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David J. Helfand
Columbia University

From close-up pictures of water-sculpted pebbles on Mars, to the detection of galaxies at the boundary of the Dark Ages, discoveries in our field continue to advance our understanding of the Universe and to fascinate legions of the public who support our inquiry. Unfortunately, we do not see similar progress in the political sphere, even now that the consequences have been spelled out of allowing budget sequestration to hit every government agency in January. The election will, no doubt, provide a new ground-truth within which our elected representatives must work, but it is unlikely to contribute to the bi-partisan spirit necessary to address seriously the nation’s budget problems.

It is into this environment that the National Science Foundation Astronomy Division’s Portfolio Review Committee released its report in late August. My personal opinion is that the Committee did an extremely good job working with the scenarios they were given. They scrupulously held to the scientific priorities of the Decadal Surveys and were meticulous in creating an inventory of the resources we have—and the facilities we need—to carry out the research that supports those priorities. They were sensitive to the dislocations their recommendations could cause and cognizant of their impact on the astronomical workforce. Finally, they were creative in recommending new, and re-balanced, programs to support innovation despite the current, highly constrained circumstances.

I carried this personal view of the Report into the process by which the Society issues public statements. Members should know that this process involves consultations among the seven-member Executive Committee plus, in the case of major public policy issues such as this, the fifteen-member Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy. It also includes the perusal of press releases issued by astronomical organizations and Congressional offices, as well as listening to the opinions of individual members who contact any of the nearly two dozen people formally involved. The process also generates many iterations and a great deal of word-smithing. The product of this process can be seen on the AAS website.

It is my experience that getting twenty people—who, by design, represent different constituencies, arise from different backgrounds and are shaped by different life experiences—to agree on the wording of a document is an impressive accomplishment. It also runs the risk of producing a less than compelling text, given the necessary compromises involved. After this exercise, however, it occurred to me that we should perhaps offer our services in the form of workshops for Congressmen on how to get things done. Unfortunately, Congress immediately left town.

Since I am granted this space to unburden myself of my opinions, however, I will use it to make one point with greater emphasis than our consensus document allowed.

There is no doubt that the closing of any public-access observing facility will be painful for a significant portion of our community and that dislocations will ensue. However, as the Portfolio Review makes clear, even in budget scenarios more rosy than the more optimistic one they considered, it is simply not possible to both keep all current facilities open and to proceed with the ground-breaking new facilities—ALMA, LSST, ATST, etc.—that we deem essential to our continued exploration of the Universe. Not possible, that is, unless one essentially eliminates individual investigator grants.

Now, an argument can be made (and I have even been known to posit it as an abstract concept) that it is possible to explore the Universe without grants but it is not possible to explore the Universe without telescopes. However, speaking of dislocation, the end of grants would require a complete restructuring (naively, elimination) of graduate training, of postdoctoral research, and of innovation in the laboratory—all outcomes inimical to our continued progress and devastating to workforce development. Of all the opinions we heard, none advocated eliminating the grants program.

But here is the critical point: while you can be certain that Congressmen and Senators representing affected facilities will rally to the cause of keeping them open (we have already seen the first “over my dead, cold body” press release), I can not imagine a groundswell of support on the Hill defending your $85K per year NSF grant. It is relatively straightforward for a Representative or Senator to get directives to the Foundation written into the Authorization and Appropriations bills—“Thou shalt not close that facility”—but it is highly unlikely that the same Congressman will add all the funds required to both avoid the closure and leave the grants programs unscathed.

I am, of course, in favor of continuing to make the case that our stunning scientific successes and our massive impact on both education and the public imagination deserve the funding profile envisioned by the Decadal Surveys. But with trillion-dollar-plus deficits, a tax policy that is a travesty, and entitlements growing far faster than inflation, it is going to be a very hard sell. And, as the Committee’s report notes repeatedly, one cannot responsibly cease to operate facilities overnight—it will take years. If work is not begun now on the task of reducing the burden of facility operations costs on the Astronomy Division budget, the consequences a few years hence could be dire indeed.

I believe it is in the collective interest of our membership that we not allow the distribution of the federal resources we are allocated to be further politicized. The Portfolio Review Committee was a Committee of our peers making their best judgments in the interest of our science. Reasonable people can, of course, disagree with details of their conclusions, but I hope that we can remain united in our support of peer review as the basis of resource allocation, and supportive of an allocation that retains a strong program of individual investigator grants.

Meanwhile we continue with our mission to “enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.” A major display of our progress will take place in Long Beach during the second week in January. I hope to see you there.

Kevin B. Marvel
Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society

By the time you read this column, the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting for 2012 will be history and the results will no doubt be bouncing around the Internet. The AAS is proud to help organize the annual meeting of the DPS when it is held in the US and support our largest Division to accomplish their goals. We have expanded and improved our support for all of our Divisions in the last several years, with what I think are very positive results. Our Divisions play a central role in our Society by bringing focus to specific areas of our diverse science. The annual meetings of our Divisions, some who meet with us, some on their own and some, occasionally, with other organizations, allow communities of specialists the time and space to share their results, build new collaborations and chart a course for exploration and discovery. If you are not a member of a Division, consider joining one. The cost is low for full AAS members and any member may join any Division. Full details are available on our web pages.

The Long Beach meeting in January is setting up to be a record-breaker. We had hundreds more abstracts submitted for this meeting than for the Austin meeting, so attendance should be higher and may break the 3000 barrier, typically only exceeded at our winter meetings in Washington, DC. This is a welcome result, as it means the community values AAS meetings. The program is carefully crafted by our Vice Presidents and organized by our talented meeting staff, but the core of our meetings is you, our members! We could not have a meeting if you did not show up, so thank you for registering and attending. If you have ideas on how to improve the meetings, just let one of your elected leaders or me know and we will take your ideas into consideration.

Our goal is to always improve, never letting “good-enough” be enough.

Annual membership renewal is under way and I want to point out that by renewing early, you save the Society considerable expense. We do not like losing members, so when people do not renew during the early part of the renewal process, we work hard to find them, communicate with them and bring them back into active membership status. Membership benefits are turned off early in the new year, so do not wait, renew today!

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

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 ( 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!

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

NSO Observing Proposal Deadline - 15 November: Service Mode Information
The current deadline for submitting observing proposals to the National Solar Observatory is 15 November 2012 for the first quarter of 2013. Information is available from the NSO Telescope Allocation Committee at P.O. Box 62, Sunspot, NM 88349 for Sacramento Peak facilities ( or P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, AZ 85726 for Kitt Peak facilities ( Instructions may be found at A web-based observing-request form is at Users’ Manuals are available at for the SP facilities and for the KP facilities. An observing-run evaluation form can be obtained at

Please note that the NSO will conduct a scheduling experiment at the DST/Sacramento Peak in preparation for ATST scheduling and operations. This experiment in service mode scheduling will take place in the first half of the quarter, leaving only the second half of the quarter available for regular scheduling. For further information on proposing for the experiment, contact The deadline for regular proposals will still be 15 November.

