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Press Kit for the 223rd AAS Meeting, 5-9 January 2014, Washington, DC

4 January 2014

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


Observations across the spectrum from radio waves to gamma rays, and objects across the universe from exoplanets to galaxies, will be showcased in eight press conferences at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), 5-9 January 2014, in Washington, DC. More than 3,000 astronomers, educators, journalists, and guests are convening at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745, to hear more than 2,200 presentations on new discoveries in astronomy.

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 20 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.

Two astronomers renowned for their success in sharing science with the public will speak at the meeting. Edwin C. Krupp (Griffith Observatory) will give the Gemant Award lecture on Thursday 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 the National Geographic Channel, will present “Tales from the Twitterverse, and Other Media Excursions” on Monday evening.

Meeting Links

Press Registration & Badge Pickup

The AAS offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and PIOs; see our eligibility criteria.

Advance press registration is now closed. Upon arrival at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, preregistered press should proceed to the AAS registration area. Go to one of the badge-printing kiosks and follow the instructions posted there. Badges may not be available before 3 pm EST on Sunday, 5 January.

Reporters and public-information officers who need to register onsite should go straight to the AAS registration desk and ask for a press-registration form. You'll be asked to take it to the AAS press office (see next section) to have the form authorized by one of the AAS press officers, after which you may return to the registration desk to print your badge.

Press Arrangements & Contact Info

The AAS will operate a press office in Chesapeake A/B/C 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-office landline phone: +1 301-965-5560

Press-office staff:

Press Conference Schedule, Topics & Speakers 

Press conferences will be held each morning and afternoon Monday, 6 January, through Thursday, 9 January, across the hall from the press office in Chesapeake D/E, which 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 onsite press officer, as described below.

Briefings are scheduled for these dates and times (EST = UTC – 5 hours):

In addition, there will be a media opportunity to meet briefly with NASA officials on Tuesday, 7 January, at 1:45 pm, and a seminar for science writers on near-Earth objects on Thursday, 9 January, at 12:45 pm. Additional details on these events appear below.

Following is the press-conference program. In [square brackets] under each speaker's name is the session or paper number on which his or her presentation is based.

All findings are embargoed until the time of presentation at the meeting. “Time of presentation” means the start time of the oral or poster session in which the paper will be given, or the start time of the corresponding press conference (if any), whichever comes first. Read the complete AAS embargo policy for more information. 

Note: All new discoveries are subject to confirmation by independent teams of scientists. Inclusion here does not imply endorsement by the American Astronomical Society. The AAS does not endorse individual scientific results.

Monday, 6 January, 10:15 am EST
Cosmic Explosions & Their Aftermath

A Millisecond Pulsar in a Stellar Triple System
Scott Ransom (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

ALMA Resolves SN 1987A’s Dust Factory & Particle Accelerator
Remy Indebetouw (University of Virginia / Nat'l. Radio Astronomy Obs.)

First Measurement of Gravitational Lensing in Gamma Rays
Teddy Cheung (Naval Research Laboratory)

Monday, 6 January, 2:15 pm EST
From Exoplanets to Exo-Earths

Characterizing Earth-size Planets from Kepler Using Radial Velocities
Geoff Marcy (University of California, Berkeley)

Characterizing Exoplanets from Kepler Using Transit Timing Variations
Yoram Lithwick (Northwestern University)

The First Earth-mass Transiting Planet
David Kipping (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

A Cloudy Atmosphere on the Super-Earth Exoplanet GJ 1214b
Laura Kreidberg (University of Chicago)

Tuesday, 7 January, 10:15 am EST
Windows on Other Worlds

First Light from the Gemini Planet Imager
Bruce MacIntosh (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

A Directly-Imaged Super-Jovian Companion to a Young Star:
An Ultralight ‘Failed Star’ or a New Type of Extrasolar Planet?
Thayne Currie (University of Toronto)

Do Super-Earths Look Like Earth?
Nick Cowan (Northwestern University)

Probing Stormy Weather on Brown Dwarfs
Aren Heinze (Stony Brook University)
[425.04, 334.04]

Weather on the Nearest Pair of Brown Dwarfs
Adam Burgasser (University of California, San Diego)
[425.01, 441.18]

Tuesday, 7 January, 2:15 pm EST
Making Invisible Galaxies Visible

The Frontier Fields: Exploring the Depths of the Universe
Jennifer Lotz (Space Telescope Science Institute)

The Discovery & Characterization of Surprisingly Luminous Galaxy Candidates at z ~ 9–10
Garth Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Ultra-Faint Ultraviolet Galaxies at the Epoch of Peak Star Formation 1 < z < 3
Anahita Alavi (University of California, Riverside)

