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 comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.
A tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the AAS is one of 10 member societies in the American Institute of Physics (AIP), whose mission is to advance, promote, and serve the physical sciences for the benefit of humanity. AIP publishes Physics Today, which is offered to all members of its member societies. AIP also provides authoritative information, services, and expertise in physics education and student programs, science communication, government relations, career services for science and engineering professionals, statistical research in physics employment and education, industrial outreach, and the history of physics and allied fields.
The AAS Executive Office is located in a third-floor suite of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) building near DuPont Circle in Washington, DC. Aside from a handful of staff members who work in small satellite offices elsewhere in North America, most employees work in the DC office under the leadership of the AAS Executive Officer, Dr. Kevin B. Marvel.
The AAS Council is the Board of Directors of the corporation, sets the overall direction for the Society, supervises the Executive Officer, and allocates the resources necessary to attain the Society’s mission and goals. The Council is composed of Officers (President, Vice-Presidents, etc.) and Councilors. Various advisory or action-taking committees accomplish much of the Council’s work, supplemented by working groups and task forces established to achieve specific goals on relatively short time scales.
The AAS has numerous classes of individual and corporate membership. Most individuals in the Society are full, associate, or junior members. Full membership is open to any person deemed capable of preparing an acceptable scientific paper on some subject in astronomy or a related branch of science. Full members usually have a PhD or equivalent. Associate membership is open to any person 28 years of age or older who is not a student and has not earned a doctorate in the astronomical sciences but who is actively involved in the advancement of the field. Junior membership is open to any person under 28 years of age who is actively involved in the advancement of the astronomical sciences or who is a full time student pursuing a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate in the field.
More information about individual and corporate membership, including qualifications, the application process, dues, and benefits, is available on our Membership pages.
As part of its mission to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, the AAS facilitates meetings of astronomers. The Society meets twice per year, once in January and once in June, while also organizing the meetings of each of its six topical Divisions (see below). A new program, the AAS Topical Conference Series, now enables the Society to select and host topically interesting conferences of current interest. In addition, the Society offers its substantial meeting-organization capabilities to the community at large and welcomes queries from scientists and institutions that would like to organize a meeting and would benefit from having the Society handle the logistical details.
The AAS publishes the Astrophysical Journal, the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, and the Astronomical Journal through its publishing partner, the Institute of Physics Publishing. These journals contain more than 50,000 pages per year of peer-reviewed research in astronomy and astrophysics and are the highest-impact journals in the field.
Each journal has an Editor-in-Chief, a Deputy or Associate Editor-in-Chief, and Scientific Editors who directly oversee peer review of the content. AAS journals accept many types of content, including figures, tables, animations, computer code, and data. Our journals offer delayed open access, with an initial 12-month proprietary period, after which all content is freely available to the public.
Through its public-policy program, the AAS keeps members informed of major developments in Washington, DC, that impact the astronomical science community, especially at the key funding agencies: NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy. AAS policy activities are coordinated with those of other scientific societies and stakeholder coalitions.
The Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) is charged with following developments in science and public policy that may affect astronomy specifically and science more generally. CAPP formulates and carries out informational and advocacy initiatives and advises the AAS Council on policy issues. The John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow assists the Director of Public Policy and the CAPP in monitoring policy developments and implementing AAS policy initiatives.
The AAS Press Officer responds to media inquiries by providing referrals to suitable experts, suggesting story topics and illustration sources, and recommending scientists who are effective communicators on radio, TV, and other electronic media. Through the AAS press-release-distribution service, astronomy-related press releases from authorized representatives of universities and other organizations are forwarded by email to nearly 2,000 reporters, editors, broadcasters, and institutional press officers who cover astronomy and space science.
In preparation for AAS meetings, press, photo, and video releases are solicited: press conferences, photo opportunities, press tours, and seminars for science writers are arranged; and newswire advisories and a press kit are provided. Press conferences are webcast live for journalists unable to attend AAS meetings in person. Working with the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s EurekAlert! service, complimentary access to AAS journals is provided to accredited reporters not employed as astronomers.
Education & Public Outreach
The AAS seeks to increase public support for scientific research, improve science education at all levels, attract young people to careers in science and technology, and make evident the connections between science, technology, and prosperity. A top priority is to train the next generation of astronomers to become successful scientific researchers and educators. The Astronomy Education Board (AEB) provides advice on AAS education activities to the Council, the Executive Officer, and the Education Officer.
The Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureship Program involves a program of two-day visits to two-year colleges and four-year undergraduate institutions by professional astronomers. Oral and poster sessions on various aspects of astronomy education are regular features of AAS meetings, as are workshops on effective implementation of active-learning instructional strategies. Coordinated jointly with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), the AAS Astronomy Ambassadors program provides mentoring and training in education and public outreach via workshops held at our winter meetings.
Employment & Professional Development
In consultation with the Council and Executive Office, the AAS Committee on Employment oversees activities and services designed to expand the employments prospects of members. The AAS Job Register publishes more than 800 job announcements per year. The Career Center is available at winter AAS meetings for both job-seekers and employers. AAS winter meetings also feature a number of professional-development workshops that focus on interviewing, networking, and negotiation skills for professional astronomers or astronomers to be.
Awards & Prizes
To foster and recognize excellence in astronomy, the Society awards or jointly awards with other organizations prizes for outstanding contributions to astronomical research, instrumentation, education, and service. The AAS Divisions (see below) also award prizes for excellence in their disciplines.
The AAS has six subject-specific Divisions. From largest to smallest, they are the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD), the Solar Physics Division (SPD), the Division on Dynamical Astronomy (DDA), the Historical Astronomy Division (HAD), and the Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD).
The Divisions hold their own scientific meetings, the largest three at independent times and locations from the general Society meetings, and the latter three in conjunction with AAS winter and/or summer meetings. They also award prizes, organize sessions as part of AAS meetings, and work to promote the interests of their sub-disciplines both within the Society and in the larger public sphere.