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Don't Forget to Renew Your AAS Membership!

Annual membership renewals are now under way. Reminders to renew have gone out to all current members, who are encouraged to renew online at http://members.aas.org.

Kevin B. Marvel
Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society

Final registration numbers for the 223rd AAS meeting are in: 3,132 astronomers, policy makers, educators, students, journalists, and guests showed up at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, for one of the busiest, most dynamic conferences in the history of the Society. We didn’t set an attendance record, but we did set a record for the number of oral and poster presentations, nearly topping 2,200, including an unprecedented 20 invited and prize talks. We also had a record number of posters entered into the competition for the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Awards — more than 450!

As the AAS leadership and Executive Office staff recover from the whirlwind week that was, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped make the meeting so successful, both scientifically and as a motivator for new work in our field. This includes our thousands of attendees, of course, but also the Gaylord staff, our logistics contractor, our audiovisual contractor, our speaker-ready contractor, and all our volunteers.

The Society especially thanks our many exhibitors and sponsors. Sponsorship of scientific conferences enables many activities, including professional-development workshops, education and outreach activities, and creation of community networking and collaborative environments. By enabling these activities, sponsors play an important role, effectively helping the AAS to achieve its mission to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.

Because of justified concerns about the proper use of public funds to support conferences generally, the AAS actively seeks support only for activities or events that directly enhance the effectiveness of scientific communication at our meetings. Workshops, receptions, and even the provision of high-tech audiovisual technology all play a role in expanding the collaborative communication and interaction that make our meetings a significant contributor to the progress of astronomical research. Here are some examples of how AAS meetings facilitate and amplify progress in our field:

  • The AAS winter meeting is the largest annual gathering of physics and astronomy undergraduate students in the world.
  • AAS meetings provide significant networking opportunities for those seeking jobs in the astronomical sciences and for employers seeking qualified employees.
  • The collaborative discussion and interaction that takes place at AAS meetings — both in scheduled sessions and in impromptu gatherings — leads to new mission and facility concepts.
  • AAS meetings provide a low-cost opportunity for working groups, mission teams, and others to gather for splinter meetings related to management, implementation, and operation of scientific programs.
  • AAS meetings allow program officers, facility directors, and other relevant staff from government or federally funded facilities to communicate directly with the community they serve, enhancing the performance and output of these facilities and programs.
  • AAS meetings feature the latest scientific results across the entire sweep of the astronomical sciences, from the solar system to the farthest known galaxies and everything in between.
  • When people head home after an AAS meeting, they are hoarse from speaking to their colleagues so much, excited and energized about astronomical research and, in many cases, have made new connections with others working in their research area.

Again, thanks to all who helped make our DC meeting so productive and worthwhile. We look forward to seeing you again in June, when our 224th meeting convenes in Boston!

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

At its 223rd semiannual meeting last week in Washington, DC, the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, named the recipients of its 2014 prizes for outstanding achievements in research, public policy, instrument development, education, and writing.

The Henry Norris Russell Lecture for 2014 is awarded to George B. Field for a lifetime of contributions to our basic understanding of diffuse plasmas in the universe, which continue to motivate current astronomers. As the founding director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, he created a significant institution to advance astronomy. His visionary leadership of the 1980 decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysics remains a landmark in science policy that brought powerful new instrumental capabilities to the astronomical community.

The inaugural AAS Award for Public Service to the Astronomical Sciences is presented to Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Maryland) for her leadership and steadfast support of science and technology, and in particular the astronomical sciences, in the United States. Through her leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Mikulski has been an important advocate for increased federal investment in research and education. Sen. Mikulski has also played an important role during crisis moments in the field such as the decision on whether NASA should undertake a final Hubble servicing mission following the Columbia accident. In a letter thanking the AAS for the award, Mikulski writes, "You can count on me to stand sentry over federal funding to ensure that America remains the innovative leader in space exploration and scientific discovery."

The George Van Biesbroeck Prize honors a living individual for long-term extraordinary or unselfish service to astronomy, often beyond the requirements of his or her paid position. This year’s recipient is Michael Hauser, who established and led the infrared group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and later, as deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, played a key part in turning STScI into a multi-mission institution. Throughout his career, Hauser has had wide-ranging influence as a mentor to younger scientists, including Nobel laureate John Mather. He also has served on an unusually large number of committees, often as chair, helping to guide major space-astronomy missions and long-term strategic plans.

The Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, established in 1979 and funded by the Heineman Foundation, is awarded jointly by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and the AAS to recognize outstanding work in astrophysics. The 2014 prize goes to Piero Madau (University of California, Santa Cruz) for fundamental contributions to our understanding of the era of first light in the universe, the ionization and heating of the intergalactic medium, and the formation and evolution of galaxies.

The Annie Jump Cannon Award for outstanding research and promise for the future by a postdoctoral woman scientist goes to Emily Levesque (University of Colorado, Boulder) for her innovative work using gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) to explore fundamental questions of stellar astrophysics and cosmology. Her broad expertise has led to impactful work in several different areas, including the metallicity characteristics of the interstellar environments of GRB host galaxies, the effects of stellar rotation on the ionization environment and the implications for measuring extragalactic stellar populations, and the fundamental properties of red supergiants. Her work has provided a deeper understanding of stars near and far and will inspire their use as important cosmological probes.

This year’s recipient of the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize for observational research by a young astronomer is Nadia L. Zakamska (Johns Hopkins University) for her multi-wavelength work on Type II quasars, which has characterized these energetic sources in detail and led to the current “standard model” of quasars. Zakamska is also cited for her work on finding direct evidence for outflows driven by active galactic nuclei (AGN), regarded as an essential ingredient in galaxy-formation models for regulating star formation. Her observational and theoretical work has shown that “feedback” from AGN is occurring on scales of tens of thousands of light-years.

The Helen B. Warner Prize for observational or theoretical research by a young astronomer is awarded to Christopher M. Hirata (Ohio State University) for his remarkable cosmological studies, particularly his observational and theoretical work on weak gravitational lensing, one of the most important tools for assessing the distribution of mass in the universe. Hirata is cited for his work on cosmological recombination, structure formation, and dark energy and cosmic acceleration, and for the extraordinary depth of understanding he brings to these subjects. His work is facilitating the next generation of important cosmological experiments.

The Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize recognizes an outstanding research contribution of an exceptionally creative or innovative character. Chris Lintott (Oxford University and Adler Planetarium) is this year’s awardee. With great insight and creativity, he created a transformative approach to science by engaging nonscientists in cutting-edge research via Zooniverse.org. He demonstrated the unique capabilities of “crowdsourcing” to attack otherwise intractable problems and, in the process, created a unique educational tool that is also an unparalleled public-outreach phenomenon.

Sander Weinreb (Caltech) is receiving the Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation in recognition of his seminal innovations that have helped define modern-day radio astronomy, including digital autocorrelation spectrometers and cryogenic low-noise amplifiers and mixers. Weinreb is also cited for providing outstanding leadership for radio-astronomy instrumentation, especially for the electronics system of the Very Large Array. His innovations have been utilized in all radio observatories and have enabled countless astronomical discoveries.

The AAS Education Prize goes to Deidre Hunter (Lowell Observatory), who co-founded and runs a science-education program for middle-school Navajo and Hopi students and teachers in Arizona and New Mexico. She has brought a direct personal connection to astronomy to program participants and has made science relevant in a manner respectful of tribal knowledge and worldviews. Hunter is additionally cited for tirelessly mentoring numerous undergraduate and graduate students, for connecting professional astronomers to local science educators, and for her public-outreach efforts involving Lowell Observatory in the life of the surrounding community.

The Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for an advanced undergraduate or graduate-level textbook goes to George Rieke (University of Arizona) for his primer on observation and measurement in modern astronomy, Measuring the Universe: A Multiwavelength Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Rieke reviews the underlying operational principles of current instrumentation and techniques, often inserting historical perspective and wisdom to help readers become better and more well-informed practitioners. Exercises at the end of each chapter reinforce this personalized educational approach, with solutions to selected problems and color figures available online. Books like Rieke’s serve a vital role in astronomers’ professional development.

With generous support from the Kavli Foundation, the Society’s vice-presidents name a special invited lecturer to kick off each AAS meeting with a presentation on recent research of great importance. At the 223rd meeting in Washington, DC, the Kavli Foundation Plenary Lectureship went to Robert E. Williams (Space Telescope Science Institute), who spoke on the Hubble Deep Field (HDF) and its legacy. The HDF was a game changer in many ways, and not just because it took advantage of the Hubble Space Telescope’s remarkable sensitivity and spatial resolution to reveal the evolution of galaxies over most of the history of the universe. It was the first unique, non-proprietary, fully reduced astronomical dataset to be released to the scientific community so soon after the observations were taken. It’s no exaggeration to say that Williams invented a new way to do astronomy, one that has yielded tremendous benefits for cosmology and, just as important, one that has brought to the public in one image a “core sample” of the universe that they could easily comprehend and with which they could personally identify.