Proposers are reminded that each quarter is typically oversubscribed, and it is to the proposer’s advantage to provide all information requested to the greatest possible extent no later than the official deadline. Observing time at National Observatories is provided as support to the astronomical community by the National Science Foundation.

International Research Experience for US Graduate Students (IRES)
This program is administered by the National Solar Observatory (NSO), sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE), and is open to US graduate students in any discipline of astronomy or astrophysics who are US citizens or permanent residents, age 21 years or older, and have a passport. The main goal of the program is to expose potential researchers to an international setting at an early stage in their careers. The program will take place in Bangalore, India, under the auspices of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), a premier national center devoted to research in astronomy, astrophysics and related physics.

The program supports up to four summer research positions for 8 weeks starting 12 June 2013 (this start date is firm). For each participant, the program will provide a stipend of US $500 per week, round-trip air travel to/from India, accommodation, miscellaneous travel (field trips), incidental expenses, and medical expenses/insurance.

Additional information and application materials are available on the Web at All application materials must be received by 30 January 2013.

2013 Carnegie Observatories Graduate Research Fellowship
We announce the continuation of the Graduate Research Fellowship at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California. This Fellowship provides a stipend to graduate students interested in carrying out all or part of their thesis research under the supervision of a Carnegie Staff member, in residence at Carnegie. We encourage applications from current Ph.D. graduate students in astronomy from an accredited (US or non-US) university, pursuing thesis research in observational astronomy, theoretical astrophysics, or instrumentation development. The student must have completed all requisite coursework and examinations prior to arriving at Carnegie. The Fellowship, beginning in September, 2013, will be awarded for one year and may be renewed for two additional years. Foreign students should note that Carnegie can only consider applicants who hold or are eligible to obtain a J-1 visa.

Carnegie Observatories provides a vibrant environment for vigorous scientific research and academic excellence. Major areas of research include cosmology and the distance scale, physics of active galactic nuclei, searches for massive black holes, galaxy formation and evolution, galaxy groups and clusters, intergalactic medium, star formation, supernovae, star clusters, and nucleosynthesis and chemical abundances of stars.

Carnegie observing facilities at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile include the two 6.5-meter Magellan telescopes, the 2.5-meter du Pont telescope, and the 1.0-meter Swope telescope. In addition, the scientific Staff actively pursues research using a wide range of ground-based and space-based facilities, across the electromagnetic spectrum from radio to X-rays.
The application should include a curriculum vitae, bibliography, brief essay describing the applicant’s current research, research proposal based on a project sponsored by a Carnegie Staff member, transcript of grades, approval letter from the department head of the applicant’s home institution, and three letters of reference. Applications are due by 19 April 2013, 17:00 PST. Full details of the program and application instructions can be found at this web site:

Email inquiries may be sent to Dr. Luis Ho at

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

We are grateful for the following AAS members who have agreed to stand for election. Please support their dedication by voting. Members eligible to vote will be notified when the electronic ballot is posted on

President (vote for one)
Duties of a President:

  • Presides over Council meetings;
  • Serves on the Council as President-Elect, President and Past-President;
  • Presides over the Annual Business Meeting;
  • Chairs Executive Committee;
  • Represents the AAS at official functions and before other organizations;
  • Serves when required as official spokesperson for the AAS;
  • Appoints members to various AAS committees.

Term: One (1) year as President-Elect, two (2) years as President and one (1) year as Past-President

Chris Impey
Nominated Office: President
Affiliation: University of Arizona
Position: University Distinguished Professor, Deputy Department Head
Ph.D.: University of Edinburgh (1981)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Observational cosmology, AGN, multi-wavelength surveys, low surface brightness galaxies, astrobiology, astronomy pedagogy, science literacy, popular writing
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Shapley Lecturer (1993-2003, 2012-present)
  • Astronomy Education Review Editorial Board (2001-2005)
  • Vice President (2003-2006)
  • Executive Committee (2003-2006)
  • Membership Committee (2003-2004)
  • Chambliss Writing Award Committee Chair (2006)

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • Deputy Department Head, Department of Astronomy, Univ of Arizona (1998-present)
  • Associate Director, NASA Arizona Space Grant (1990-1995)
  • Kitt Peak National Observatory TAC (1994-1997)
  • Hubble Space Telescope Review Panel, Chair (1994, 1998)
  • NASA Long Term Space Astrophysics Review Panel (1995)
  • Organizing Committee, IAU Colloquium 171, The Low Surface Brightness Universe (1998)
  • Organizing Committee, ASP Conference 189, Teaching Introductory Astronomy (1998)
  • Organizer, Vatican Observatory Science and Education Conference (1998)
  • NOAO Long Term Proposal TAC (1999-2000)
  • Columbia University Biosphere-2 Advisory Board (1999-2001)
  • Space Telescope Users Committee (1999-2002)
  • NSF Extragalactic Astronomy Review Panel (2000)
  • Chandra Observatory TAC, Chair (2000, 2006)
  • Spitzer Observatory TAC (2003, 2004)
  • NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholars Review Panel (2003)
  • Hubble Fellowship Selection Panel (2004)
  • University of Washington Astrobiology Program Review (2005)
  • University of Toronto Astronomy Program Evaluator (2006)
  • Scientific Steering Committee, COSMOS Collaboration (2005-2012)
  • International Executive Committee, Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena (2005-2012)
  • Editorial Board, Encyclopedia of the Cosmos (2006-2009)
  • KPNO Director Search Committee (2006)
  • Organizing Committee, IAU Symposium 244, Dark Galaxies and Lost Baryons (2007)
  • Organizing Committee, Astrobiology: Expanding Views of Society and Self (2008)
  • Keck Observatory NASA TAC (2008-10)
  • Organizing Committee, Vatican Observatory SuperVOSS III Conference (2009)
  • Organizing Committee, Pontifical Academy “Study Week in Astrobiology” (2009)
  • Science for Monks Program, India, Cosmology Organizer and Lecturer (2008-2010)
  • Metanexus Global Network Initiative, Advisory Council (2008-2010)
  • Decadal Survey 2010, Education and Public Outreach Study Group, co-Chair (2009)
  • APS/AAPT “Using Astronomy to Teach Physics” Project Advisor (2010-present)
  • Board of Directors, Astronomical Society of the Pacific (2011-2013)
  • Cosmology and Consciousness Conference, Co-organizer, Dharamsala, India (2011)
  • Gordon Research Conference, Physics Research and Education, Advisory Panel (2011)
  • National Science Foundation, Astronomy “Portfolio Review” Committee (2011-2012)
  • The Art and Craft of Science Writing, Princeton University, Organizer (2012)
  • Communicating Science, ASP Annual Meeting, Local Organizing Committee (2012)
  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Awards and Publications Committees (2012)

