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1st Media Advisory, 231st AAS Meeting, Washington, DC, 8-12 January 2018

26 October 2017

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

As it does every four years, the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting — the “Super Bowl of Astronomy” — is returning to the nation’s capital. The 231st AAS meeting, 8-12 January 2018, will be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Maryland 20745. Set on 350 acres along the Potomac River with views of downtown DC and Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, the Gaylord features dozens of shops and restaurants and is just a 20-minute taxi ride from the US Capitol. Rooms in the AAS block at the main hotel, operated by Marriott, are being offered to all attendees, including members of the news media, at the prevailing government rate.

Note that whereas AAS meetings usually run from Sunday evening through Thursday afternoon, this one begins on Monday evening and runs through Friday afternoon. The quadrennial DC meeting is the Society’s largest, regularly attracting more than 2,500 (and occasionally more than 3,000) scientists, educators, journalists, and others from all over the world. Social-media hashtag: #aas231.

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

Meeting links:

Education and professional-development workshops occur on Sunday and Monday, 7 and 8 January, then the meeting officially kicks off with the AAS Opening Reception on Monday evening (free food, cash bar). Science sessions get under way on Tuesday morning with the Kavli Foundation lecture by Scott Bolton (Southwest Research Institute) on the latest findings from the Juno mission to Jupiter. That’s just the first of a stellar lineup of 16 plenary talks by AAS prize winners and other distinguished astronomers, including Nobel Prize-winner Adam Riess (Johns Hopkins University), who will provide a status report on the quest to pin down the Hubble constant and understand the nature of dark energy.

The Henry Norris Russell Lecture, recognizing a lifetime of preeminence in astronomical research, will be presented by Eric Becklin (University of California, Los Angeles), who played a leading role over the last half century in turning infrared astronomy into a fundamental tool for understanding the universe. The recipient of the AAS Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) Leroy Doggett Prize, Sara Schechner (Harvard University), will describe heroic efforts to preserve historical astronomical instruments, and the recipient of the AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) Bruno Rossi Prize, Gabriela González (Louisiana State University) on behalf of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, will celebrate the birth of multimessenger astrophysics involving observations of gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation from exotic sources. This emerging discipline is so important and dynamic that it will be the subject of two additional invited presentations, including one by Mansi Kasliwal (Caltech) as well as the meeting’s final plenary, the Berkeley Prize lecture, by Peter Fritschel (MIT) on behalf of himself and co-recipients Dennis Coyne (Caltech) and David Shoemaker (MIT).

HAD convenes two special sessions: "The Future of Astronomy's Archived Observations — An Open Discussion" and "From the Earliest Astronomy to Space Missions: Explorations in the History of Astronomy." HEAD does the same, with “First Results from the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER)” and “GW170817/GRB170817A: Multimessenger Astrophysics from a Neutron Star Merger” (there’s that topic again!). The AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) holds one special session entitled “Water, Water Everywhere,” exploring studies of this life-sustaining molecule in the solar system and interstellar space. More than two dozen additional special sessions occur throughout the week, focusing not only on hot scientific topics (including findings from the 21 August 2017 “Great American Eclipse”) but also on such diverse issues as astronomy education, light pollution, the coming decadal survey for the 2020s, and the status of the astronomy workforce. Including regular oral and poster sessions, some 2,000 scientific presentations are anticipated.

The meeting also will feature a variety of public-policy Town Hall sessions where attendees will have the opportunity to interact with representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and several other funding agencies and astronomical facilities.

Complimentary Press Registration

The AAS offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and PIOs, as 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. Although press registration will be available on-site at the meeting, we strongly advise you register in advance to avoid lines at the registration booth. Please send your email request as soon as you know you’re coming to the meeting.

Press Facilities

The AAS will operate a press office in the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center for use by press registrants during normal conference hours. Among other amenities, it will offer workspace, internet connectivity, and a printer/copier. Thanks to the generosity of Universities Space Research Association, refreshments will be available in the press office each day.

Press-office staff:

Press conferences will be held at least twice each day Tuesday, 9 January, through Thursday, 11 January, in a briefing room that will be equipped with a sound system, mult-box, and internet connectivity. There will be no news briefings on Friday (see below). We’ll announce the detailed press-conference schedule, including speakers and topics, in a subsequent media advisory.

Remote Access to Press Conferences

Journalists unable to attend the meeting in person may tune in to our Tuesday-Thursday briefings streamed live on the Web. Since the webcast includes audio, video, and presentation slides, you must have a broadband (high-speed) internet connection to watch and listen.

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 on-site reporters. Instructions for connecting to the webcast will appear in a subsequent advisory.

Press Tour & Science Writers Workshop, Friday, 12 January 2018

Press registrants are invited to spend Friday at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), where preparations are under way for the dawn of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) era. We’ll visit the new Mission Operations Center and hear presentations from numerous mission scientists about the research that JWST will make possible and the resources available to support journalists covering the project. Transportation and lunch will be provided; we’ll depart the Gaylord at 8:00 am and return in time for the AAS Closing Reception at 5:30 pm.

Space on the press tour is limited to 20 participants. To join the tour, please note your interest (and nationality) when you contact AAS press officer Rick Fienberg to request press registration; if you’ve already secured press registration, send a follow-up email asking to be put on the list for the tour (and noting your nationality). First come, first served, but in any case please express your interest in joining the tour by Thursday, 30 November. Non-US citizens will be asked to provide some additional information in advance to get clearance from STScI security.

Thanks to Christine Pulliam and Ray Villard for organizing this exciting and informative day!

Note: Our intent is to keep the press office open on Friday for press registrants not coming on the STScI tour and instead spending the day attending science sessions. There will be no news briefings on Friday.

Public Event and Q&A

On Tuesday evening, 9 January, the public will be invited to join us at the Gaylord for a special session entitled “The Year's Best Astronomy Images.” The event will be emceed by Robert Nemiroff (Michigan Technological University) and Jerry Bonnell (University of Maryland), the proprietors of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), one of the most popular astronomy destinations on the Web. A selection of images featured on APOD in 2017 will be shown in large-screen format, and Nemiroff and Bonnell will lead a discussion about what makes them particularly breathtaking, educational, and/or newsworthy. Then the floor will be opened to the public for questions about anything in astronomy, to be answered as well as possible by astronomers attending the meeting.

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 fill out and submit the form you'll find linked from our Join the AAS Press List page. With few exceptions, only accredited journalists and PIOs are eligible to receive press releases forwarded by the AAS, as described on our press-credentials page.