Closing out the meeting with the final plenary lecture was the recipient of the Lancelot M. Berkeley – New York Community Trust Prize for highly meritorious work in advancing the science of astronomy. James Lemen (Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Lab) spoke on the study of solar activity using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which has been in space since early 2010. High-resolution images from the AIA over a wide range of wavelengths have clarified our understanding of how the solar magnetic field drives coronal evolution on various scales. Lemen was specifically cited for his paper, with numerous coauthors, “The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO),” published in the journal Solar Physics (2012, vol. 275, pp. 17-40).

Most of the AAS’s six subject-specific divisions also award prizes, and one of them — the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) — has just announced some of its 2014 awardees. The HEAD Bruno Rossi Prize is given for a significant contribution to high-energy astrophysics, with particular emphasis on recent, original work. This year's prize goes to Douglas Finkbeiner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Tracy Slatyer (MIT), and Meng Su (MIT) for their discovery, in gamma rays, of the large, unanticipated galactic structure now called the “Fermi bubbles.” This surprising finding has stimulated additional observations at other wavelengths as well as computer simulations to understand the bubbles' origins. The prize-winners' 2010 paper reporting the discovery has garnered more than 200 citations in only three years.

Contact:
Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116

More information about AAS and Division prizes, along with lists of past recipients, can be found at http://aas.org/grants-prizes-and-awards.

Photos of the new AAS prizewinners are available from Crystal Tinch at the AAS Executive Office.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 7,500 individuals also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research and educational interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity's scientific understanding of the universe. Among its many activities, the AAS publishes two of the leading peer-reviewed journals in the field: The Astrophysical Journal and The Astronomical Journal.

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

IOP Publishing (IOP) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) are pleased to announce the launch of the Astronomy Image Explorer (AIE). The AIE provides researchers with quick and easy access to hundreds of thousands of images, illustrations, graphs, charts, and videos that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The AIE has tools designed to aid researchers in their discovery and use of all types of graphic resources and is available free online to scientists and the public alike.

"The new Astronomy Image Explorer is just the latest example of the leadership shown by the AAS and its publishing partners in keeping the astronomical literature at the forefront of electronic publishing," says AAS President David Helfand (Quest University Canada).

The AIE has been designed as a convenient and efficient tool for researchers to find graphics that have appeared in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal, which IOP publishes for the AAS. “It has been exciting to work with IOP on the creation of the Astronomy Image Explorer,” says Chris Biemesderfer, AAS Director of Publishing. “We're pleased to offer a new service for the community that can enhance researchers' explorations in the literature.”

Users can easily search using any combination of author, journal, citation, format, and keywords. Convenient tools are available to generate PowerPoint slides, download high-resolution images, obtain permissions and reuse information, or view the image in the context of the originally published research.

New images are added daily as journal content is published. Resources made available through the AIE are for academic use by the research community. Copyright information is embedded in each file downloaded from the site, along with the journal reference to facilitate proper citation.

“The AAS journals have always been leaders in both the research they publish and the tools and technologies they use,” says Anne Cowley, AAS Publications Board Chair. “The Astronomy Image Explorer is another exciting example of our journals setting the bar higher for the astronomical literature.”

Contacts:
Sharice Collins / Kerry Kroffe
IOP Publishing
+1 215-627-0880 / +1 773-315-3519

Rick Fienberg / Chris Biemesderfer
American Astronomical Society
+1 202-328-2010 x116 / +1 202-328-2010 x118

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 7,000 individuals also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research and educational interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Among its activities, the AAS publishes two of the leading peer-reviewed journals in the field: the Astronomical Journal and the Astrophysical Journal.

IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide. IOP Publishing is central to the Institute of Physics (IOP), a not-for-profit society. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of IOP. Beyond our traditional journals program, we make high-value scientific information easily accessible through an ever-evolving portfolio of community websites, magazines, conference proceedings and a multitude of electronic services. Focused on making the most of new technologies, we’re continually improving our electronic interfaces to make it easier for researchers to find exactly what they need, when they need it, in the format that suits them best.

The IOP Publishing Journalist Area gives journalists access to embargoed press releases, advanced copies of papers, supplementary images and videos. In addition to this, a weekly news digest is uploaded into the Journalist Area every Friday, highlighting a selection of newsworthy papers set to be published in the following week.

The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organization with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application. We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications.

