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As I and the rest of the AAS Executive Office staff prepare the final details for the Boston meeting coming up 1-5 June, we are also looking ahead to 3-14 August 2015 for the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly in Honolulu. The General Assembly comes around once every three years, and it is a great honor for the US astronomy community to be hosting this next one. In the coming months the IAU will finalize the scientific program for the meeting, which is really the starting gun for our detailed logistical planning. By September 2014 we will have a website up and running for registration, abstract submission, lodging reservations, and general meeting information and details. We are getting all our contracts and plans in order for what I think will be a truly memorable and scientifically valuable General Assembly — and you can’t beat the location, lovely Hawaii, with lots of opportunities for recreation, tours of telescope facilities, chances to experience the welcoming Hawaiian culture, and the relaxing beaches.
I strongly encourage all US astronomers to plan now to attend this important scientific conference. Membership in the IAU will not be required to attend (nor will there be a registration rate difference), but only IAU members are able to participate fully in the detailed discussions of the divisions, commissions, working groups, program groups, and committees that help move our field forward worldwide.
For astronomers based in the US, an online application for IAU membership will be available in September around the same time that the main meeting webpage goes live. Some details are available now on the US National Committee of the IAU website. Astronomers join the IAU generally through their home-country national committees, but membership is also available directly to individuals. Details on joining the IAU can be found on the IAU website. However you join the IAU, doing so enables you to participate actively in the important projects and work that the IAU carries out.
If you missed our invitation video, you can check it out on the General Assembly homepage. It features AAS President David Helfand in a colorful shirt and former STSCI director and IAU past president Bob Williams sporting some awesome shades.
For many years it has been clear that the capability to easily disambiguate individuals with similar names would have benefits for scholarship. A broad-based initiative called ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) was formed in 2010, and the AAS joined as a founding sponsor in February 2011. Several hundred organizations are participating, including academic institutions, publishers, and scholarly societies. ORCID serves as a central registry that permits individuals to identify themselves and register their associated professional activities ― articles published, grants obtained, and awards received, for example. The use of an ORCID iD (yes, that’s how the ORCID community recommends writing it) for your identification will be increasingly important as you submit papers to journals, proposals to funding agencies, etc. Thus the AAS encourages all its members to obtain an ORCID iD, which you can do easily on the ORCID website.
Once you have your ORCID iD, you can add it to your AAS membership record. Go to members.aas.org, log in with your AAS username and password, and click on My Account in the main menu. On the page that comes up next, you’ll see a Contact Information box, which you can modify by clicking on the little “pencil” icon in the upper-right corner. You should enter your ORCID iD in the input box at the bottom of the Edit window, in the format 0000-0000-0000-0000 (i.e., including dashes), then click the Save button.
When you’re editing your member profile, you might notice another new field: Cell Phone. We strongly encourage you to provide the AAS with your cell-phone number. We will not publish members’ cell numbers in the AAS Membership Directory (neither the printed version nor the online version). We want these numbers only for internal purposes, for example, in case we need to reach you in an emergency during a Society meeting. Enter your cell number in the Cell Phone input box in the Edit window, make any other necessary/appropriate changes to your contact info, then click the Save & Close button.
Keeping your member profile up to date will enable us to serve you better, so thanks for doing it!
You've probably heard about the Internet security bug called "Heartbleed." This is a very serious and widespread bug that affects many secured online connections. Luckily the fix is easy and has been implemented quickly by many organizations, including the AAS.
A few of our servers were affected, but they were all updated within a day of the bug's announcement. We do not see any signs that we were targeted or that any of our members' information was compromised, including credit-card information.
Even though our systems, and many others, have now been patched, there are still many servers, workstations, and other devices across the Internet that have not yet been patched. Here are two online tools you can use to test whether a particular website has been patched or remains vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug:
Given how widespread the bug is and how significant the risks posed by it are, we strongly recommend that you change all your online passwords. Most Internet security experts recommend that you do not use the same password for multiple sites or systems. Maintaining tens of passwords sounds very difficult, but there are now several password-management tools available that actually make it quite easy. We encourage you to check these out and use the one you like best:
Here are a couple of tools that will help you test the strength of possible passwords. These sites are not affiliated with the AAS but appear to be safe, based on our examination of the code that does the testing. Even so, we do not recommend that you test the actual passwords you'd like to use. Instead, use these tools to get a rough idea of how secure or insecure your password ideas might be. You can easily see the effects of using longer passwords, numbers, special characters, and other things:
While we are not requiring you to change your AAS password, we recommend doing so as a precaution. Start at https://members.aas.org. Once you log in with your AAS username and current password, click "My Account" to change your password.