Statement: Our profession is in robust health, with access to an unprecedented array of observational facilities, and a research enterprise making advances in areas from exoplanets to cosmology. Despite our small size as a discipline, we have great power to engage and inspire the public. However, we face stresses and challenges, in particular a limited “supply” of jobs, grants and other resources, relative to the “demand” from a growing corps of researchers. The AAS is the glue that binds us professionally. This is most visible with meetings and stewardship of journals, but equally important with efforts to promote astronomy and pure research in the national policy arena. I would be honored to serve as AAS President and help shepherd the society through turbulent waters. I can bring to the position a broad, multi-wavelength perspective as a researcher, and a commitment to education and outreach. The health of the profession needs AAS advocacy to improve career opportunities for young researchers, and to make progress in recruiting and retaining women and minorities. My participation in the Decadal Survey and the NSF Portfolio Review have given me a clear sense of the trade-offs that we will have to make to keep the profession strong.

Meg Urry
Nominated Office: President
Affiliation: Yale University
Position: Professor and Chair, Department of Physics; Director, Yale Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics
Ph.D.: Johns Hopkins University (1984)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Black hole growth, galaxy evolution, blazars, high-energy astrophysics, multiwavelength surveys
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Councilor (2009-2012)
  • Council & Appointments Committee of the American Astronomical Society (2008-2011)
  • Committee on Public Policy (2006-2011)
  • Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy: Chair (2000-2003); member (1998-2000), (1994-1996)
  • Editor in Chief, STATUS (2000-2003); Contributing Editor (2003-present)
  • AAS Nominating Committee 1996-1998 and 2001-2004 (Chair 1997-1998);
  • George van Biesbrock (2012) and Annie Jump Cannon (1990) awards

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • Public Policy Committee of the American Physical Society (2011-present)
  • Astronomy Section Head, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010-2012)
  • American Association of Universities, NASA Presidential Working Group (2007-present)
  • Science Frontier Panel Chair (“Galaxies across Cosmic Time”) for the 2010 Decadal Survey
  • Led US delegations to 2002 and 2011 International Women in Physics meetings
  • Gemini Telescopes Board Member (2008-2009)
  • Space Telescope Science Institute Committee on Diversity, 2007-2011 (Chair 2007-2009)
  • NAS/NRC Co-Chair, Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (2004-2007)
  • NAS/NRC Board on Physics & Astronomy (2003-2007)
  • NAS/NRC Chair, Ad Hoc Committee to Assess Progress toward the Decadal Vision in Astronomy and Astrophysics [Mid-Course Review] (2004-2005)
  • NAS/NRC Space Studies Board (2000-2004); Executive Committee (2001, 2003)
  • Member of Committee on the Status of Women in Physics of the American Physical Society (2000-2002)
  • National Virtual Observatory Science Definition Team (2001)
  • NASA Space Science Advisory Committee (1997-2000)
  • NASA/SScAC Task Group on MO&DA (1998)
  • Writing for the public, on science and women in science, monthly column on
  • Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2008), Connecticut Academy of Science & Engineering (2007), American Women in Science (2006), American Physical Society (1999).

Statement: I am honored to be considered for this office. The AAS has been my home for over 30 years, and has worked hard to support its members. I believe science leadership has never been more important, and that the nation needs scientists and engineers more than ever. We face a growing anti-science climate and the danger that scientists could be seen not as impartial deliverers of truth but as one more special interest group. The AAS has to speak for the importance of STEM education and literacy, for the importance of scientific research and discovery, and for the benefits that ensue for the public. As a professional society, we must continue to support students and young scientists, making sure they have broad career opportunities, and we must ensure the full utilization of talent. I will try to be an effective exponent on behalf of the AAS. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Vice-President (vote for one)
Duties of a Vice-President:

  • Serves on Council;
  • Responsible for selecting invited speakers for AAS meetings;
  • Responsible for overall scientific content of AAS meetings;
  • Two senior Vice-Presidents serve on the Executive Committee.

Term: three (3) years

Chryssa Kouveliotou
Nominated Office: Vice President
Affiliation: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
Position: Astrophysicist
Ph.D.: Technical University of Munich (1981)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Gamma- and X-ray emission from High Energy transients, such as Gamma-Ray Bursts, Magnetars, Supernova Remnants, X-ray Binaries
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • HEAD Executive Committee (1994-1996)
  • AAS Council (2007-2010)
  • HEAD Chair (2008-2010)

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • Chair of the Division of Astrophysics of the American Physical Society (2003)
  • Member of the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA) of the National Academy of Sciences (2003-2006)
  • Vice Chair of COSPAR Commission E (2010 - present)
  • US IUPAP Representative for Committee 19 (Astrophysics) (2012- present)
  • Board member of the American Association of the Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) (2011-present)

Statement: AAS is the internationally recognized representative of the US professional astrophysics communities, as well as their best and most successful advocate in the US Congress. My first AAS task was as a member of the HEAD (1994), followed by my election as a Councilor (2007), and as the HEAD Chair (2008). I filled the last two positions in my personal capacity, since my status as a civil servant does not allow me to do otherwise. Should I be elected as a Vice President, I will be happy to again do so: some of the most stimulating ‘vacations’ I had were during AAS and HEAD retreats.
    The main task of a Vice President is organizing the AAS meetings. Since these are the only fora where our largely diverse communities are coming together to exchange scientific results, it is of the outmost importance that these meetings are well-organized, comprehensive, attractive and successful. Moreover, this is where the young astronomers come to communicate their results, establish new collaborations, and, last but by far not least, network. I consider the latter essential for the survival and continuation of our broad community, especially in these adverse fiscal times. I commit myself to bring together astronomers worldwide, link amateur and professional communities, and ensure that young astronomers are given every opportunity to be heard.

