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From the Executive Office

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 14:55

As I write this column, I am preparing and packing for the long trip across the Pacific Ocean to the 28th International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly in Beijing, China. More than 500 US astronomers will be attending as well, more than a hundred of which had their travel enabled through support provided by a grant from the NSF and administered by the AAS as our International Travel Grant Program.

The IAU is an important organization in world astronomy and represents the highest aspirations of the scientific endeavor, a coordinated, collaborative approach to scientific pursuits. The International Scientific Unions took shape around the 1900s, and many exist today. The IAU, however, is one of the most active and engaged in its discipline. This has been enhanced recently by the IAU’s establishment of some long term goals, including utilizing astronomy as a vehicle for international development and the establishment of an office in South Africa leading this effort.

The IAU hosts symposia each year, but the General Assembly is the most exciting meeting the IAU organizes. This two week meeting hosts numerous symposia, meetings of the various IAU divisions, topical sessions, invited speakers, cultural events and so dramatic opening and closing ceremonies. Truly, they are very impressive events.

The AAS, with the help and cooperation of the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii are hosting the 2015 General Assembly, which will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii from 2-14 August 2015 at the Honolulu Convention Center. Affordable hotel rooms have been secured and the meeting will take over the entire convention center during the two-week period. We plan on a large exhibit hall, with a special rate being established for 2015 for exhibitors wanting to exhibit at both the AAS winter meeting and the IAU General Assembly. With the vibrant Hawaiian culture and landscapes providing the backdrop for the scientific conference, it will be a meeting not to miss.

As the meeting is hosted by the US, it would be great to have US members of the IAU present in bulk as well as proposing symposia for the assembly. As well, US astronomers who are not members of the IAU should consider joining and pay attention to the deadlines for membership, which usually appear in the fall prior to the General Assembly year. Announcements will appear in AAS and other communication vehicles. Deadlines for Symposia proposals are staggered. First, a letter of intent must be submitted by 1 September 2013, while formal proposals are due 15 December 2013. Details will be available soon on the 29th General Assembly website astronomy2015.org and are already available on the IAU.org website.

The US participates in the IAU through the United States National Committee of the IAU, which is hosted by the National Academies Board on International Scientific Organizations. National dues are paid for through a grant from the NSF to the National Academies. The US is the largest single dues payer to the IAU, as dues scale with the number of national members. The US represents roughly 1/4 of the total IAU membership. USNC-IAU Committee members are appointed based on rules laid out in the USNC-IAU bylaws, which includes certain participation from some officers of the AAS.

However, the AAS does not run or operate the USNC-IAU, which ensures a truly national representation to the IAU, not biased by the AAS as a professional membership organization. Membership application deadlines, processing and so on, are handled by the USNC-IAU and their competent staff. The AAS works to help and assist the USNC-IAU whenever and wherever we can, but do not administer their activities. The USNC-IAU website is: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/pga/biso/IAU/

The US has not hosted a General Assembly in more than 20 years (Baltimore, 1988), so this is a significant event for US Astronomy. We want and need US astronomers to attend this important meeting and ask that you start planning now to do so. We have the opportunity, with the help of strong international attendance of breaking all records for the largest astronomy conference and I have pledged to our meeting team that if we break 4,000 attendees, we will have fireworks on the beach at Waikiki…so all you fireworks fans (and everyone else too!) plan to attend the 2015 General Assembly!

Kevin B. Marvel
Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society
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