Some websites may ask you to change your passwords again in the very near future.
In its 90th annual competition for the United States and Canada, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded 177 Fellowships (including one joint Fellowship) to a diverse group of 178 scholars, artists, and scientists. Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants.
Among the recipients are two AAS members:
- Ray Jayawardhana, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics, University of Toronto. Ray's award is in the category Natural Sciences − Science Writing for a project entitled "Our Cosmic Selves."
- Sylvain Veilleux, Professor of Astronomy and Optical Director, University of Maryland, College Park. Sylvain's award is in the category Natural Sciences − Astronomy/Astrophysics for a project entitled "Miniaturization: The Next Wave in Astronomical Instrumentation."
The mission of the Guggenheim Foundation is to "promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding and the appreciation of beauty, by aiding without distinction on account of race, color, or creed, scholars, scientists, and artists of either sex in the prosecution of their labors." Since 1925 the Foundation has granted more than $315 million in Fellowships to almost 17,700 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates and poets laureate, as well as winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Fields Medals, and other important, internationally recognized honors.
The 2014 Guggenheim Fellowships were announced 10 April in a PDF press release. The Guggenheim Foundation website has a list of all of this year's Fellows sorted alphabetically or by field, as well as a PDF of the ad that ran in the New York Times.
Congratulations, Ray and Sylvain!
Some of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among the 2014 class of inductees are two AAS members:
- Neta Assaf Bahcall, Eugene Higgins Professor of Astrophysics, Princeton University
- Fiona Anne Harrison, Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics and Astronomy, California Institute of Technology
Dr. Bahcall is renowned for her studies of structure formation in the universe. She is a former AAS Vice President and established the AAS John N. Bahcall Public Policy Fellowship in memory of her late husband, a former AAS President. Dr. Harrison is principal investigator for NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), currently in orbit capturing images of the cosmos in high-energy X-rays.
Former AAS member Wayne Hu, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, was also elected to the Academy, as was nonmember Inez Fung, Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the Academy is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts, and education.
“It is a privilege to honor these men and women for their extraordinary individual accomplishments,” said Don Randel, Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “The knowledge and expertise of our members give the Academy a unique capacity — and responsibility — to provide practical policy solutions to the pressing challenges of the day. We look forward to engaging our new members in this work.”
The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on 11 October 2014 at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Margaret Meade and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.
— Adapted from a press release issued 23 April 2014 by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The AAS needs your help in getting due recognition for our most outstanding colleagues. Nominations and letters of support for the AAS prizes for 2015 must arrive in the Secretary's office by 30 June 2014. Members may obtain the prize-nomination instructions on our Prize Nominations page.
Submissions are welcome electronically (http://aas.org/about/grants-and-prizes/prize-nomination-form) or by mail (G. F. Benedict, McDonald Observatory, 1 University Station, Austin, TX 78712). Shortly after that date, they are distributed to the several prize committees. Consequently, late submissions cannot be accommodated.
In recent years the AAS prize committees have noted the small slates of worthy candidates from whom they may choose. This particularly applies to the junior prizes. To address this dwindling number of nominations your Council approved a change to the ground-rules for the Warner and Pierce Prizes. For these prizes (but no others) self-nominations are allowed, with a nomination package consisting of a CV, publication list, and three letters of support. The Warner and Pierce Prize Committee will be blind regarding self-nominations versus outside nominations. Please note: letters of support for the Warner and Pierce Prizes must not include any language indicating that the letter author is nominating the person.
Bear in mind that it is not only the monetary prize but also the honor and distinction that can mean so much to a young astronomer’s career. The award of a prize also adds luster to her/his department or institution in the eyes of the academic community.
Please address any questions regarding prizes to the AAS Secretary.
The Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) is pleased to announce a hands-on summer school for graduate students interested in education and outreach (E&O). This school will feature a week of practicum that will immerse participants in E&O; for example, presenting at the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, developing hands-on classroom activities, creating content with WorldWide Telescope, or developing Zooniverse/citizen-science program activities. The school will also include a one-day science-communication workshop presented by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, field trips to Chicago-area institutions, and a concise introduction to E&O basics.
- 16-27 June 2014, Chicago, IL
- Limited to 14 participants
- Accommodations provided, free of charge.
