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First Media Advisory: 223rd AAS Meeting, 5-9 January 2014, Washington, DC

2 October 2013

Dr. Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116; cell: +1 857-891-5649

If you ask most people what big event occurs in Washington, DC, every four years, they’ll probably say the presidential inaugural. For astronomers and journalists who cover astronomy, though, the answer is the return of the AAS winter meeting — the “Super Bowl of Astronomy” — to the nation’s capital. The 223rd AAS meeting, 5-9 January 2014, will be held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, Maryland 20745. Set on 350 premium acres along the Potomac River with views of downtown DC and Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, the Gaylord is accompanied by more than 70 shops and restaurants and is just a 15-minute taxi ride from the capital. Of special note, rooms in the AAS block at the main hotel, operated by Marriott, are being offered to all attendees, including members of the news media, at the prevailing government rate.

The AAS offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and public-information officers (PIOs); see details below.

Gathering with the AAS in January are its Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) and High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD). The HAD meeting kicks off on Sunday afternoon, 5 January, with two sessions: “Why Is There Something Rather than Nothing in the Universe?” and “From Barnard’s Star to the Kepler Mission: Searching for Low Mass Companions to Stars.” Education and career workshops also occur on Sunday, and then the meeting officially kicks off with the AAS opening reception that evening.

Science sessions get under way on Monday morning with the Kavli Lecture by Robert Williams (Space Telescope Science Institute) on the legacy of the Hubble Deep Field. That’s just the first of a stellar lineup of at least 18 plenary talks by AAS prize winners and other distinguished astronomers. HEAD convenes two special sessions on Monday: “News from the Galactic Center: A Multiwavelength Update on the Sgr A*/G2 Encounter” and “Consistent Cluster Cosmology: What Are Planck, Sunyaev-Zel’dovich Telescopes, and X-ray Observations Telling Us?” Dozens more special sessions occur throughout the week, focusing on topics as diverse as education, the demographics of the profession, how to handle “big data,” present and future sky surveys, next-generation space-astronomy missions, and key problems in understanding planetary systems, stars, galaxies, and the structure and evolution of the universe itself.

The meeting will feature numerous public-policy Town Hall sessions. Representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Research Council will lead discussions about federal funding for the astronomical sciences and the effects of the ongoing battles between and within the White House and Congress. International Astronomical Union general secretary Thierry Montmerle will answer questions about the next triennial IAU general assembly, which the U.S. is hosting and the AAS is organizing in Honolulu in August 2015. The directors of NOAO and NRAO will provide status reports on our national optical and radio astronomy observatories, and the directors of the Thirty Meter Telescope and Giant Magellan Telescope will describe progress on these next-generation optical behemoths. There will be Town Hall discussions on Kepler, Hubble, and the James Webb Space Telescope too.

Two astronomers renowned for their success in sharing astronomy, and science more generally, with the public will speak at the DC meeting. Edwin C. Krupp (Griffith Observatory) will give the Gemant Award lecture after being presented with the American Institute of Physics annual prize for contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics. And Neil deGrasse Tyson (American Museum of Natural History), host of the forthcoming “Cosmos” reboot on Fox-TV and National Geographic Channel, will present “Tales from the Twitterverse, and Other Media Excursions,” a Monday-evening talk that will be open to the public.

Travel & Lodging

General information about travel and accommodations, including airline and rental-car discount codes, is online at

To reserve a room at the Gaylord at the special AAS meeting rate, click on the corresponding link or dial the phone number provided on that page.

Deadline for hotel reservations at the AAS meeting rate: 5 December 2013.

Complimentary Press Registration

The AAS offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and PIOs, as described at

To request complimentary press registration, send an e-mail message to AAS Press Officer Dr. Rick Fienberg with your name and media affiliation (or "freelance" if applicable). Upon confirming your eligibility, he'll send you the URL of an online registration form and the required press-registration code. Although press registration will be available on site at the meeting, we strongly advise you register in advance to avoid lines at the registration booth. Please send your e-mail request to as soon as you know you're coming to the meeting.

Press Arrangements

The AAS will operate a press office in the Convention Center, with working space, telephone, photocopier, printer, power strips, and Internet connectivity for reporters. Each registered journalist and PIO will have a mailbox there to receive all press releases distributed as hard copies at the meeting (most releases will be distributed only electronically).

Press conferences will be held each morning and afternoon, Monday, 6 January, through Thursday, 9 January, in an adjacent room that will be equipped with a sound system, mult-box, and Internet connectivity. Briefing audio, slides, and video will be available live via webcast to accredited journalists unable to attend in person; online participants will be able to ask questions of the presenters via text chat with an on-site press officer. Details will appear in a subsequent advisory.

Seminar for Science Writers, Thursday, 9 January 2014

In addition to the daily press conferences announcing new results being presented at the meeting, we're offering a seminar for science writers during the lunch break on Thursday, 9 January, titled "Everything You've Always Wanted to Ask About Near-Earth Objects: What We Know, What We Don't Know, What We Need to Know." This is an opportunity for both attending journalists and those covering the meeting remotely via webcast to come up to speed on we've learned from recent events such as the Chelyabinsk meteor, the latest government and private plans for planetary defense, and worldwide efforts at ground- and space-based finding, tracking, and characterizing of near-Earth objects. Speakers will be announced in a subsequent advisory. Thanks to Linda Billings, director of science communication at the National Institute of Aerospace, for her help in organizing the seminar.

Press Tour, Friday Morning, 10 January 2014

We invite you to extend your stay in the DC area through Friday morning, 10 January, when newsroom registrants will have an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; transportation will be provided. GSFC is the nation’s largest organization of scientists, engineers, and technologists who build spacecraft, instruments, and new technology to study the Earth, the Sun, our solar system, and the universe. Among other highlights of the tour, we’ll see components of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) coming together in the world’s largest cleanroom.

Space on the press tour is limited to at most two-dozen participants. To join the tour, please note your interest when you contact AAS press officer Rick Fienberg to request press registration; if you’ve already secured press registration, send a follow-up email to asking to be put on the list for the tour. First come, first served. Non-U.S. citizens will be asked to fill out some paperwork in advance to get through GSFC security.

If the press tour fills up, you may still be able to visit GSFC by joining one of two Thursday tours being organized for regular meeting attendees — unless they’ve already filled up too. These will involve bigger groups and fewer opportunities to get your questions answered, but they’ll cover much of the same ground. To sign up for one of the Thursday tours, contact AAS registrar Tracy Beale (phone: 202-328-2010 x106); be sure to identify yourself as a press registrant. Thanks to Lynn Chandler, JWST press officer at NASA Goddard, for her help in organizing all three tours.

AAS Press-Release-Distribution Service

If you don't already receive astronomy-related press releases forwarded by e-mail from the AAS Press Office, you should sign up now to guarantee that you receive future meeting advisories as well as electronic copies of all press releases issued during the meeting. To sign up for the AAS press-release-distribution service, for which there is no charge, please send an e-mail to Rick Fienberg with your name, media affiliation, mailing address, and phone, fax, and mobile numbers. Only accredited journalists and public information officers are eligible to receive press releases forwarded by the AAS, as described on our press-credentials page.