Search form

2nd Media Advisory, 229th AAS Meeting, Grapevine, TX, 3-7 January 2017

21 December 2016 (updated 22 Dec.)

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

The latest news from the solar system through the galaxy to the universe beyond will be revealed in seven press conferences and one seminar for science writers at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The “Super Bowl of Astronomy,” this winter’s AAS meeting convenes 3-7 January 2017 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, 1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, TX 76051, overlooking beautiful Grapevine Lake near Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport. The Gaylord Texan offers luxurious accommodations, first-class restaurants, eclectic shops, and 4.5 acres of lush indoor gardens and winding waterways. More than 2,300 astronomers, educators, students, and journalists are already registered, and the science program features more than 1,600 plenary lectures, short talks, and poster presentations. Social-media hashtag: #aas229.

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

Important Preliminaries

All attendees at the meeting — including press registrants — are expected to follow the guidelines in our Guide to AAS Meeting Etiquette and our Anti-Harassment Policy for AAS & Division Meetings & Activities. Your participation in the meeting is taken to signify your acknowledgment that you have read these guidelines/policies and your agreement to adhere to them. Accordingly, please read them before you come to Grapevine and abide by them once you arrive. 

AAS Meeting App & Guide

Our “Meetings by AAS” mobile app 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 iOS and Android devices. Users of Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices, as well as users of laptop computers, can access the app via a Web browser.

Follow these steps to download the app for your iOS or Android device; if you already have the Meetings by AAS app on your mobile device, launch it and go straight to step 4:
  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 229th AAS Meeting guide.
  5. Alternatively, go to and follow the instructions you find there.

Press Registration & Badge Pickup

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

Advance press registration is now closed; a list of current press registrants is online. Upon arrival at the Gaylord Texan, preregistered press should proceed to the AAS registration area. Badges may not be available before 1 pm CST on Tuesday, 3 January; please try to pick up your badge before the AAS Opening Reception (see below).

Reporters and public-information officers who need to register on-site should go 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 an AAS press officer, after which you may return to the registration desk to print your badge.

Press Facilities

The AAS will operate a press office in Fort Worth 3 at the Gaylord Texan, with working space, photocopier, printer, power strips, and both wired and wireless internet connectivity for press registrants. Thanks to the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) for generously sponsoring the press office with coffee and tea in the morning and refreshments in the afternoon.

Press Office Staff:

We will also have an interview room, Pecos 2, for use by press registrants; there will be a sign-up sheet on the door so that you can reserve this room for use at a particular date and time. Note that Pecos 2 is located on the hotel side of the bridge to the convention center.

Briefing Schedule, Topics & Speakers

Briefings for the news media are scheduled as follows (all times are CST = UTC - 6 hours):

Briefing room: Austin 5, which will be equipped with a sound system, mult-box, and wireless 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.

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 their presentation is based, where 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, and please note that there is one briefing for which Nature’s embargo policy supersedes that of the AAS, as explained below.

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.

Wednesday, 4 January, 10:15 am CST
Press Conference: Closing In on a Fast Radio Burst (FRB)

Note: Some results presented in this briefing will be published in Nature the same day at 12:00 pm CST (18:00 UTC). Nature’s embargo supersedes the AAS’s, so reports from this briefing (including tweets and other social-media postings) must not be published until after 12:00 pm CST, i.e., 45 minutes after the end of the press conference. (Tip o’ the hat to Nature for getting these results into print in time for the AAS meeting.)

