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2nd Media Advisory, 231st AAS Meeting, Washington, DC, 8-12 January 2018

18 December 2017

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

Six press conferences and a seminar for science writers will offer something for everyone at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) near Washington, DC, 8-12 January 2018. Researchers studying our solar system, planets around other stars, interstellar gas and dust, mysterious celestial transients, the center of the Milky Way, and the most remote galaxies in the universe will present new findings based on observations with ground-based, airborne, and space-based telescopes. Plus you’ll get a primer on NASA’s eagerly anticipated Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), scheduled for launch in March 2018.

The venue is the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor, MD 20745. 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; already some 2,800 scientists, educators, journalists, and others have registered to attend. 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:

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 (link to come soon).

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 Gaylord National Harbor, preregistered press should proceed to the AAS registration area in the Convention Center Foyer. Badges won’t be available before 1 pm EST on Monday, 8 January; please try to pick up your badge before the AAS Opening Reception, which begins at 7 pm Monday evening.

Reporters and public-information officers who need to register on-site should go to the AAS registration desk in the Convention Center Foyer and ask for an on-site 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 Chesapeake ABC 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 (USRA), refreshments will be available in the press office each day.

Press-office staff:

Press conferences (see next section) will be held in Chesapeake DE, which will be equipped with a sound system, mult-box, and internet connectivity.

We will also have an interview room, the Potomac Ballroom C Registration Office, 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 remains subject to change. Briefings are scheduled as follows (all times are EST = UTC − 5 hours):

There are no briefings on Friday to avoid conflict with a press tour to the Space Telescope Science Institute (which is already fully booked). 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 (see below).

In [square brackets] under each speaker’s name is the paper number 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.

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.

Tuesday, 9 January, 10:15 am
Press Conference: Astronomy from the Stratosphere

SOFIA/HAWC+ Polarization in Galaxies: It’s All About the Magnetic Fields
Enrique Lopez Rodriguez (SOFIA Science Center)

Characterizing the Origin of Ionized-Carbon Emission from Spiral Galaxies
Elizabeth Tarantino (University of Maryland)

HAWC+/SOFIA Observations of the Rho Ophiuchi A Star-Forming Region
Fabio Santos (Northwestern University)

SOFIA/HAWC+ Polarization in the Envelope of the Carbon Star CW Leonis
B-G Andersson (SOFIA / USRA)

Tuesday, 9 January, 12:45 pm
Seminar for Science Writers: NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

TESS Mission Overview and Science Objectives
George Ricker (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
[310.03, 403.04-05, 439.07-12]

TESS’s Anticipated Exoplanet Bounty & Ground-Based Follow-up
Sara Seager (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
[246.05, 246.23, 246.31, 303.01, 403.08]

TESS Guest Investigator Program Science
Padi Boyd (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
[149.44, 150.39]

Combining TESS with Current (Hubble) and Future (Webb) Missions
Elisa Quintana (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
[128.06, 310.02]

Tuesday, 9 January, 2:15 pm
Press Conference: An Alphabet Soup of Science from SDSS (APOGEE/eBOSS/MaNGA)

Time Resolved Spectroscopy of Cepheid Variable Stars
Katherine Hartman (Pomona College)

The More the Metals, the Closer the Planet
Robert F. Wilson (West Virginia University)

Measuring the Masses of Supermassive Black Holes
Catherine Grier (Pennsylvania State University)

Supermassive Black Holes Bully Even the Smallest Galaxies
Karen Masters (Haverford College / University of Portsmouth)

Wednesday, 10 January, 10:15 am
Press Conference: Peering Deeper Into the Lair of the Repeating Fast Radio Burst

Pinpointing the Location of FRB 121102 in Its Host Galaxy
Betsey Adams (ASTRON / Kapteyn Astronomical Institute)

Strange Spectrotemporal Features in FRB 121102’s Bursts
Andrew Seymour (Arecibo Observatory)

