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Press Kit, 231st AAS Meeting, Washington, DC, 8-12 January 2018

4 January 2018 (updated 12 January)

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


More than 3,000 scientists, educators, journalists, and others are gathering in the nation’s capital for the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting — often called the “Super Bowl of Astronomy.” 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.

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 in six press conferences. And scientists preparing for the March 2018 launch of NASA’s eagerly anticipated Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will preview the planet-finding mission in a seminar for science writers.

The AAS Historical Astronomy Division (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." The AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division (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.” 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, and the status of the astronomy workforce.

Note that whereas AAS meetings usually run from Sunday evening through Thursday afternoon, this one begins on Monday evening and runs through Friday afternoon. 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 National Harbor and abide by them throughout the meeting.

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.

QR code

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 prefunction area on level one. 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 (see below).

Reporters and public-information officers who need to register on-site should go to the AAS registration desk in the Convention Center prefunction area on level one 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 BC 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 Chesapeake A, 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.

Added 12 January 2018: Most 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. Videos of the briefings are available in our webcast archive, and photos from the briefings are available in our photo gallery.

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

Overview & Introduction
Kimberly Ennico (NASA Ames Research Center)

SOFIA/HAWC+ Polarization in Galaxies: It’s All About the Magnetic Fields
Enrique Lopez Rodriguez (USRA / SOFIA Science Center)
[123.07] | Press Release

HAWC+/SOFIA Observations of the Rho Ophiuchi A Star-Forming Region
Fabio Santos (Northwestern University)
[130.04] | Press Release

Interstellar Dust Grain Alignment — Why Do We Detect Polarization?
B-G Andersson (SOFIA / USRA)
[414.04] | Press Release

Characterizing the Origin of Ionized-Carbon Emission from Spiral Galaxies
Elizabeth Tarantino (University of Maryland)
[130.07] | Press Release

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)

TESS’s Anticipated Exoplanet Bounty & Ground-Based Follow-up
Sara Seager (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

TESS Guest Investigator Program Science
Padi Boyd (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Combining TESS with Current (Hubble) and Future (Webb) Missions
Elisa Quintana (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

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) & Rachael Beaton (Princeton University)
[146.14] | Press Release

The More the Metals, the Closer the Planet
Robert F. Wilson (University of Virginia)
[211.02] | Press Release

Measuring the Masses of Supermassive Black Holes
Catherine Grier (Pennsylvania State University)
[250.25] | Press Release

Supermassive Black Holes Bully Even the Smallest Galaxies
Karen Masters (Haverford College / University of Portsmouth)
[340.05] | Press Release | Intro Slides

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 (USRA / Arecibo Observatory)
[243.19] | Press Release

High-Frequency Observations of FRB 121102 from Breakthrough Listen
Vishal Gajjar (University of California, Berkeley)
[132.02] | Press Release

The Extreme Magneto-Ionic Environment of FRB 121102*
Daniele Michilli (ASTRON / University of Amsterdam)
[243.18] | Press Release

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)
[452.04] | Press Release

A Special Announcement from NASA
Paul Hertz (NASA Headquarters)
Press Release

Green Bank Telescope Detects Hydrogen Clouds in the Fermi Bubble Wind
Jay Lockman (Green Bank Observatory)
[237.07] | Press Release

360-Degree Video: An Immersive Visualization of the Galactic Center
Christopher Russell (Instituto de Astrofísica / Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
[311.01] | Press Release

ALMA Sees Galaxies Only 800 Million Years After the Big Bang**
Renske Smit (University of Cambridge)
[454.03] | Press Release

**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)
[160.01] | Press Release

Using Hubble to Chart the Proper Motions of Sun-like Stars in the Galactic Bulge
William Clarkson (University of Michigan-Dearborn)
[411.04] | Press Release

Black Hole Double Burp
Julie Comerford (University of Colorado, Boulder)
[440.05] | Press Release

Hubble Uses the Gravitational Force to Find a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Brett Salmon (Space Telescope Science Institute)
[454.12] | Press Release

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)
[429.02D] | Press Release

Rings & Spirals Can Form by Themselves in Circumstellar Disks
Marc Kuchner (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
[428.01] | Press Release

A Near-Resonant Chain of Five Sub-Neptune Planets Found by Citizen Scientists
Jessie Christiansen (Caltech)
[303.06] | Press Release

Hubble Searches for Substellar Companions in the Orion Nebula Cluster
Giovanni Strampelli (Space Telescope Science Institute)
[414.07] | Press Release

***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.

Special Request:

  • Please don’t wait till the last minute to request the webcast password. We’re quite busy during the run-up to each briefing and may not be available to respond to an email or phone call. If you think you may want to tune in to one or more of our briefings during the week, contact Rick Fienberg or one of his deputies as soon as possible. Thanks!

