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Press Kit, 230th AAS Meeting, Austin, TX, 4-8 June 2017

24 May 2017 (updated 7 June)

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


Five press conferences featuring scorching exoplanets, exploding stars, crashing galaxy clusters, and much more are scheduled during the 230th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, 4-8 June. In addition, there will be a press tour to a museum on the University of Texas at Austin campus where press registrants can see, among other historical items, Albert Einstein’s hand-written notes predicting the existence of gravitational waves. The meeting 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. News briefings (only) will be webcast for reporters unable to attend in person; 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. 

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 230th 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; see our list of current press registrants. Upon arrival at the JW Marriott, preregistered press should proceed to the AAS registration area in the Grand Ballroom Foyer on level 4. Badges won't be available before 1 pm CDT on Sunday, 4 June; 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 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 (room 405), 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.

Added 6 June 2017: Presentation titles now link to the speakers' presentation files (PDF or PPT). These files are provided for personal use only. If you wish to publish or otherwise reproduce any of the content in these files, you must obtain permission from the presenters.

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)
[317.07] Press Release

Blowing the Cover of a Hidden Black Hole
Stephanie Juneau (National Optical Astronomy Observatory)
[401.01] Press Release

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 Transiting Gas-Giant Planet Hotter Than Most Stars*
B. Scott Gaudi (Ohio State University) & Karen A. Collins (Vanderbilt University)
[102.06] OSU Press Release | JPL Press Release

Clouds in Exoplanet Atmospheres
Giovanni Bruno (Space Telescope Science Institute)
[402.02] Press Release

The Dividing Line Between Stars & Brown Dwarfs
Trent Dupuy (University of Texas, Austin)
[315.02] Press Release

*Note that the result being presented by Gaudi and Collins is the subject of a Nature paper being published online on Monday, 5 June, at 10:00 am CDT, coincident with the start of the oral session in which Gaudi is presenting his science talk at the AAS meeting. In other words, both the AAS and Nature embargoes are in effect until Monday, 5 June, at 10:00 am CDT. Thanks to Leslie Sage and his colleagues at Nature for coordinating with the AAS press office.

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)
[317.05] Press Release

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)
[301.05] STScI Press Release | JPL Press Release

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

Understanding Local Luminous Infrared Galaxies in the Herschel Era
Jason Chu (University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy)
[401.05D] Press Release

The Brightest Galaxies in the Universe
James Lowenthal (Smith College)
[401.06] Press Release

Banging Galaxy Clusters
Jack Burns (University of Colorado, Boulder)
[310.02] Press Release

Do We Live Within a Large Local Void?
Benjamin Hoscheit (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
[314.05] Press Release

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)
[315.13] STScI Press Release | Embry-Riddle Press Release

Data Visualization with Blender
Brian Kent (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)
[216.06] Press Release

**Note that the result being presented by Sahu is the subject of a Science paper being published online on Wednesday, 7 June, at 10:15 am CDT, coincident with the start of this press conference. Sahu's science poster goes up at 9:00 am CDT, but Science's embargo supersedes the AAS's, so this result is embargoed until Wednesday, 7 June, at 10:15 am CDT. Thanks to Meagan Phelan and her colleagues at Science for coordinating with the AAS press office.

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.

Press Tour

In lieu of a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, press registrants are invited to the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, an internationally renowned research library and museum. UT’s McDonald Observatory has arranged a special viewing of some of the gems of the center’s history-of-science collection, with commentary by UT astronomer Mary Kay Hemenway, an expert in the history of astronomy and former AAS Education Officer.

We will gather at 1:45 pm in the JW Marriott lobby and take cabs or ride-shares to the Ransom Center in time for the tour’s start at 2 pm. Items we’ll see include the following:

  • Einstein’s hand-written notes and calculations in which he first derived that gravitational waves must exist.
  • Selections from the Herschel Family Papers, including instruments handmade by John Herschel and paintings of Halley’s Comet by Caroline Herschel.
  • The world’s first photograph (1826) by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce as well as several early astronomical photographs.
  • First editions of Ptolemy’s Almagest (1515), Copernicus’s de Revolutionibus (1543), Kepler’s Harmonices Mundi (1619) and Tabulae Ruldolphae (1627), Galileo’s Dialogo (1632) and Discoursi (1638), Cassini’s map of the Moon (1679), Newton’s Principia (1687), and other rare astronomical books.

After this special viewing, which will last about an hour, you have two choices: (1) make your own way back to the JW Marriott for the 3:40 pm plenary talk, or (2) stick around for a special guided tour of “Stories to Tell,”, an exhibition that helps us better understand how the humanities affect our lives, connecting the past to the present in personal and meaningful ways. Highlights include manuscripts of David Foster Wallace, Julia Alvarez, and Gabriel García Márquez; Henri Matisse’s “Jazz;” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s spirit photographs; and the hat that accompanied the green curtain dress worn by Vivien Leigh in “Gone With the Wind.”

At the end of the guided tour, we’ll take cabs or rides-shares back to the JW Marriott in time for the 4:30 pm AAS Members Meeting.

Capacity is limited, so we’ll post a sign-up sheet in the AAS press office (room 404).

Many thanks to Rebecca Johnson, McDonald Observatory Communications Manager, for arranging this tour. Questions? Email Rebecca.

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).

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.

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”
Salon 5
“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. Watch the trailer.

Women in Astronomy IV

Women in Astronomy IV: The Many Faces of Women Astronomers” will follow the 230th AAS meeting on 9-11 June at the JW Marriott Austin. The conference is sponsored by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the AAS with NSF support. Through the AAS, the WiA IV organizers are offering complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and PIOs, but this is separate from press registration for AAS 230, and at this point only on-site registration is possible beginning 9 June.

If you haven’t already registered for WiA IV and would like to attend, please email AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg with your name, media affiliation (or “freelance” if applicable), and telephone number, and he’ll let the WiA registrar know to expect you. Because WiA IV will be a relatively small meeting, there will be no special accommodations for the news media, i.e., no press office or other special facilities. Also, there won’t be any press conferences.

Please note: A few WiA IV workshops will be on topics that may be considered sensitive. In these cases, confidentiality may be requested at the beginning of the session. Press registrants will be welcome to attend confidential sessions and may report on what happens there in general terms -- but with no attributed or identifiable quotes.

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.