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Press Kit for the 224th AAS Meeting, Boston, MA, 1-5 June 2014

28 May 2014

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


Science from the stratosphere to the edge of the visible universe will be showcased in five press conferences and a seminar for science writers at the 224th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), 1-5 June 2014, in Boston, Massachusetts. More than 1,000 astronomers, educators, journalists, and guests will convene at the Westin Copley Place in the city's historic Back Bay district to hear some 800 plenary, short-oral, and poster presentations on new developments in the astronomical sciences.

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

Even without the AAS in town, the Greater Boston area occupies a key spot on the astronomical map thanks to its being home to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, Boston College, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts, the Chandra X-ray Center, Sky & Telescope magazine, the American Association of Variable Star Observers, and several other institutions with cosmic connections. With so many astronomers already in the neighborhood, the Boston meeting promises to be a particularly dynamic gathering — all the more so because the AAS Solar Physics Division (SPD), Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD), and Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) will be meeting with the parent Society too.

Among the scientific highlights of the meeting are a baker's dozen plenary presentations, featuring the Kavli lecture by cosmologist David Spergel (Princeton), the Pierce Prize lecture by quasar expert Nadia Zakamska (Johns Hopkins), and talks by the winners of the SPD Hale and Harvey prizes. More than 750 contributed oral and poster presenters will share their latest ideas and discoveries across the full spectrum of astronomical topics. You can dive deeper into six subject areas via four special sessions (astronomy R&D using picosatellites, observational and theoretical aspects of the multiverse, long-time-domain astronomy, and assorted topics in astrostatistics) and two multisession Meeting-in-a-Meeting programs (gamma-ray constraints on the extragalactic background light and the intergalactic magnetic field, and planets beyond the reach of NASA's Kepler mission).

Six LAD sessions, covering topics from particles to planets, explore the theme "Bridging Laboratory and Astrophysics." Two more, convened jointly with SPD, are themed "Bridging Laboratory and Solar Plasma Studies." SPD has organized no fewer than 14 of its own sessions on topics ranging from the solar interior to the corona and out into the heliosphere. There will also be several Town Hall meetings, where attendees can hear from, and provide feedback to, senior representatives from NASA, NSF, and the National Research Council's Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics.The AAS offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and public-information officers (PIOs); see details below.

Meeting Links

New! Download the AAS Meeting App!

The AAS has launched its first mobile app. "Meetings by AAS" puts the entire conference program in your pocket and ensures that it's always up to date. If you're tired of carrying around a bulky program book, you'll really appreciate having this app on your smartphone or tablet.

Meetings by AAS works on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android devices. Users of Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices can access the app via a Web browser ( Follow these steps to download the app for your iOS or Android device:

  1. On your smartphone or tablet, visit the Apple App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android) and search for Meetings by AAS.
  2. Alternatively, use your QR reader to scan the QR code at right.
  3. Download, install, and open the app.
  4. iOS users: tap the "Download Guides" button; Android users: tap the downward-facing arrow to browse guides. Select the 224th AAS Meeting guide.

Press Registration & Badge Pickup

The AAS offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and PIOs, as described on described on our press-credentials page.

Advance press registration is now closed.Upon arrival at the Westin Copley Place, 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 EDT on Sunday, 1 June.

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 Office & Contact Info

The AAS will operate a press office in the Rockport Room on the ground floor of the Westin Copley Place, with working space, 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 (though most releases will be distributed only electronically).

Press-office staff:

Press Conference Schedule, Topics, and Speakers

Briefings will be held each morning and afternoon Monday, 2 June, through Wednesday, 4 June, next door to the press office in the Harbor & Ipswich Rooms, 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 on-site press officer, as described below.

Briefings are scheduled for these dates and times (EDT = UTC − 4 hours):

The last of those is not a press conference but a seminar for science writers (described below); there are no briefings on Thursday, 5 June.

Following is the press-conference program, which is subject to change. In [square brackets] under each speaker's name is the session or paper number(s) on which his or her presentation is based, if applicable.