Douglas K. Duncan
University of Colorado - Boulder

This announcement is adapted from a Summer Science Program press release:

The Summer Science Program (SSP) is seeking innovative curricula to expand its residential program for talented high-school students. Authors of two selected curricula will each be awarded the $2,000 SSP Curriculum Prize and additional funding to test and launch their curricula. Funding is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through grant GBMF3621.

This competition is a unique opportunity for an educational innovator to build upon SSP's 55-year-long successful track record. "We are open to ideas from anyone and any field of science," said Dr. Susan Jerian, an SSP alumna and current president. "What matters is that these gifted students are challenged to do real science themselves, not coursework, so that they leave SSP with a visceral understanding of what being a scientist feels like."

Details of the proposal requirements, timelines, phases of curriculum development, and funding are available from http://www.summerscience.org/newcurriculum. Proposal summaries are due by 31 May 2014.

The prestigious Summer Science Program is a 39-day residential program that attracts hundreds of applicants from around the globe. Its mission is to provide highly motivated and academically gifted high-school students (rising seniors) with an intensive, hands-on immersion in interdisciplinary, collaborative research. The program accelerates participants' intellectual and social development and raises their aspirations for college and career. Alumni go on to enroll at top universities, with many becoming STEM leaders, teachers, and innovators with significant impact on their chosen professions. A testimony to the program's effectiveness is the fact that it is managed and largely funded by its alumni. Few opportunities have been demonstrated to provide such a transformational experience for gifted students.

Contact:
Richard Bowdon
Executive Director
+1 919-439-7759

SSP operates as an independent 501(c)3 non-profit using leased campus facilities in California and New Mexico. Visit http://www.summerscience.org for more information.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation believes in bold ideas that create enduring impact in the areas of science, environmental conservation, and patient care. Intel co-founder Gordon and his wife Betty established the foundation to create positive change around the world.

Steve B. Howell
NASA Ames Research Center

The K2 mission is a concept being proposed to NASA through the 2014 Senior Review process that seeks to repurpose the NASA Kepler spacecraft. K2 will expand on Kepler’s groundbreaking discoveries in the field of exoplanets and astrophysics by observing many new target types in a wide variety of new fields. The K2 mission is currently soliciting comments on the fields that K2 will observe during its first two years and is soliciting target proposals for a performance demonstration test starting in March 2014.

This initial test, known as “Campaign 0,” has the possibility of collecting ~75 days of science data for 5,000 to 10,000 targets. We are asking the community to propose the targets to observe during this campaign. The deadline for target proposals and comments on the subsequent fields is 1 February 2014. For additional information on K2, how to propose, and how to comment on the proposed K2 fields, visit the K2 mission webpage.      

K2 is limited to pointing near the ecliptic plane, sequentially observing fields as it orbits the Sun. This observing strategy regularly brings new target fields into view, enabling observations of scientifically important objects across a wide range of galactic latitudes in both the northern and southern skies. K2 will perform a series of 80-day ecliptic-pointed campaigns to collect data for the astrophysical community bearing on planet-formation processes, young stars, stellar activity, stellar structure and evolution, and extragalactic science. With an estimated photometric performance of 80 ppm (6-hour S/N for a 12th-magnitude G star), the K2 mission offers simultaneous observations of approximately 10,000 objects with a combination of precision, cadence, and continuity that cannot be achieved from the ground.

Qizhou Zhang
Harvard-Smithsonian, CfA

The Submillimeter Array (SMA), the radio interferometer on Mauna Kea built by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, makes available a fraction of the observing time to principal investigators from the astronomical community worldwide. The next proposal deadline is 13 February 2014 for the observing semester 16 May through 15 November 2014. More information, technical details, and instructions and tools for proposal preparation and submission can be found on the SMA Observer Center website. The proposal submission tool is expected to open on 17 January 2014.

Questions or comments regarding the call for proposals can be addressed to propose@sma.hawaii.edu.

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

We are pleased to announce that the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's Data-Driven Discovery Investigator Competition has now launched. This competition is open to researchers in any PhD-granting institution or private research organization in the United States. The pre-application process runs through 24 February 2014. If you or your colleagues are interested in learning more, please see the full solicitation linked below as a PDF.

We hope to spread the word far and wide among qualified applicants, and to that end we'd like to ask your help. Please share this news through your institutional networks, social media, mailing lists, etc.