Nancy D. Morrison
Nominated Office: Vice President
Affiliation: The University of Toledo
Position: Professor of Astronomy Emerita
Ph.D.: Univ. of Hawaii (1975)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Stellar spectroscopy, supergiant stars, stellar winds, binary stars, variable stars
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (1978-1979)
  • Nominating Committee (1981-1984), Chairman (1982-1983)
  • Annie J. Cannon Award Advisory Committee (2002-2005)
  • Council (2008-2011)
  • Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (2010-2013), webmaster, STATUS Associate Editor

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific Board of Directors (1985-1991), Executive Committee (1987-1991), Awards Committee (1987-1991), Chairman (1988-1991)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science, Section D: Nominating Committee (1978-1981), Chairman (1980-1981), Section D committee (2009-2012), organized 90-minute symposium at 2012 AAAS annual meeting.

Statement: As always, it would be an honor and a privilege to further the mission of the AAS through service as an officer.

Responsibilities of the Secretary:

  • Voting Member of the Executive Committee and Council;
  • Preparing and distributing the agendas and minutes of Council Meetings;
  • Official signor for the AAS;
  • Sits on AIP Governing Board (when elected);
  • Member and Secretary, USNC-IAU;
  • Collects, counts and certifies ballots for all Society elections;
  • Solicits nominations for AAS awards; and
  • Selects session chairs for meetings.

Term: three (3) years

George F. (Fritz) Benedict
Nominated Office: Secretary
Affiliation: McDonald Observatory, University of Texas
Position: Senior Research Scientist (Emeritus)
Ph.D.: Northwestern U. (1972)
Areas of Scientific Interest: astrometry, space astrometry, low mass stars, binary stars, exoplanet detection and characterization
AAS Positions & Dates

  • Secretary (2010-present)

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • AAS Division on Dynamical Astronomy, Chairman (1998-1999)
  • Vice-Chairman (1997-1998)
  • Member, Executive Committee (1993-1995)

Statement: I have enjoyed being your Secretary over the past two years, even more than I had anticipated. I hope that my performance has earned your continued support.

Councilors (vote for three)
Duties of Councilors:

  • Serve as part of the governing board of the AAS; and
  • Have the legal responsibility to help make all decisions to manage, direct, and control the affairs and property of the Society.

Term: three (3) years

Sarbani Basu
Nominated Office: Councilor
Affiliation: Yale University, Department of Astronomy
Position: Professor
Ph.D.: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, University of Mumbai (1993)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Solar and stellar astrophysics using models as well as helio- and asteroseismic data from SDO and Kepler; physical processes inside stars; using seismology to test stellar evolution theory, study solar variability and the solar dynamo process; properties of exo-planet host stars with Kepler data; formation history and chemical evolution of the Galaxy.
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Member, Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize Committee (2008-present)
  • Chair, Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize Committee (2010-2011)
  • Member, Solar Physics Division’s Nominating Committee (2004)

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • National Solar Observatory Visiting Committee (2012-2013)
  • Member, Steering Committee, Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium (KASC) (2010 -present)
  • Committee of Visitors, Upper Atmosphere Research Section, Division of Atmospheric Sciences Section, NSF (2008)
  • Management Operations Working Groups (MOWG) of NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) program (2006-2008)
  • National Solar Observatory Users’ Committee (2005-2011)
  • Steering Committee of the Solar Physics Division Summer School (2005-2008)
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) (2003-present)
  • Data Users Committee, Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) (1999-present)

Statement: In an era of shrinking research budgets but expanding fields of research, the AAS plays a unique role in fostering public understanding and support of astronomy. In this era of increasing specialization, AAS provides a forum for astrophysicists of different flavors to communicate with each other and form a consensus opinion. My work straddles the day/night divide and bridges the interests of solar physicists and the night-time astronomers; these disciplines can learn a lot from each other but historically have not been in frequent communication.
    My interest in becoming an AAS council-member is three-fold. First, I believe that the grants programs of NSF and NASA are critical to the health of our profession and I would like to work to ensure that AAS continues to support these programs. Second, I support the activist role of the AAS in highlighting the impact of astronomy on STEM education and basic research; my efforts here will be to work within the AAS to lobby for increased support for science. Finally, I wish to foster communication between our sub-disciplines and between theory and observation, and I will be active in supporting AAS meetings and programs that achieve this goal.

Geoffrey Clayton
Nominated Office: Councilor   
Affiliation: Louisiana State University
Position: Ball Family Distinguished Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy
Ph.D.: University of Toronto (1983)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Interstellar and circumstellar dust, core-collapse supernovae, R Coronae Borealis stars, white-dwarf mergers
AAS Positions & Dates

  • Associate Editor of STATUS, the newsletter of the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (1988-1993)
  • Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (1992-1995, 2006-2009, Chair 2007-2009)
  • Small Research Grant Committee (2000)
  • Warner/Pierce Prize Committee (2000-2001, Chair 2001)
  • Chrétien International Research Grant Committee (2002-2003, Chair 2003)

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • Visiting Senior Scientist, NASA Headquarters (1988-90)
  • IUE, SMEX, ADP, NOAO, HST, and SST Review Panels (1991-2012)
  • NASA Office of Space Science Policies and Processes for Peer-Reviewed Science Grants Review Panel (1995)
  • Council of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) (2002-03)
  • IAU Working Group on Women in Astronomy (2010-present)
  • Editorial Board of the Journal of the AAVSO (2011-present)

Statement: In these uncertain economic times, the AAS is more important than ever. We hear a lot these days about “engines of the economy.” In this era of funding cutbacks, the case must be made strongly that two of the most important economic “engines” are science education and basic research. Maintaining scientific literacy in the United States is very important. We must continue to make the point that the payoff for investments in the areas of science education and basic research is huge, and astronomy, in particular, has the ability to inspire great interest in science.
    I will bring a great variety of experience with me if elected. I came to the United States as a newly minted Ph.D., and have lived and worked here ever since. I spent over a decade on soft money, and two years at NASA as a program officer before getting a tenure-track position. I’ve had a career-long interest in increasing diversity in astronomy and am keenly interested in assuring equal opportunity in science for everyone. However, there is a real danger that the gains we have made as a society in increasing the diversity of our membership may be lost if we enter a prolonged period with few tenure track positions available. If elected, I will work through the society to maintain and enhance the key areas of science education, basic research, and diversity.