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. See 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, 2 June, 10:15 am EDT
Solar Explosions in Fine Detail

Photospheric & Chromospheric Dynamics of Sunspots Observed with the New Solar Telescope
Alexander G. Kosovichev (Big Bear Solar Observatory)

New Views of Transient Small-Scale Magnetic Flux Emergence & Atmospheric Response
Santiago Vargas Dominguez (Big Bear Solar Observatory)

A Study of Two Successive Three-Ribbon Flares with the New Solar Telescope
Haimin Wang (New Jersey Institute of Technology)

A Revolution in High-Resolution Solar Astronomy
Thomas Berger (National Solar Observatory/AURA)

Monday, 2 June, 2:15 pm EDT
Exoplanets: From Exhilarating to Exasperating

Rates of Large Flares in Old Solar-like Stars in Kepler Clusters
Ofer Cohen (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Kepler 56: Present & Future Configuration & Obliquity
Gongjie Li (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Three Distinct Exoplanet Regimes Inferred from Host Star Metallicities
Lars A. Buchhave (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

HARPS-N Contributions to the Mass-Radius Diagram for Rocky Planets
Dimitar Sasselov (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Tuesday, 3 June, 10:15 am EDT
What's Happening to the Sunspot Cycle?

Subsurface Anomalies: North-South Asymmetry & Meridional Flow
Richard S. Bogart (Stanford University)
[218.05, 218.19, 218.23, 202.05]

Solar Coronal Temperature During the Rise of Cycle 24
Richard C. Altrock (Air Force Research Laboratory)

The Divergence of Coronal Mass Ejection & Sunspot Number Rates During Solar Cycle 24
David F. Webb (Boston College)

The Current Solar Cycle in Context
Sarbani Basu (Yale University)

Tuesday, 3 June, 2:15 pm EDT
Galaxies Across the Spectrum

Chandra & VLA Observations of Colliding Galaxy Cluster MACS J0717: A Giant Particle Accelerator
Reinout J. Van Weeren (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Ultraviolet Imaging of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field with the Wide-Field Camera 3
Harry I. Teplitz (Infrared Processing & Analysis Center/Caltech)

The Black Hole X-ray Binary Population of the Whirlpool Galaxy as Seen by Chandra
Roy E. Kilgard (Wesleyan University)

The Cosmic Evolution of Fermi BL Lacertae Objects
Marco Ajello (Clemson University)

Wednesday, 4 June, 10:15 am EDT
An Astronomical Assortment

First Light with the Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph (EXES) on SOFIA
Curtis N. DeWitt (University of California, Davis)

A Type Ia Supernova with Circumstellar Interaction & Kepler’s Older Cousin?
Brian J. Williams (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Galaxies on FIRE: Stellar Feedback Explains Inefficient Star Formation
Philip F. Hopkins (Caltech)

First Spectroscopic Confirmation of a Monster Galaxy at Redshift 3.3
Zehra Cemile Marsan (Tufts University)

Wednesday, 4 June, 2:15 pm EDT
Seminar for Science Writers: The Expanding Universe of Shrinking Satellites

As “shoebox satellites” move from rare to ubiquitous components of college science and engineering programs, tiny orbiters for instrument prototyping and science feed back into professional and amateur astronomy. This is the subject of special session 107, “Astronomy Research and Development Using Picosatellites,” held on Monday but conflicting with that morning’s press conference. In this seminar for science writers, several of the speakers from special session 107 will brief journalists on current and proposed university graduate and undergraduate research as well as private satellite experiments with an astronomy-related science or instrumentation goal. Topics include in situ measurements of Sun-Earth interactions, amateur-class space-based imaging, and the use of picosatellites for undergraduate research.


