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2nd Media Advisory, 230th AAS Meeting, Austin, TX, 4-8 June 2017

4 May 2017

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

Scorching exoplanets, exploding stars, and crashing galaxy clusters are among the celestial highlights to be featured in press conferences at the 230th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, 4-8 June. The venue is the JW Marriott Austin at 110 E. 2nd St., and the AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) is holding its annual meeting in conjunction with the parent society’s gathering. The AAS offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and public-information officers (PIOs); see details below. Social-media hashtag: #aas230.

Important Preliminaries

All attendees at the meeting — including press registrants — are expected to follow our Guide to AAS Meeting Etiquette and 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 Austin and abide by them once you arrive.

Press Registration

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

To request complimentary press registration, send an email 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. Please send your email request as soon as you know you're coming to the meeting. The deadline for advance press registration is Thursday, 11 May 2017; after that date, you’ll have to register on-site in Austin, which may involve standing in a long line at the registration booth.

Press Facilities

The AAS will operate a press office in room 404 at the JW Marriott Austin, with working space, photocopier, printer, power strips, 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!

Press Office Staff:

We will also have an interview room, the 4th Floor Boardroom, 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.

Briefing Schedule, Topics & Speakers

Following is the preliminary press-conference program, which is subject to change. We are still awaiting confirmation from several prospective participants. There may be a briefing on Wednesday afternoon; there will be no briefings on Thursday.

Briefings for the news media are scheduled as follows (all times are CDT = UTC - 5 hours):

Briefing room: 402/403, 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.

In [square brackets] under each speaker's name is the paper number on which their 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. 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, 5 June, 10:15 am CDT
Press Conference: Black Holes

What Gravitational Waves from Black Holes Say About Supernova Physics
Richard O'Shaughnessy (Rochester Institute of Technology)

Extreme Obscuration of Active Black Holes
Stephanie Juneau (National Optical Astronomy Observatory)

The Magnetic Origin of Black Hole Accretion Disk Winds
Chris Shrader (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Magnetic Field Transport in Accretion Disks
Ethan T. Vishniac (Johns Hopkins University)

Monday, 5 June, 2:15 pm CDT
Press Conference: Hot Planets & Cool Dwarfs

A Giant Planet with the Temperature of a Red Dwarf Star
B. Scott Gaudi (Ohio State University)

Clouds in Exoplanet Atmospheres
Giovanni Bruno (Space Telescope Science Institute)

The Dividing Line Between Stars & Brown Dwarfs
Trent Dupuy (University of Texas, Austin)

Tuesday, 6 June, 10:15 am CDT
Press Conference: Inconstant Stars

Newly Uncovered Component of R Aquarii’s Northern Jet
Rodolfo Montez (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)

Surprises from an Eclipsing Cepheid Variable Star
Thomas Kirkman (St. John’s University)

Discovery of the Shortest-Period Pre-Cataclysmic Variable Star
Lorne Nelson (Bishop’s University)

Searching for Flares from Cool Stars in GALEX Data
Chase Million (Million Concepts)

Tuesday, 6 June, 2:15 pm CDT
Press Conference: Galaxies, Clusters & Voids

The Brightest Galaxies in the Universe
James Lowenthal (Smith College)

Banging Galaxy Clusters
Jack Burns (University of Colorado, Boulder)

Do We Live Within a Large Local Void?
Benjamin Hoscheit (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Wednesday, 7 June, 10:15 am CDT
Press Conference: Bending & Blending

Relativistic Deflection of Background Starlight by a Nearby White Dwarf
Kailash Sahu (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Data Visualization with Blender
Brian Kent (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

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.

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 on Monday and Tuesday; at 8:30 am , 11:40 am , and 3:40 pm on Wednesday; and at 8:30 am and 11:40 am on Thursday, all in Salon 5 at the JW Marriott Austin. The plenary speakers and their topics are shown on our Schedule & Plenary Speakers page; see the block schedule 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 pm). Institutions hosting Town Halls in Austin include NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD), and the AAS itself, which is proposing a new governance model to its members. See the block schedule or online meeting program for dates, times, and locations.

Opening & Closing Receptions

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

Sunday, 4 June, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
AAS Opening Reception
Griffin (Exhibit) Hall

Thursday, 8 June, 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
AAS Closing Reception
Griffin (Exhibit) Hall

Other Events of Interest

Monday, 5 June, 7:30 pm (doors open 7:00 pm)
Astronomy on Tap ATX
The North Door, 502 Brushy St., Austin
AoTATX is organized by a committee of Austin-based astronomers. This free event features accessible, engaging science presentations on topics ranging from planets to black holes to the beginning of the universe. There are games and prizes to test your newfound knowledge and lots of time to ask questions and interact with the presenters and other astronomers who tag along for the beer. More info:

Tuesday, 6 June, 11:30 am to 2:00 pm
Student Education & Outreach Event
More than 100 middle- and high-school students from the Austin area will come to the AAS meeting with teacher and parent chaperones. They'll be welcomed by UT Austin astronomer Rachael Livermore in Salon 4 at 11:30 am and will then go to the Griffin Exhibit Hall from 12 noon 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.

Tuesday, 6 June, 7:30 to 8:30 pm
Film Screening: "Black Suns: An Astrophysics Adventure”
Location TBD
“Black Suns” is a documentary about chasing eclipses and science dreams. It chronicles the lives of two globetrotting African American astrophysicists as they follow two solar eclipses in 2012. Alphonse Sterling of NASA, stationed in Japan, had early success in the US but left his home country to further cultivate his wide-ranging interests. Hakeem Oluseyi of the Florida Institute of Technology beat the odds of poverty and a poor early education to get where he is today. The film is hosted by award-winning cultural astronomer Jarita Holbrook. Trailer:

Press Dinner

Press registrants will gather on Wednesday evening for a no-host press dinner at a local restaurant. We'll post a sign-up sheet in the AAS press office (404).

Possible Press Tour

Rebecca Johnson, communications manager of the University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory, is working on plans for a possible press tour on Sunday afternoon, 4 June. Originally we’d hoped we could visit the observatory in West Texas, but that proved impossible for logistical reasons. We’re working on a backup plan for an astronomically themed visit to the UT campus; details (if any) will appear in a subsequent advisory.

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 #aas230.

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.