Dawn M. Gelino
Nominated Office: Councilor
Affiliation: NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI), IPAC, Caltech
Position: Staff Scientist and Science Affairs Task Lead
Ph.D.: New Mexico State University (2001)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Exoplanets, Interacting Binaries
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Member (1997-Present)

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • AAS, HEAD, and DPS attendee/presenter (1997-Present)
  • AAS and DPS exhibitor (2004-Present)
  • AAS Workshop co-organizer and panel member: “Careers 101: Career Planning Workshop for Graduate Students and Postdocs” (2012, 2013)
  • AAS Employment Committee discussion panel member: "The Astrophysics Postdoc Job Market"  (2012)
  • AAS Council presenter: Successfully presented to AAS Council on behalf of the named NASA Astrophysics Fellowship programs to state our case against the AAS Employment committee proposal to move the postdoc decision deadline back to later in the year. (2009-2010)
  • NExScI Science Affairs Lead: Coordinate between NExScI, NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP), and the exoplanet community (2007-Present)
  • SOC/LOC chair/member for 20+ international exoplanet meetings (2007-Present)
  • NASA Keck Operations Scientist: Administer NASA’s portion of time on Keck telescopes, Keck PI Data awards, Keck/IRTF Management and Operations Working Group (2007-Present)
  • NASA Sagan Exoplanet Program Scientist: Summer Workshops, Postdoctoral Fellowships, Fellows Symposia (2008-Present)

Statement: I have attended 90% of the AAS and DPS meetings since I began graduate school in 1996. My first Washington AAS meeting was overwhelming. There were so many astronomers! I quickly learned, however, that the opportunities to network at AAS meetings are invaluable. In today’s difficult funding environment, this inward-looking aspect of the AAS has never been more important. Similarly, looking outward into the world of science policy, the AAS’s role as a voice for our science is more critical than ever.
    As coordinator of NASA’s Sagan Fellowship program, I have had the opportunity to interact with graduate students and postdocs and to become sensitive to their struggles to find rewarding career paths. I have led AAS Career Planning Panels and have represented NASA’s Einstein, Hubble, and Sagan Programs before the AAS Council when critical postdoctoral issues were being discussed.
    As a member of the AAS Council, I would work to provide additional opportunities for networking and job placement, and to enhance family-friendly policies at our institutions. As a working scientist, I would work to ensure that the excitement of our field was conveyed to the broadest possible audience.

Jeff Mangum
Nominated Office: Councilor
Affiliation: National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Position: Scientist
Ph.D.: University of Virginia (1990)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Galactic and extragalactic star formation, Radio, Millimeter, and submillimeter-wave measurement calibration, Radio astronomical instrumentation, Antenna systems
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Committee on New Communications (2007-2008)

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • NRAO Student and Visitor Programs Coordinator (2008-present)
  • NRAO Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program coordinator (1996-present)

Statement: The general public’s fascination with our profession is our strength. Use the term “Big Bang” or “galaxy” in conversation with your non-scientist friends and they invariably know what you are talking about. But how is an understanding of the universe connected to the economic and political realities of life on Earth? Why should the general public financially support astrophysical research?
    Scientists and engineers improve our lives by developing new ways for us to communicate and analyze the world around us. All of this work of discovery and development is done by people who are trained as scientists, who themselves were trained by the scientists that came before them. Astrophysicists are educators who train future generations to think like scientists.
    Unfortunately, this connection between science in our everyday lives and the financial support for our profession is often lost to the politicians who provide this support. The AAS must continue to strengthen our message of science education to the general public and the politicians whom they represent. This should include resources which will help our membership effectively interact and communicate as educators. With this connection between our research endeavors and education the general public will see the value to our profession.

Dara J. Norman
Nominated Office: Councilor
Affiliation: National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Position: Assistant Scientist
Ph.D.: University of Washington (1999)
Areas of Scientific Interest: AGN, Galaxy Evolution, Gravitational Lensing
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (2006-2012)
  • Demographics committee (2010-present)
  • Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:
  • Organizer for AAS special sessions: “Mentoring a New Generation of Minority Astronomers,” (2009), “Mentoring Astronomers: Students to Faculty,” (2010), “Strategies for Addressing Harassment and Prejudice,” (2011) and “Straight Talk About an Astronomical Career: A Professional Development Session,” (2012)
  • AAS representative at the AWIS AWARDS workshop on diversifying AAS candidates for scholarly awards, recommendations sent to the council.
  • Co-author of an invited testimonial for the NRC on Women of Color in Astronomy
  • Principal Organizer and Co-author for the Decadal Survey white papers, “Significantly Increasing the Numbers of Minorities in Astronomy in the Next 10 Years” and “Research Science and Education: The NSF’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship”
  • AURA/NOAO Diversity Advocate (2009-present)

Review Panels:

  • NSF review panel for Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship (2009)
  • Chandra X-ray Observatory review panel (2007)
  • NASA review panel for Beyond Einstein Foundation Science (2006)
  • NSF review panel for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) sites (2004)
  • NSF review panel for observational cosmology (2003)

Additional committee experience:

  • Joint Annual Meeting of the National Society of Black Physicists and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists Program Committee co-Chair & Executive Committee member (2011)
  • DECam Workshop, Scientific Organizing Committee (2011)
  • Internal Search Committee for KPNO Director (2010)
  • National Society of Black Physicists, Co-chair ASTRO committee (2010-present)
  • NOAO Search Committee (2009)
  • Women in Astronomy, Organizing Committee (2009)
  • AURA Workforce and Diversity Committee (2009-present)


  • IAU member (2003-present)
  • National Society of Black Physicists member (1996-present)
  • AAS member (1993-present)

Statement: My goals while on the council will be to insure that the AAS provides strong support of members, their teaching and research, and the community‘s long-term scientific goals. I will continue to work on expanding support for ALL members in their diverse career goals. In difficult budget times, support for career development of members must be a focal point of the society’s activities, as well as scientific advocacy. As a member of the CSMA, I have worked towards these goals through the organization of AAS special sessions and workshops to promote diversity and mentoring. As a council member, I would advocate for more such development workshops. As a member of the AAS Demographics Committee, I have been active in identifying ways in which the society might better understand the community‘s workforce challenges and promote practices that better serve the membership. Examples include exploring changes to scholarly award requirements that eliminate researchers who must take career breaks, or recommendations that better support career/life balance practices. I have also been able to attend high-profile events that allowed me to discuss STEM career issues with policy makers, like support for graduate student and postdoctoral healthcare. I hope to bring my experience to the council.