- Applications due 13 May 2014
Please share this with others who may be interested, especially graduate students. For more information and to apply, see the KICP E&O summer-school website.
— E&O Summer School Organizing Committee
Following a review process (the Portfolio Review) and due to financial pressures, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has determined that it can no longer provide operational support for the 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) after 30 September 2014. Therefore, NSF and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) are accepting proposals from parties interested in operating the KPNO 2.1-m and associated Coudé Feed telescopes. In accordance with the existing master lease agreement between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Tohono O'odham nation, the facilities are expected to be used for astronomical study and research and related scientific and educational purposes. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the Associate Director for KPNO, Dr. Lori Allen, before submitting their final proposal. Proposals are due by 7 July 2014 at midnight EDT and should be submitted to Dr. Allen. A decision on the proposals will be made by 31 August 2014.
As the second major telescope to be constructed on Kitt Peak, the 2.1-m saw first light in 1964 and has since been in continual operation by KPNO. The history of the telescope includes many important discoveries in astrophysics, such as the Lyman-alpha forest, the first gravitational lens, the first pulsating white dwarf, and the first comprehensive study of the binary frequency of solar-type stars. The 2.1-m is currently outfitted with a direct imaging CCD camera and is in nightly operation. The Coudé Spectrograph in the 2.1-m building is operable only with the Coudé Feed telescope, which is therefore included in this announcement of opportunity.
Proposals to operate one or both facilities are invited from institutions or consortia that are prepared to assume full responsibility — technical, scientific, and financial. Any proposed use of this telescope must be broadly consistent with the research and education missions of NSF and NOAO. Proposals with innovative educational and public-outreach concepts are particularly encouraged. The operating organization would continue to permit public access and/or guided tours to enter the existing public observation gallery in the 2.1-m during the daytime, subject to compatibility with the organization's operations activities. Furthermore, if compatible with instrumentation and operations, NOAO wishes to retain some telescope access for community users, with the details to be negotiated. NSF would expect to retain title to the facilities under a new operating organization. However, transfer of title is a possibility subject to further discussion.
For further details, see the full announcement of opportunity.
The following is adapted from a report by E. D. López (Quito Astronomical Observatory, Ecuador):
There is a relatively new field of scientific research devoted to studying the physical phenomena that take place in the atmosphere in close interaction with the Sun and its variable activity. This field has been denominated by space weather, and it includes a lot of interesting and complex phenomena currently poor understood that are waiting for sensitive instruments and adequate physical models.
Fortunately, activities such as the United Nations Basic Space Science Initiative (UNBSSI) through the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have provided over more than two decades a huge amount of support to establish regional centers for space science and technology in developing countries. Moreover, the United Nations initiative has played a pivotal role in organizing the scientific community around the world through the realization of space-science schools, symposia, and annual UN workshops such as those under the auspices of the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI). These events have facilitated communication between space-science students, engineers, and scientists, enabling agreements for educational programs, deploying instruments in new regions, and enhancing international cooperation in research projects.
The United Nations Space Weather Initiative (UNSWI) has involved leading scientists from around the world, who have participated in three meetings to follow up activities from the successful International Heliophysical Year 2007 (IHY). The first ISWI Workshop was hosted by Helwan University, Egypt, in 2010, for the benefit of nations in Western Asia. In 2011 the United Nations/Nigeria Workshop was hosted by the Centre for Basic Space Science of the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, for the benefit of nations in Africa. The third ISWI workshop was hosted by Ecuador in 2012 for the region of Latin America and the Caribbean.
At the Ecuador workshop key decisions were taken in order to give continuity to future activities in space science, technology research, and education. We took advantage of that workshop to promote space-science studies in Ecuador, starting with the creation of a new station supported by the Quito Astronomical Observatory of the National Polytechnic School. The new station began with the operation of the AWESOME instrument provided through cooperation with Stanford University (USA) and with the MAGDAS instrument provided by Kyushu University (Japan). This new Ecuadorian station, Solar Physics Phenomena, is now established as a division of the Quito Astronomical Observatory.
Ecuador is located in a strategic geographical position where solar-physics studies can be performed year-round, providing data for the scientific community working to understand Sun-Earth interactions. We invite leaders from other scientific projects to deploy their instruments in Quito and to join us in supporting our new strategic research center.
Note: The proceedings of the UN Ecuador Workshop on the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI), edited by E. D. Lopez and S. Gadimova, are published in the open-access journal Sun and Geosphere, Vol. 9 (2014), Nos. 1 & 2.