High-Frequency Observations of FRB 121102 from Breakthrough Listen
Vishal Gajjar (University of California, Berkeley)

The Extreme Magneto-Ionic Environment of FRB 121102*
Daniele Michilli (ASTRON / University of Amsterdam)

FRB 121102: What We Now Know & What's Next
Jason Hessels (ASTRON / University of Amsterdam)

*Note that the result being presented by Michilli is the subject of a Nature paper being published online on Wednesday, 10 January, at 1:00 pm EST, which is 4 hours after Michilli’s poster goes up at the AAS meeting and 1 hour 45 minutes after the AAS briefing ends. The Nature embargo supersedes the AAS embargo, so news articles incorporating Michilli’s results should not be published before 1:00 pm EST. Thanks to Leslie Sage and his colleagues at Nature for coordinating with the AAS press office.

Wednesday, 10 January, 2:15 pm
Press Conference: From Comets to Galaxies

A Rapid Decrease in the Rotation Rate of Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak**
Dennis Bodewits (University of Maryland)

A Special Announcement from NASA
Paul Hertz (NASA Headquarters)

Green Bank Telescope Detects Hydrogen Clouds in the Fermi Bubble Wind
Jay Lockman (Green Bank Observatory)

360-Degree Video: A New Visualization of the Galactic Center
Christopher Russell (Instituto de Astrofísica / Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

ALMA Sees Galaxies Only 800 Million Years After the Big Bang**
Renske Smit (University of Cambridge)

**Note that the results being presented by Bodewits and Smit are the subjects of Nature papers being published online on Wednesday, 10 January, at 1:00 pm EST, which is 1 hour 15 minutes before the AAS briefing begins. We encourage — but do not require — you to wait till after the briefing to publish any news articles incorporating Bodewits's and/or Smit's results. Thanks to Leslie Sage and his colleagues at Nature for coordinating with the AAS press office.

Thursday, 11 January, 10:15 am
Press Conference: It’s Amazing What You Can Do with Space Telescopes

Pulsar Navigation with NICER/SEXTANT
Keith Gendreau (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Using Hubble to Chart the Proper Motions of Sun-like Stars in the Galactic Bulge
William Clarkson (University of Michigan-Dearborn)

Black Hole Double Burp
Julie Comerford (University of Colorado, Boulder)

Hubble Uses the Gravitational Force to Find a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Brett Salmon (Texas A&M University)

Thursday, 11 January, 2:15 pm
Press Conference: From Molecules to Disks to Planets

Green Bank Telescope Finds Complex Molecules in Taurus***
Brett A. McGuire (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

Rings & Spirals Can Form by Themselves in Circumstellar Disks
Marc Kuchner (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

A Near-Resonant Chain of Five Sub-Neptune Planets Found by Citizen Scientists
Jessie Christiansen (Caltech)

Hubble Searches for Substellar Companions in the Orion Nebula Cluster
Giovanni Strampelli (Space Telescope Science Institute)

***Note that the result being presented by McGuire is the subject of a Science paper being published online on Thursday, 11 January, at 2:00 pm EST, which is 15 minutes before the AAS briefing begins. We encourage — but do not require — you to wait till after the briefing to publish any news articles incorporating McGuire's results. Thanks to Meagan Phelan and her colleagues at Science for coordinating with the AAS press office.

Remote Access to Press Conferences

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.

Just Added! NRAO Press Reception

Press registrants are invited to attend a press reception hosted by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) beginning at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, 9 January, in Chesapeake DE (the press-conference room). NRAO Director Tony Beasley will present thoughtfully brief remarks on the current status of planning for a Next Generation Very Large Array. The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array is one of the National Science Foundation's flagship observatories. NRAO and Associated Universities, Inc., have begun a two-year project to explore the science opportunities, design concepts, and technologies needed to construct a new class of radio observatory. Other NRAO astronomers involved in this project will be on hand to answer questions informally over drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

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.