Nicole S. van der Bliek
Nominated Office: Councilor
Affiliation: NOAO
Position: CTIO Director (Interim)
Ph.D.: University of Leiden (1997)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Young stars, infrared astronomy, instrumentation
AAS Positions & Dates: N/A
Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • Member of IAU-OAD Taskforce “Astronomy for Universities and Research” (Office of Astronomy for Development, (2012-present)
  • Site Director for 2002 CTIO REU program and oversight of CTIO Student Programs coordinator (2002–2012)
  • Chair of Review Committee of “La Silla Operations 2010+” (2010)
  • External reviewer Gemini-Conicyt Fund for the “Development of Astronomy and related sciences” (2010 & 2011)
  • Member of several Time Allocation Committees, both USA (2005–2006) and Chilean (2009 & 2011)

Statement: It is an honor to be nominated to serve on the AAS Council, and I look forward to being able to contribute to the AAS mission of representing and serving the US astro-community.
    I became part of this community when I joined the NOAO staff twelve years ago and I joined the AAS not much later. The AAS has been a tremendous resource for me to learn about and participate in the US astro-community, and I have developed a large professional network through the AAS. These elements of the AAS are particularly important for junior members of the society and as a Councilor I would support the AAS career development activities and encourage early-career scientists to become active AAS members. This kind of support fits well with my responsibilities at NOAO, where I am actively involved in the mentoring program.
    At NOAO, I enjoy the fact that we support astronomers to use the telescopes and instruments and one of my strengths is helping to facilitate (young) scientists to carry out their research and develop themselves. I choose to work at a national observatory, because I believe open access is important. Providing services for the wider astronomical community is a key function of both NOAO and the AAS and as a Councilor I will be able to bring my experience at NOAO to benefit the AAS.

Nominating Committee (vote for two)
Duties of Nominating Committee:

  • Nominate candidates for the positions of Officers and Councilors of the AAS for election by membership. For positions of Treasurer, Secretary, and Education Officer, the decision is made in consultation with the Executive Committee of the AAS.

Term: three (3) years

Rica Sirbaugh French
Nominated Office: Nominating Committee
Affiliation: MiraCosta College
Position: Professor of Astronomy
Ph.D.: N/A
Areas of Scientific Interest: star clusters, modeling stellar evolution, astronomy education and outreach, astronomy education research, faculty professional development
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Astronomy Education Board (2012-present)
  • Employment Committee Panelist (2012)
  • Columnist, Spark: The AAS Education Newsletter (2009-present)
  • IYA 2009 Working Group for Research Experiences for Students, Teachers, and Citizen Scientists (2008-2009)
  • Chambliss Award Judge (2008)
  • Society Member (1995-present)

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • Program Director for Astronomy, MiraCosta College (2004-present)
  • Coordinator, Professional Development Programs (MiraCosta College: 2011-present)
  • Coordinator, State of California Flexible Calendar Program (MiraCosta College: 2011-present)
  • Board of Directors, North County Higher Education Alliance (San Diego County: 2011-present)
  • Fellow, Collaboration of Astronomy Teaching Scholars (CAE/CATS: 2008-present)
  • Coordinator, SoCal Regional Teaching Exchange (Center for Astronomy Education [CAE]: 2010-present)
  • Member, AAPT (2001-present)
  • Member, ASP (1995-present)
  • Member, AAAS (2005-10)
  • Member, California Science Teachers’ Association (2008-10)
  • Member, Council on Undergraduate Research (2007-08)

Statement: In my 17 years as a Society member, I have been simultaneously awed and proud to witness the continual succession of amazing individuals willing to devote time and effort by giving back to their Society. It’s quite the humbling honor to be included amongst those ranks. Representing the AAS means maintaining a careful balance in a variety of arenas: research, education, outreach, policy, and budgets, just to sample a few. This balancing act highlights just how critical it is to maintain strong and open connections with the public – the future of astronomy. The Nominating Committee may have one of the most difficult charges of all: data-mining the Society membership for those best-suited, willing, and able to cultivate those connections at the highest levels of representation. The wealth of diversity in our membership, experiences, and interests ensures those individuals exist. It is up to the Nominating Committee to seek out the most dynamic and innovative of our neighbors and convince them that we’re right: we need you to help shape the future of astronomy, “to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.” I always did enjoy a challenge...

Massimo Marengo
Nominated Office: Nominating Committee
Affiliation: Iowa State University
Position: Assistant Professor
Ph.D.: 2000
Areas of Scientific Interest: Infrared Astronomy, Evolved Stars, Young Planetary Systems
AAS Positions & Dates: N/A
Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • NASA Review Panels: ADAP, SOFIA, Spitzer, Hubble, Solar System Origin, ADP/LTSA (2001-2012)
  • NSF-AST Review Panel (2006-2012)
  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Review Panel (2007)
  • Science Opportunity for the Warm Spitzer Mission Working Group (2007)

Statement: As a member of the AAS Nominating Committee I will work towards promoting an effective and diverse representation in the candidates for AAS office. The report of the Demographics Study Group for Astro 2010 has shown how diverse our community has become. The AAS has played an important role in supporting this diversity, which is fundamental to ensure that all parts of our society have equal chance to contribute to the progress of astronomy, and reach their full potential. This role must be protected and enhanced by ensuring that the AAS leadership will continue to be inclusive of all genders, minority status and institution type and size. This is essential to preserve the effectiveness of AAS in difficult budgetary times, when reduced public telescope time and funding will affect harder smaller institutions, the traditional hotspot for diversity. My experience in moving from a large research center (CfA) to a university setting, well connected to the local network of small colleges, gives me an important perspective on these issues. I will draw from this experience in seeking high quality and representative candidates to the AAS elections.

Jacob Noel-Storr
Nominated Office: Nominating Committee
Affiliation: Rochester Institute of Technology
Position: Assistant Research Professor
Ph.D.: Columbia (2004)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Astronomy Education and Outreach; Family Science Learning; Science Education Technology; Active Galactic Nuclei and Supermassive Black Holes; Radio Galaxies
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Astronomy Education Board (2004-2006)
  • Ad Hoc Committee on Future Communications in Astronomy (2006-2008)
  • Editor: Spark the AAS Education Newsletter

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office: N/A
Statement: I have been an active member of the American Astronomical Society community since beginning Graduate School, and remain a regular attendee at all Society meetings. I feel close connections to both the Scientific and Educational communities within the society, and if elected to this position, would look forward to the opportunity to strengthen those ties. Through my many interactions with the AAS, both in serving on committees, and through organizing regular events at conferences, I have a good grasp on ‘how things work’—valuable knowledge in helping to identify individuals who can be the best to continue to move our society forward. I am committed to doing my part to continue to drive the society in the direction of becoming a true community of colleagues, and would be dedicated to nominating great representatives of you, the astronomical community, to positions within our society.

Virginia Trimble
Nominated Office: Nominating Committee
Affiliation: University of California, Irvine
Position: Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Ph.D.: California Institute of Technology (1968)
Areas of Scientific Interest: Structure and Evolution of Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe, and of the communities of scientists who study them
AAS Positions & Dates:

  • Vice President (1997-2000)
  • Chair sequence High Energy Astrophysics Division (1992-1993)
  • Historical Astronomy Division chair sequence (1997-2003)
  • Various times from 1970s to present, External Awards Committee, Nominating Committee, Education Advisory Board, Panel on Astronomy and Public Policy, Centennial Committee, Russell Lectureship Committee, International Travel Grant Committee, Publications Board, Annenberg Prize Committee, Tinsley Prize Committee, Cannon Award Committee, Doggett Prize Committee, Chrétien Prize Committee, others

Other experiences and positions relevant to service in the AAS Office:

  • Adjectival editor, Astrophysical Journal (1989-1998)
  • Editor Comments on Astrophysics (1987-1997)
  • Vice Pres. IAU (1994-2000)
  • Press of Comm. 28 (Galaxies, 1994-1997)
  • President Div. VIII (Galaxies and the Universe, 2000-2003)
  • Pres. Div. XII (Union Wide Activities, 2000-2003)
  • Chair sequence APS Division of Astrophysics (1998-2001)
  • Chair sequence APS Forum on History of Physics (2004-08)
  • Member of APS Council & Executive Board (1997-2000)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science, Council (for Sect L, History, 2009-2012) and Committee on Council Affairs (2010-2012)
  • Various positions in International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Sigma Xi, AAPT, and other professional organizations

Statement: In principle, AAS, like most other organizations of scientists, is self-governing. This means we elect officers and council members who, one way or another, choose the executive officers who do a very large fraction of the work. But you can’t vote for folks who aren’t candidates, which, in turn, puts a fair amount of power in the hands of the nominating committee (yes, nominations by petition are possible, but very hard to organize!). As a result of having already held a number of elective and appointive positions in AAS and other societies, I think I know the community and those who do their fair share of the work and beyond fairly well. I am also old enough to remember the first time the AAS president was elected from between two formal candidates and so can try to be sensitive to who might
be lost as a major worker for AAS if not chosen.

Members eligible to vote will be notified when the electronic ballot is posted on

Members for whom we do not have email addresses will receive a paper ballot by first class mail. You may verify your email address at and if necessary send corrections to

Any other member wishing to use a paper ballot may request one by phone (202) 328-2010 ext. 115, fax (202) 234-2560 or by email to If possible, include your member number with your request.

Jason S. Kalirai
Project Scientist for JWST (STScI)
Space Telescope Science Institute

The Space Telescope Science Institute

The JWST Science Operations Design Reference Mission (SODRM)

The scientific potential of JWST is most often characterized through its four primary science themes, “Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life,” “Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems,” “Assembly of Galaxies,” and “First Light.” The questions behind these themes emerged in the “Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millenium Decadal Survey” (2000), and set the challenges for a telescope that offered huge gains in sensitivity, resolution, and multiplexing over NASA’s Great Observatories. While JWST answers these specific challenges, its unique capabilities also offer unprecedented opportunities to advance other topics that are at the forefront of astronomical research today.

Over 50 astronomers from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), and the Science Instrument teams recently came together to develop a scientific program for JWST as a simulation of its normal science operations. This new Science Operations Design Reference Mission (SODRM) overhauls the 2005 version, which was built around simpler instruments, early operational concepts, and the four mission science themes. The new SODRM brings the observatory and instrument capabilities up to date and adds a number of science topics that have evolved rapidly in the years since the 2005 SODRM. It also provides our best estimate of the range and depth of scientific investigations that JWST will carry out (see Figure 1).1 The new program includes 112 programs, complete with Phase II files in the Astronomers Proposal Tool (APT), for a total of 849 days of observing time. These programs provide a realistic test bed for the design and implementation of the JWST ground system at STScI, and for simulating the operating schedule for the observatory and its instruments.

The new SODRM is available at

The input submitted to the SODRM represents hypothetical, but realistic, scientific investigations from a broad cross-section of scientists. Not surprisingly, the results represent a balanced program in subject area (see Figure 2), including approximately equal fractions in Milky Way and stellar populations science, exoplanets, and nearby galaxies. A significant fraction of the SODRM science cases are dedicated to studies of our Solar System, while the majority of the programs focus on observations of the high redshift Universe. The distribution of SODRM targets on the sky is shown in Figure 3.

Solar System

The investigations submitted to the SODRM fully exercise the diverse modes of JWST operation. For example, a rich Solar System science case emerges from combining JWST’s 20+ imaging, spectroscopic, and coronagraphic modes (see Table 1) with its vantage point at L2 and pointing control system. The latter will enable observations of objects moving at rates up to 30 milliarcseconds per second, sufficient to track planets, moons and asteroids beyond Earth’s orbit. For Mars, NIRSpec and MIRI IFUs can obtain synoptic monitoring of gases, aerosols, and dust in the atmosphere over the entire disk, over time scales from a few minutes, weeks, to any other cadence. For giant planets such as Uranus and Neptune, JWST will provide unprecedented precision in exploring the chemistry and thermal balance of their atmospheres, including an analysis of the effects of seasonally varying clouds and storms. The diversity of the satellites of giant planets can also be studied with MIRI low-resolution spectroscopy and NIRSpec fixed slit spectroscopy. The sizes and compositions of these bodies provide information on the materials that are critical for planet formation, and these observations with JWST can be synergistic with planetary missions. At the outer reaches of the Solar System, JWST can make detailed surface composition measurements for any of the icy dwarf planets. This could possibly include the first detection of the low-temperature phase of solid N2, and also will enable studies of the time-variable thermal state of the surfaces (with MIRI 25 micron photometry). Other JWST Solar System science cases include Target of Opportunity (ToO) imaging and spectroscopic observations of bright comets, imaging observations of Kuiper Belt Objects to determine their diameters and albedos, searches for organics and hydrated minerals, water ice in main belt asteroids with NIRSpec medium resolution spectroscopy, and much more. More information on the JWST Solar System science case is available at


JWST’s exoplanet science case has become stronger since the 2000 Decadal Survey’s prioritization. The SODRM includes details on some of the core science opportunities, such as high signal-to-noise, transient, NIRCam imaging observations of Earth analogues to determine their radii and inclination angle, NIRISS, NIRSpec and MIRI spectroscopic transit observations to determine planetary atmospheres, and continuous NIRCam imaging of a rich stellar field to determine the frequency of hot Earths. JWST’s instrument suite also includes six coronagraphs and aperture mask interferometry capabilities (e.g., see Table 1). The SODRM includes applications of these tools to find and study exoplanets around nearby stars using new techniques. For example, the NIRISS non-redundant mask can be used to find the pristine population of newborn planets in young star-forming regions such as Taurus, and to study the timescale of planet formation within the first 10 Myr. This JWST mode can also fill a gap in the study of planet demographics by finding giant planets around young low-mass stars, stars that are too faint for extreme ground-based adaptive optics investigations. The NIRISS non-redundant mask will be able to detect planets of 1-3 MJup at separations of 3-20 AU around young and nearby low mass stars.