You Can Touch This! Bringing Hubble Images to Life as 3D Models
Carol Christian (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Wednesday, 8 January, 10:15 am EST
Care & Feeding of Black Holes

Giant Black Holes Found in Dwarf Galaxies
Amy Reines (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

Death by Black Hole in a Small Galaxy
Peter Maksym (University of Alabama)

Keck Observations of G2: Can We Watch a Black Hole Eat?
Leo Meyer (University of California, Los Angeles)

The Swift/X-Ray Telescope Monitoring Campaign of the Galactic Center
Nathalie Degenaar (University of Michigan)

Wednesday, 8 January, 2:15 pm EST
Celestial Soundings with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

From Childhood to Middle Age:
Charting the Expansion of the Universe with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Michael Wood-Vasey (University of Pittsburgh)

Measuring Cosmic Distances with Baryon Acoustic Oscillations
Daniel Eisenstein (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

A 1% Distance Measurement from the SDSS Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey
Shirley Ho (Carnegie Mellon University)

Sound in the Forest: Measuring Cosmic Expansion 10 Billion Years in the Past
David Schlegel (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Thursday, 9 January, 10:15 am EST
Stars by the Bunch

An Unexpected Population of Sun-like Hypervelocity Stars
Lauren Palladino (Vanderbilt University)

The Hubble Tarantula Treasury Project
Elena Sabbi (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Star Date: M83 — A Citizen-Science Project to Age Date Star Clusters
Brad Whitmore (Space Telescope Science Institute)
[442.33, 453.14]

Thursday, 9 January, 2:15 pm EST
Cosmic Extremes

First Detailed Look at a Normal Galaxy in the Very Early Universe
Regina Jorgenson (Institute for Astronomy)

New Images from NuSTAR: The Hand of God
Daniel Stern (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

New Images from NuSTAR: Obscured Black Holes
Francesca Civano (Yale University)

In addition to the briefings, there will be a brief media opportunity to meet with NASA space-science officials on Tuesday afternoon and a seminar for science writers on near-Earth objects at midday on Thursday. Both events are in the briefing room, Chesapeake D/E, as follows.

Tuesday, 7 January, 1:45 pm EST
Media Opportunity with NASA Officials

Immediately following the NASA Town Hall, which runs from 12:45 to 1:45 pm on Tuesday, 7 January, in Potomac Ballroom A, press registrants are invited back to the briefing room to meet with John Grunsfeld, NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), and Paul Hertz, Director of SMD's Astrophysics Division. Thanks to J.D. Harrington, NASA Headquarters public affairs officer, for arranging this event, which will NOT be webcast.

Thursday, 9 January, 12:45 pm EST
Seminar for Science Writers on Near-Earth Asteroids

During the lunch break on Thursday, 9 January, from 12:45 to 1:45 pm in the briefing room, we’re offering a seminar for science writers entitled “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 (see below) 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 potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.


  • Lindley Johnson (NASA Headquarters)
  • Tim Spahr (IAU Minor Planet Center)
  • Eileen Ryan (New Mexico Tech/Magdalena Ridge Observatory)
  • Amy Mainzer (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Thanks to Linda Billings, director of science communication at the National Institute of Aerospace, for her help in organizing this seminar.

Remote Access to Press Conferences via Webcast

Journalists unable to attend the meeting in person may tune in to our briefings and the seminar for science writers streamed live on the Web. Since the webcast includes audio, video, and PowerPoint slides, you must have a broadband (high-speed) Internet connection to watch and listen. Also, your Web browser must have the free Adobe Flash plug-in.

The webcast also includes a chat window whereby remote participants may ask questions. We can’t guarantee that all questions received from webcast viewers will be asked aloud — it depends on how much time we have and how many questions we’re getting from onsite reporters.

AAS Press Conference Webcasts


  • Password: Email AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg for the password, which is for journalists only. After the meeting, archived webcasts will be freely available publicly via our online archive.
  • Once the webcast window opens, press the Play (►) button.
  • Press the Open Chat Window button. You’ll be asked to enter your name; please use your real first and last names, not a cutesy Internet nickname.
  • You can resize the chat window and move it to any convenient position on your screen.
  • To ask a question, type it into the input box near the bottom of the chat window and click the Send button.

Press Reception: AIP Science Communication Awards

All AAS press registrants are invited to a reception celebrating the winners of the 2013 American Institute of Physics (AIP) Science Communication Awards on Wednesday, 8 January, from 5:30 to 6:30 pm in Chesapeake D/E, i.e., the briefing room. Wine and cheese will be served.

We will be honoring Tom Siegfried, who will receive the prize in the science-writing category for an essay on the Higgs boson published in Science News magazine, and Jeffrey Bennett, who will receive the prize in the writing-for-children category for his book Max Goes to the Moon. The selection committees praised Siegfried’s article, “Nature’s Secrets Foretold,” for its skillful and engaging writing, which made a complex topic accessible to a general audience, and praised Bennett’s book for its delightful blend of fact and fiction.

Among those attending the reception will be Fred Dylla, AIP’s CEO and Executive Director; Cathy O’Riordan, AIP’s Vice-President for the Physics Resources Center; and key staff members from AIP’s Science News & Media Services department. Please join us to toast Tom’s and Jeff’s accomplishments and to thank AIP for giving special recognition to outstanding efforts in communicating science with the public.

Press Tour to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Here is some important information for press registrants who have signed up for our behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Friday, 10 January. (Signups are now closed, sorry.)

A list of confirmed participants will be posted in the press office, Chesapeake A/B/C. Please let AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg know if your name is on the list but your plans have changed and you won’t be joining the tour after all.

NASA will send a bus to pick us up at the Gaylord National at 9 am. Driving time to Goddard should be less than an hour. The tour should last about two hours. Among other highlights, we’ll see components of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) coming together in the world’s largest cleanroom and, if their schedules permit, will hear presentations from Program Scientist Eric Smith and Senior Project Scientist and Nobel Prize winner John Mather. We’ll then be returned to the Gaylord by bus, with arrival expected around 1 pm.

Thanks to Lynn Chandler and Laura Betz of NASA Goddard for their help in organizing the tour.

Prize Lectures & Invited Talks

Among the highlights of every AAS meeting are the plenary presentations (invited talks and prize lectures) by distinguished astronomers. They occur at 8:30 am, 11:40 am, 3:40 pm, and 4:30 pm each day Monday through Thursday. In addition, there will be several evening plenary talks: one on Monday at 8:00 pm and two on Wednesday at 7:00 and 8:00 pm. AAS press conferences do not conflict with any of the plenary presentations, which are all held in Potomac Ballroom; see the block schedule, meeting program book, or online meeting program (all accessible via our science-program page) for details.

Town Hall Meetings

Town Halls provide opportunities for astronomers to discuss issues of public policy with representatives of funding agencies and national observatories, or to consider other issues of concern to the community. There are several of these interactive sessions each day Monday through Thursday. Most run from 12:45 to 1:45 pm, but there are also some at 6:30 pm on Monday and Tuesday. 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. For a complete list see the block schedule, meeting program book, or online meeting program (all accessible via our science-program page).

One-Day Program for Amateurs & the Public

The AAS is opening its meeting to amateur astronomers and other interested members of the public, who may take advantage of a special one-day registration rate of $50 per day on Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday, January 6th, 7th, and/or 8th. Registration includes access to plenary sessions and the exhibit hall. In addition, there will be six half-hour presentations and a FREE evening star party designed especially for amateur astronomers and the public. The talks are at 9:30 am and 1:30 pm each day Monday through Wednesday in Maryland Ballroom A, and the star party, cosponsored by the AAS and local amateur-astronomy clubs and free of charge, is scheduled from 7:30 to 10:30 pm on Tuesday (cloud date Wednesday) at the Gaylord Pier. Featured telescopic targets include the Moon, Jupiter, and the Orion Nebula. If you attend the star party be sure to bundle up, as the forecast calls for bitter cold. For a list of amateur talks and more information about the star party, see our web page on the program.

Student Education & Public Outreach Program

On Tuesday, 7 January, several hundred middle- and high-school students from the DC metro area will come to the AAS meeting with teacher and parent chaperones. They’ll be welcomed by a NASA astronomer at 11:30 am in the Potomac Ballroom and will then go to the Exhibit Hall from noon to 2:00 pm to engage in hands-on educational activities supervised by attending astronomers. The event is sponsored by Associated Universities, Inc.

AAS Opening & Closing Receptions

Sunday, 5 January, 7:00 to 9:00 pm EST
Opening Reception
Potomac Ballroom A 

Thursday, 9 January, 5:30 to 7:00 pm EST
Closing Reception
Cherry Blossom Ballroom

AAS on Twitter

During the meeting, AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg will post announcements of interest to reporters on Twitter at AAS_Press. Journalists (and scientists) tweeting from the meeting are encouraged to use the hashtag #aas223.

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.