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On the Waterfront: AAS Returns to Long Beach

Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 14:51

Four years ago U.S. astronomers made a significant discovery: the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, where the AAS gathered for its 213th meeting. Smack in the “Waterfront Center of Southern California,” the facility sports a glass concourse and lobby offering expansive views of the scenic harbor and downtown skyline. A pedestrian promenade links abundant hotels, shops, restaurants, and attractions with more than five miles of sandy Pacific Ocean beaches. Throw in Southern California’s winter weather, which beats summer weather almost anywhere else, and it should come as no surprise that the AAS is heading back to Long Beach for its 221st meeting, 6-10 January 2013 (aas.org/meetings/aas221). As is often true of our annual winter gathering, this will be a joint meeting with the Society’s Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) and High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD).

We will have our usual pre-meeting education workshops on Saturday and Sunday, January 5th and 6th, to improve teaching and learning in introductory-astronomy classrooms. In addition, in partnership with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), the Center for Astronomy Education (CAE), and other organizations involved in science education and public outreach, we will offer our inaugural Astronomy Ambassadors workshop for early-career AAS members. This two-day workshop will help participants gain a better understanding of how people learn and what makes outreach to nonscientists effective. They will also get hands-on experience with materials already proven to meaningfully connect audiences with astronomy. In other outreach activities, AstroZone will set up at a high-traffic location near the convention center on Sunday to share the wonders of the universe with local students, families, and educators. In addition, we’ll invite local middle- and high-school students to drop by the meeting one day to visit the exhibit hall, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and interact with scientists.

The HAD meeting gets under way on Sunday afternoon, with special sessions entitled “Making Astronomy Public, Los Angeles Style” and “Preservation of Astronomical Heritage and Archival Data.” Next follow the undergraduate and opening receptions, at which you can enjoy ample food, drink, and camaraderie and then, if the mood strikes, take a relaxing stroll on the beach after dark.

The main science program kicks off on Monday morning with the Kavli Lecture by Tom Soifer (Caltech), who’ll talk about a decade of discovery with the Spitzer Space Telescope. There are no fewer than 16 more invited presentations throughout the week. Among the highlights will be the HEAD Rossi Prize lecture by Marco Tavani (INAF-IASF/Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”) on behalf of the AGILE mission team, the AIP/AAS Heineman Prize lecture on gamma-ray bursts and magnetars by Chryssa Kouveliotou (NASA Marshall), and an update on NASA’s Kepler mission by Natalie Batalha (San Jose State). Heather Knutson (Caltech) will give her Cannon Award lecture on the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres, Eric Ford (Univ. of Florida) will give his Warner Prize lecture on planet formation and evolution, and John Johnson (Caltech) will give his Pierce Prize lecture on the relationships between exoplanets and their parent stars. Dave Arnett (Univ. of Arizona), who has made seminal contributions to many fields throughout his career, including core-collapse and Type Ia supernova explosions, nuclear astrophysics, and hydrodynamics, has entitled his Russell lecture “Thinking and Computing.” See page 7 for news about the winners of the 2013 Osterbrock Book Prize, who will also give a lecture in Long Beach. Closing out the meeting on Thursday afternoon is the Berkeley Prize lecture by Eiichiro Komatsu (MPA) on the cosmological interpretation of seven years of WMAP data.

HAD and HEAD are collaborating on a special session celebrating 50 years of X-ray astronomy, and HEAD will sponsor a session on the first scientific results from the latest X-ray mission, NuSTAR, which was launched during the June AAS meeting in Anchorage. Early results from other new projects will appear in special sessions on the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Arrays (HERA), the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array (ALMA), the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT), and the Spitzer Survey of Stellar Structure in Galaxies (S4G). Other topics spotlighted in special sessions include high-resolution ultraviolet imaging with Hubble, astrophysics using high-precision photometry from Kepler, and the scientific promise of the CCAT submillimeter observatory, the Dark Energy Survey, and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
Our popular series of special sessions on professional development continues in Long Beach with dialogues on nonacademic career options, advocating for astronomy, childcare and family-leave policies, and initiatives to broaden the participation of women and minorities in astronomy.

Everyone interested in science policy, and that really should be everyone, is invited to attend the numerous Town Hall meetings to be held in Long Beach. Sponsoring agencies and projects include NASA, NSF, NOAO, NRAO, the National Research Council, JWST, Arecibo Observatory, and the Kepler mission.

First and foremost, AAS meetings offer the opportunity to talk with friends and colleagues about the latest advances in our scientific understanding of the universe. But they offer much more, especially when the venue is as attractive as Long Beach. Visit the regal Queen Mary and the spectacular Aquarium of the Pacific. Hop on a quick and pleasant cruise to Catalina Island. Or head off for a day of fun at Disneyland or Universal Studios Hollywood. Southern California has a lot to offer—and the 221st AAS meeting is just the beginning. See you in Long Beach!

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