  • Alexander Antunes (Capitol College)
  • J. Garrett Jernigan (Little H-Bar Ranch)
  • Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State University)

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: Contact AAS Press Officer Dr. 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 Tour to MIT-LIGO, Sunday, 1 June

At 3:00 pm on Sunday, 1 June, there will be a tour for press registrants to MIT’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) lab. Gravitational waves are produced by violent events in the universe, like sound from an explosion. Detectors for gravitational waves offer a way to “hear” these events and gain insight into the physics behind them. The US effort to detect gravitational waves, based at MIT and Caltech, is currently upgrading the Initial LIGO detectors to Advanced LIGO, with an order of magnitude improvement in astrophysical reach. The Advanced LIGO detectors will begin taking data in 2014 and should approach design sensitivity over the 5 years that follow. Direct detection of gravitational waves is expected during that 5-year period. Our visit to MIT-LIGO will be hosted by Dr. Matthew Evans, an assistant professor of physics at MIT. If you plan to join us for this tour and have not yet confirmed your participation, please RSVP to Rick Fienberg by 12 noon on Sunday, 1 June.

Planetarium Visit & Press Dinner, Tuesday, 3 June

At 6:30 pm on Tuesday, 3 June, press registrants are invited to a preview of new programs and capabilities at the Boston Museum of Science’s Hayden Planetarium, which houses a 4K digital projection system installed by Sky-Skan, Inc. Dani Leblanc from the planetarium and Martin Ratcliffe from Sky-Skan will present a short demonstration including the following items:

  • A virtual visit to the clean room where the James Webb Space Telescope is being assembled.
  • A time-lapse sequence that immerses you among the telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
  • A recreation of the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time using actual survey data.
  • Solar Dynamics Observatory images and videos of the Sun larger than 50 feet across.

After the planetarium demo we’ll walk the short distance to Helmand Restaurant on First Street in Cambridge for a no-host press dinner featuring fine Afghan cuisine with lots of options for carnivores and non-carnivores alike. There will be a signup sheet posted in the press office; if you plan to join us for this event, please sign up by 6 pm on Monday, 2 June.

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 on Monday and Tuesday; 8:30 am, 11:40 am, and 3:40 pm on Wednesday; and 8:30 am and 11:40 am on Thursday, all in the America Ballroom North/Central on the 4th floor of the Westin Copley Place. A special invited talk, "Time Domain Astronomy with the Harvard Plates: from Cepheids to DASCH," by Jonathan Grindlay (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), will be given in the same venue at 6:30 pm on Monday. AAS press conferences do not conflict with any of the plenary presentations; see the block schedule, meeting program book, meeting app, or online meeting program (all accessible via our science-program page) for details.

AAS Members Meeting

During the 4:30 pm plenary slot on Wednesday, 4 June, the AAS will hold its annual Members Meeting in the America Ballroom North/Central. It features brief reports from the Society's leaders and provides an opportunity to raise and comment on issues of concern to AAS members and to the astronomical community more generally. Free beer and pretzels will be served!

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. 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. There are several of these interactive sessions each day Monday through Wednesday from 12:45 to 1:45 pm; in addition, the Solar Physics Division's business meeting takes place on Tuesday at 6:30 pm. For a complete list see the block schedule, meeting program book, meeting app, 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 on Tuesday, 3 June. Registration includes access to all scientific sessions and the exhibit hall, where attendees can meet scientists working on major ground- and space-based telescopes, check out some of the newest astronomy books and products, and enjoy a special exhibition of state-of-the-art amateur astrophotography. The day's events will culminate (weather permitting) with a FREE star party on the Boston Common Parade Ground at the corner of Charles St. & Beacon St., where amateur and professional astronomers will treat passersby to views of the Moon, Mars, Saturn, and other celestial spectacles through a variety of telescopes. 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, 3 June, about 120 middle- and high-school students from the Greater Boston area will come to the AAS meeting with teacher and parent chaperones. They’ll be welcomed by exoplanet researcher Courtney Dressing (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) at 11:45 am in the Staffordshire Room (3rd floor) 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, 1 June, 7:00 to 9:00 pm EDT
Opening Reception
America Ballroom North/Central (4th floor) 

Wednesday, 4 June, 5:30 to 7:00 pm EDT
Closing Reception
Essex Ballroom (3rd floor)

AAS on Twitter

During the meeting, AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg will post announcements of interest to reporters on Twitter at General meeting announcements will be posted at Journalists (and scientists) tweeting from the meeting are encouraged to use the hashtag #aas224.

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.