In brief:

  • Our Data-Driven Discovery (DDD) Initiative seeks to advance the people and practices of data-intensive science to take advantage of the increasing volume, velocity, and variety of scientific data to make new discoveries. Data-intensive science is inherently multidisciplinary, combining natural sciences with methods from statistics and computer science.
  • The goal of the DDD Investigator awards is to fund individuals who exemplify this new kind of data-driven discovery. These innovators are striking out in new directions and are willing to take risks with the potential of huge payoffs in some aspect of data-intensive science. Successful applicants must make a strong case for developments in the natural sciences (biology, physics, astronomy, etc.), or science-enabling methodologies (statistics, machine learning, scalable algorithms, etc.), and applicants who credibly combine the two are especially encouraged. It is anticipated that the DDD initiative will make about 15 awards at ~$1,500,000 each ($200K to $300K per year for five years).
  • Pre-applications are due Monday, 24 February 2014 by 5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time. They must be submitted online at http://www.moore.org/DDDInvestigator. A list of frequently-asked questions is posted on the site. If your question is not answered, please contact us by email. Pre-applications will be reviewed by Foundation staff and external experts.
  • The Moore Foundation anticipates extending invitations for full applications in April 2014.

Please feel free to send questions our way, and thanks in advance for helping us share this news.

— Data-Driven Discovery Initiative (Vicki Chandler, Mark Stalzer, Chris Mentzel, Jasan Zimmerman)

Brett Blacker
STScI/ AURA

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are pleased to announce the Cycle 22 call for proposals for Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observations and funding for archival research and theoretical research programs. Participation in this program is open to all categories of organizations, both domestic and foreign, including educational institutions, profit and nonprofit organizations, NASA centers, and other government agencies.

This solicitation for proposals will be open through 8:00 pm EDT on 11 April 2014. Astronomer's Proposal Tools (APT), which is required for Phase I proposal submission, will be made available/released for Cycle 22 Phase I use during the second week of February 2014. Results of the selection will be announced by the end of June 2014.

All programmatic and technical information, as well as specific guidelines for proposal preparation, are available electronically from the STScI Announcement webpage.

Please take note of the "What's New for Cycle 22" section on the announcement page. In particular, please note the new operating-system requirements for APT (due to a necessary upgrade to Java 7):

Questions can be addressed by email to the STScI Help Desk or by telephone to +1 410-338-1082.

Pamela L. Gay
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

365 Days of Astronomy will continue its service in 2014! This time we will have more days available for new audio. Have something to share? We’re looking for content from 10 minutes long up to an hour! Since 2009, 365 Days of Astronomy has brought a new podcast every day to astronomy lovers around the world to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy. Fortunately, the project has continued until now and we will keep going for another year in 2014. This means we will continue to serve you for a 6th year.

Through these years, 365 Days Of Astronomy has been delivering daily podcasts discussing various topics in the constantly changing realm of astronomy. These include history of astronomy, the latest news, observing tips and topics on how the fundamental knowledge in astronomy has changed our paradigms of the world. We’ve also asked people to talk about the things that inspired them, and to even share their own stories, both of life doing astronomy and science fiction that got them imagining a more scientific future.

365 Days of Astronomy is a community podcast that relies on a network of dedicated podcasters across the globe who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences in astronomy with the world and it will continue that way. In 2013, 365 Days of Astronomy started a new initiative with CosmoQuest. We now offer great new audio every weekend, while on weekdays we serve up interesting podcasts from CosmoQuest and other dedicated partners. We also have several monthly podcasts from dedicated podcasters and have started two new series: Space Stories and Space Scoop. The former is a series of science fiction tales, and the latter is an astronomy news segment for children.

From the universe to the solar system, we’ve had an interesting journey, especially the ostensibly legendary comet ISON which finally ended its days by breaking apart and vaporizing. We hope we won’t end like ISON did! As for 2014, we will have more available days for new podcasts.

For this upcoming year, the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast is looking for individuals, organizations, schools, companies, and clubs to sign-up for their 10 to 60 minutes of audio for the new daily podcast which will be aired on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. As for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we will air audio podcasts from CosmoQuest and partners’ Google+ hangouts. We’ll also post the matching video submissions on our YouTube Channel.

The 365 Days of Astronomy podcast is heard by 5,000 listeners per day and by 2013 we have surpassed 6.8 million downloads. In 2009, the project was awarded a Parsec Award as “The Best Infotainment” podcast and a year later, in 2010-2012, it was nominated for the “Best Fact Behind the Fiction” award.

For more information, please email Avivah Yamani, 365 Days of Astronomy Project Manager, and follow these links: