budget) to make changes.

What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?

My only advice is that balance is a wobbly thing — sometimes you'll be working more, sometimes you'll be with family more. And that's ok.

There is a worry among those considering careers outside of astronomy or academia that you can't "go back" and/or that you feel that you betrayed advisors, friends, colleagues. Have you felt this way?

Yes.

Nope, no advice. I've never heard of anyone leaving academia and finding their way back.

What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?

Most of my fun time is spent playing with my 15-month-old son, Liam. I also enjoy cooking, yoga, reading, and watching Downton Abbey. And occasionally making my way to an Irish pub to listen some music.

Can we include your email address for people who may want to contact you directly about your specific career route?

Yes. monica.c.young@gmail.com

Additional thoughts, comments, resources:

Anybody interested in science writing should join the National Association of Science Writers (NASW).

Crystal M. Tinch
Communications Manager
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

The AAS has a surplus of books. We offer them to members on a first-come, first-served basis. A flat shipping and handling fee of $10.00 per book applies. Discounted shipping may be available for bulk orders. Please fill out the book order form and direct any questions to Tracy Rowe (rowe@aas.org).

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer & Director of Communications
American Astronomical Society

One of the key features of our new website and communication system is the ability to customize the delivery of electronic content from the Society according to your personal preferences.

In the old system, we’d collect certain material into the bimonthly AAS Newsletter and notify members when it was ready to download as a PDF. Between newsletters we’d distribute other content to members via a monthly email exploder, and we’d send occasional meeting updates and public-policy alerts via email as needed. Some of this content was also published on our website, and some wasn’t.

In the new system, all content gets published to our website, and you can decide how much of it gets delivered to you by email, and on what schedule (e.g., as soon as it’s published, or weekly, or monthly).

We thought the customization of email delivery was fully functional when we “soft launched” the new system in February, but member feedback tells us it isn’t — you’re getting emails you don’t expect, you’re concerned that you might be missing emails you need to see, and you’re daunted by the complexity of the email-customization interface.

We are now working to fix these problems. In the meantime, for the next month or two, we’ll use our old email system to send information of general interest to all members. Meeting and policy alerts will go out as needed. Other content, including items that used to appear in the AAS Newsletter (e.g., the AAS president’s column and news from committees) will be compiled as it comes in and then emailed every other week via this AAS News Digest.

To keep the digest from getting too long, we're including only titles, authors, brief summaries, and links. Full text of the entire digest on one page is available online at http://aas.org/content/aas-news-digest-2-may-2013. We encourage all members to visit the AAS website regularly to remain fully informed about Society business.