The Milky Way and Nearby Galaxies

JWST imaging and spectroscopic observations of nearby stellar populations will offer significant advances over current understanding. The SODRM includes descriptions of over a dozen science cases that fully take advantage of JWST’s sensitivity and resolution in the infrared bandpasses to enable fundamental advances in the study of debris disks, star forming regions, molecular clouds, dust formation, and much more. The wide wavelength baseline of JWST from 0.6 – 28.3 microns enables complete spectral energy distributions to be constructed for these sources, thereby enabling improved model comparisons of the interplay of different components. The SODRM also demonstrates that JWST’s study of nearby Milky Way stellar populations will provide new insights on fundamental relations such as the initial mass function (IMF) of stars. Deep NIRCam imaging will yield the clearest measurement to date on the shape of the IMF, and map its variation with environment. These studies can easily be extended to substellar objects to test physical models of cool objects, for example, through the L/T/Y dwarf transition. The JWST NIRSpec microshutter array also offers new opportunities to study dense stellar environments with spectroscopy. The multiplexing of the array, at high spatial resolution, will yield abundances and motions for individual stars across the Milky Way.

Ultra-deep Hubble imaging of Local Group galaxies such as M31 has been used in concert with large ground-based telescopes to establish exquisite data sets of the disk, bulge, and halo of a Milky Way analogue. This can include resolved measurements of the ages, abundances, kinematics, and surface brightness profile of the galaxy’s stars, both on and off of detected substructure. These studies can provide detailed tests to N-body simulations of galaxy formation. A promising science case for JWST in the SODRM is the extension of these studies to systems outside the Local Group. JWST NIRISS and NIRCam imaging will provide the first measurements of the resolved main-sequence turnoff of galaxies in the Sculptor group. These studies will provide crucial context to the differences we see between the Milky Way and M31. Other SODRM investigations of nearby galaxies include deep NIRCam imaging and MIRI medium resolution spectroscopy of Young Stellar Objects in the Magellanic Clouds, narrow-band imaging with NIRCam of cold gas in star forming regions, NIRSpec spectroscopy of compact clusters to resolve age/metallicity degeneracies, a range of ISM studies in nearby galaxies, IFR observations of extragalactic HII and star forming regions, coronagraphic observations of AGN in more distant galaxies to establish correlations between AGN mass and host galaxy mass, and much more.

Distant Galaxies and Cosmology

“First Light” is one of the four major science themes for JWST and a key driver of its capabilities. The SODRM includes programs that push the workhorse camera, NIRCam, to discover the first observable galaxies at redshifts of 10 - 15. MIRI will observe the rest-frame optical bands of these galaxies to trace the buildup of stellar mass in the first generations of galaxies. NIRSpec and NIRISS will be able to observe star formation in these galaxies using nebular emission line spectroscopy. These ultra-deep observations have always been the driving force behind JWST’s deep infrared capabilities, and their inclusion in the SODRM ensures that the flight and ground systems can support this core JWST science. In addition, the SODRM also includes searches for the end of cosmic reionization, and the first QSOs, and unique signatures of galaxy formation in spatially resolved spectroscopy of galaxies at z = 2-6. The SODRM also includes a program for intensive followup of z > 1 SNIa for measurements of the cosmic acceleration in the rest-frame infrared where the systematic error from reddenning in the host galaxy is minimized. Finally, the SODRM will test our system for following up Targets of Opportunity (ToOs) with a program for spectroscopy of high-z gamma-ray burst afterglows that will probe the ISM of the host galaxies just after the burst and then measure the much fainter spectrum of the host galaxy after the burst fades. All this adds up to a robust program of “first light” science that elaborates this important science theme with the latest ideas in this rapidly evolving field.

A Look Forward

The SODRM is a comprehensive, science-driven simulation of the JWST mission. As our system matures and the scientific frontier advances we will improve the SODRM with new science and operational information. In later years we intend to accept programs from the larger astronomical community to ensure a broad science program and robust tests of our system. This simulated science program will have fulfilled its purpose when the actual, community-driven science program of the mission is executed and new and surprising discoveries are made with a fully optimized Observatory.
1Actual JWST observing programs in its first years will consist primarily of programs competitively selected by the Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC), plus Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO).

Jarita Holbrook

Harvey and Victoria Bricker Awarded the 2013 Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize for Astronomy in the Maya Codices

The AAS Historical Astronomy Division’s Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize for 2013 will be awarded to Harvey M. Bricker and Victoria R. Bricker for Astronomy in the Maya Codices (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2011). The prize is for “the author(s) of the book judged to best advance the field of the history of astronomy or to bring history of astronomy to light.” The Brickers will receive their award on Monday afternoon, 7 January 2013, at a HAD session at the 221st AAS meeting in Long Beach, California, after which the Brickers will give their Osterbrock prize lecture, “Astronomical Records in the Hieroglyphic Writings of the Pre-Columbian Maya.”

During the conquest of the New World, nearly all of the written works of the Maya of Central and North America were destroyed. Fortunately for historians of astronomy, four major works survived that provide a window into Mayan astronomy: the Dresden Codex, the Grolier Codex, the Madrid Codex, and the Paris Codex. Astronomy in the Maya Codices brings together in one volume everything that is known about astronomy in these screen-fold hieroglyphic books.

The culmination of 30 years of collaborative research, this volume presents the Mayan glyphs, the calendar and counting system, the planetary cycles and their relations to the Mayan agricultural cycle, solar and lunar eclipse cycles, and more. The Brickers also include information from the other remaining codices, from artwork and engravings on stone monuments, and from Mayan myths and legends, while continually engaging with the research done by previous scholars as well as our modern understanding of the night sky. The Brickers have been thorough and exact in their research. They have created a definitive volume that will please experts on the Maya as well as historians of astronomy.

Harvey Bricker and Victoria Bricker are professors emeriti at Tulane University and are also courtesy professors of anthropology and research associates of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. Victoria Bricker earned her PhD in anthropology from Harvard. She has published consistently on the Mayan people. Her research into the astronomy of the Maya began with a study of the eclipse tables found in the Dresden Codex in the early 1980s. Harvey Bricker earned his PhD in anthropology from Harvard as well. His career includes studies of Paleolithic archaeological sites in France. He began collaborating with Victoria Bricker on the Maya astronomy materials in the 1980s. Astronomy in the Maya Codices contains all of their scientific findings from their previous works on the astronomy of the Maya as well as their analyses of other scholars’ findings and their new discoveries about the remaining codices.

This volume is ideal for teaching a section if not an entire class on Mayan astronomy because it requires no other text or articles: it is all here.