FRB 121102: A Repeating Fast Radio Burst
Shami Chatterjee (Cornell University)

Precision Localization of FRB 121102 with the Very Large Array
Casey Law (University of California, Berkeley)

Zooming In on FRB 121102 with the European VLBI Network and Arecibo
Jason Hessels (ASTRON, Netherlands)

The Redshift of the Host of FRB 121102 from Gemini Observations
Shriharsh P. Tendulkar (McGill University)
[128.07 / 242.09]

FRB 121102: What We Now Know, and What We Need to Find Out Next
Sarah Burke Spolaor (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

Wednesday, 4 January, 2:15 pm CST
Press Conference: Recent Science Breakthroughs from Arecibo Observatory

The Present and Future of Arecibo Observatory
Joan Schmelz (Arecibo Observatory / USRA)
[323.05 / 323.06]

Long-Term Intermittent Pulsars Discovered in the PALFA Survey
Victoria M. Kaspi (McGill University)

Arecibo Damped Lyman-alpha Galaxies
Tapasi Ghosh (Arecibo Observatory)

Arecibo-RadioAstron VLBI Active Galactic Nuclei Survey Results
Christopher Salter (NAIC / Arecibo Observatory)

Thursday, 5 January, 10:15 am CST
Press Conference: Galaxies & Black Holes Therein

The Growth of Black Holes Revealed by the Deepest-Ever X-ray Image
W. Niel Brandt (Pennsylvania State University)
[223.05 / 235.01]

Cosmic Double Whammy: Black-Hole Blast Followed by Galaxy Cluster Collision
Reinout Van Weeren (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

How the Cosmic Web Affects the Feeding Behavior of Galaxies
Bahram Mobasher (University of California, Riverside)

Explosive Growth in the Number of Redshift-Independent Galaxy Distances
Ian Steer (NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database)

Thursday, 5 January, 2:15 pm CST
Press Conference: Latest Results from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)

The Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE) Goes South
Karen Masters (University of Portsmouth, UK)

Elements of Life in the Milky Way from SDSS/APOGEE
Jennifer Johnson (Ohio State University)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Can Garnet Planets Be Habitable?
Johanna Teske (Carnegie Institution for Science)

SDSS Efforts to Foster Inclusivity in Astronomy
Kelly Holley-Bockelmann (Vanderbilt University)
[237.13 / 336.05]

Friday, 6 January, 10:15 am CST
Press Conference: Stars & Interstellar Space

Measuring the Local Interstellar Medium with Hubble and the Voyager Spacecraft
Julia Zachary (Wesleyan University)

A Precise Prediction of a Stellar Merger and Red Nova Outburst
Lawrence Molnar (Calvin College)

Post-Outburst Radio Monitoring of a High-Magnetic-Field Pulsar
Walid A. Majid (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Light Pollution Solutions Communities Can Use
Lori Allen (National Optical Astronomy Observatory)
[Tuesday workshop]

Friday, 6 January, 2:15 pm CST
Press Conference: Exoplanets & Exocomets

Our Galaxy’s Black Hole Is Spewing Out Planet-size “Spitballs”
Eden Girma (Harvard College)

Rogue Planet Encounters with the Solar System: Is Planet 9 a Captured Rogue?
James Vesper (New Mexico State University)

Imaging Planets with the Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme Adaptive Optics System
Thayne M. Currie (Subaru Telescope / NAOJ)

Hubble Observations of Transiting Exocomets Around a White-Hot Southern Star
Carol A. Grady (Eureka Scientific, Inc.)

Saturday, 7 January, 10:15 am CST
Press Conference: Black Holes, Green Galaxies, Old Stars & NuSTARs

Pushing the Limits of High Contrast with Hubble
John H. Debes (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Two Concealed Black Holes Lurking in Our Cosmic Backyard Unveiled by NuSTAR
Ady Annuar (Durham University, UK) & Peter Boorman (University of Southampton, UK)

The Mass of the Milky Way from Globular Cluster Kinematics
Gwendolyn Eadie ( McMaster University)

The Universe Going Green: Extraordinarily Strong Oxygen Emission in High-Redshift Dwarf Galaxies
Matthew A. Malkan (University of California, Los Angeles)

Saturday, 7 January, 2:15 pm CST
Seminar for Science Writers: The August 2017 All-American Solar Eclipse

Yes, You Can Still Do Science During Solar Eclipses
Jay M. Pasachoff (Williams College)
[325.02 / 411.03]

The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Through the Eyes of NASA
C. Alex Young (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Challenges and Opportunities for the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force
Angela Speck (University of Missouri, Columbia)

Solar Eclipse Eye Safety: Facts and Fallacies
Rick Fienberg (American Astronomical Society)

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.

Press Conference Webcasts:


  • Password: Contact AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg for the password, which is for journalists only and which is the same for all the week's briefings. After the meeting, archived webcasts will be freely available without a password 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.

Opening & Closing Receptions

Both of these events are open to all attendees and registered guests. Food is provided. Both receptions feature a cash bar.

Tuesday, 3 January, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
AAS Opening Reception
Longhorn Exhibit Hall D

Saturday, 7 January, 5:30 to 6:30 pm
AAS Closing Reception
Grapevine C

Prize Lectures, Invited Talks & Town Halls

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 Wednesday through Saturday, all in Texas A in the Gaylord Texan. The plenary speakers and their topics are shown on our Schedule & Plenary Speakers page; see the block schedule, abstract PDF, meeting app, or online meeting program for dates and times. AAS press conferences do not conflict with any of the plenary presentations.

Town Halls are intended for federal agencies and national observatories to present policy information and to solicit feedback from their user communities. These generally convene at lunchtime (usually 12:45 pm) or in the evening (typically 6:30 or 7:30 pm). Institutions and facilities hosting Town Halls in Grapevine include, NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the AAS Historical Astronomy Division (HAD), the AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and Astro2020, the next decadal survey of astronomy and astrophysics. The AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy will host a special plenary Town Hall on Wednesday afternoon to discuss racism in astronomy. See the block schedule, abstract PDF, meeting app, or online meeting program for dates, times, and locations.

Other Events of Interest

Wednesday, 4 January, 8:00 to 10:00 pm
Film Screening: “StarMen”
Grapevine D
Four exceptional astronomers celebrate 50 years of work and friendship on a road trip in the southwestern United States, recapturing youthful adventures and recounting each other’s influences on the most exciting period in astronomy’s history. Filmmaker Alison Rose will attend and answer audience questions after the screening. Trailer and more information:

Thursday, 5 January, 8:00 to 9:30 pm
AAS Open Mic Night
Texas C
AAS members and other meeting attendees share their talents in a welcoming, accepting environment. Performers include story tellers, poets, musicians, comedians, and jugglers. Have some fun watching them strut their stuff!

Student Education & Outreach Event

On Thursday, 5 January, more than 300 middle- and high-school students from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex will come to the AAS meeting with teacher and parent chaperones. They’ll be welcomed by exoplanet scientist Nick Siegler (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in Grapevine C at 11:40 am and will then go to Longhorn Exhibit Hall D from 12:10 to 2:00 pm to engage in hands-on educational activities supervised by attending astronomers. The event, which makes a great “photo opp,” is sponsored by Associated Universities, Inc.

Press Dinner

Press registrants will gather on Friday evening for a no-host press dinner at a local restaurant. We’ll post a sign-up sheet in the AAS press office, Fort Worth 3. Alison Rose, producer/director of “StarMen” (see above), plans to join us.

AAS on Twitter

During the meeting, AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg will post announcements of interest to reporters on Twitter at @AAS_Press. Other AAS Twitter handles include @AAS_Office@AAS_Policy, and @AAS_Publishing. Journalists (and scientists) tweeting from the meeting are encouraged to use the hashtag #aas229.

AAS Press-Release-Distribution Service

If you don't already receive astronomy-related press releases forwarded by email 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 email to Rick Fienberg with your name, media affiliation, mailing address, and phone, fax, and mobile numbers; if you're a journalist (not a PIO), please also state that you will respect any publication embargoes. Only accredited journalists and PIOs are eligible to receive press releases forwarded by the AAS, as described on our press-credentials page.