Opening & Closing Receptions

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

Monday, 8 January, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
AAS Opening Reception
Potomac Ballroom ABCD

Friday, 12 January, 5:30 to 7:00 pm
AAS Closing Reception
RiverView Ballroom

Prize Lectures & Invited Talks

Among the highlights of every AAS meeting are plenary lectures by recent AAS prize winners and other distinguished astronomers. Prize lectures and invited talks shine a spotlight on the most exciting areas of current astronomical research and feature insights from some of the sharpest minds working to deepen our understanding of the universe. All of the following plenary presentations occur in Potomac Ballroom AB.

Tuesday, 9 January

8:00 am to 8:20 am:
Welcome Address
AAS President Christine Jones (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

8:20 am to 9:10 am:
Kavli Foundation Lecture: The New Jupiter — Results from the Juno Mission
Scott Bolton (Southwest Research Institute)

11:40 am to 12:30 pm:
A New Measurement of the Expansion Rate of the Universe: Evidence of New Physics?
Adam Riess (Johns Hopkins University)

3:40 pm to 4:30 pm:
HAD Doggett Prize Lecture: Tangible Things of American Astronomy
Sara Schechner (Harvard University)

4:30 pm to 5:20 pm:
RAS Gold Medal Lecture: The Effect of Non-Linear Structure on Cosmological Observables
Nick Kaiser (University of Hawaii)

Wednesday, 10 January

8:20 am to 9:10 am:
Unveiling the Low-Surface-Brightness Stellar Peripheries of Galaxies
Annette Ferguson (University of Edinburgh)

11:40 am to 12:30 pm:
The Stormy Life of Galaxy Clusters
Larry Rudnick (Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics)

3:40 pm to 4:30 pm:
Heineman Prize Lecture: The Value of Change — Surprises and Insights in Stellar Evolution
Lars Bildsten (University of California, Santa Barbara)

4:30 pm to 5:20 pm:
HEAD Rossi Prize Lecture: Gravitational-Wave Astrophysics
Gabriela Gonzalez (Louisiana State University)

Thursday, 11 January

8:00 am to 8:50 am:
Venus: Our Misunderstood Sister
Darby Dyar (Planetary Science Institute)

11:40 am to 12:30 pm:
Astro Data Science: The Next Generation
Chris Mentzel (Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation)

3:40 pm to 4:30 pm:
Warner Prize Lecture: The Evolution of Stars & Galaxies
Charlie Conroy (Harvard University)

4:30 pm to 5:20 pm:
Henry Norris Russell Lecture: 54 Years of Adventures in Infrared Astronomy
Eric Becklin (University of California, Los Angeles)

Friday, 12 January

8:00 am to 8:50 am:
Illuminating Gravitational Waves
Mansi Kasliwal (California Institute of Technology)

11:40 am to 12:30 pm:
The Fate of Exploding White Dwarfs
Rob Fischer (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)

3:40 pm to 4:30 pm:
Science Policy Lecture: The Politics of Science Funding — Is the Fault in Our Stars?
David Goldston (MIT)

4:30 pm to 5:20 pm:
Berkeley Prize Lecture: The Instruments that Launched Gravitational-Wave Astronomy
Peter Fritschel (MIT Kavli Institute)

Town Halls

Town Halls enable federal agencies and national observatories to present policy information and solicit feedback from their user communities. They are held during the lunch break and/or in the evening and provide excellent opportunities for journalists to ask questions of officials representing federal funding agencies and current and future national observatories.

Tuesday, 9 January

12:45 pm to 2:00 pm*:
National Science Foundation (NSF) Town Hall
Potomac Ballroom C
*Note that this event coincides with the TESS seminar for science writers.

6:30 pm to 8:30 pm:
James Webb Space Telescope Town Hall: Preparing for JWST Cycle 1 Science
Potomac Ballroom C

Wednesday, 10 January

12:45 pm to 2:00 pm:
NASA Town Hall
Potomac Ballroom C

6:30 pm to 8:30 pm:
National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Town Hall —
Astro2020: The Next Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Potomac Ballroom C

7:30 pm to 9:00 pm:
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Town Hall
Potomac Ballroom D

Thursday, 11 January

12:45 pm to 2:00 pm:
NASA Scientific Ballooning Roadmap
Potomac Ballroom D 

12:45 pm to 2:00 pm:
National Center for Optical-Infrared Astronomy (NCOA) Town Hall
Potomac Ballroom C

6:30 pm to 8:00 pm:
National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) Town Hall
Potomac Ballroom C

7:30 pm to 8:30 pm:
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Town Hall: New Opportunities
Potomac Ballroom D

NRAO Press Reception

Tuesday, 9 January, 6:00 pm
Chesapeake DE

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 (VLA) 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.

Press Dinner — RSVP Needed ASAP!

Thursday, 11 January, 7:00 pm
Rosa Mexicano

Join your fellow press registrants as we take a short walk from the Gaylord to Rosa Mexicano (153 Waterfront St.) for unlimited tacos and tequila. The menu features tortilla chips with homemade guacamole and salsa, three types of tacos (including a vegetarian option), churros for dessert, and plenty of beer, wine, margaritas, and soft drinks to wash it all down. The price per person will be $60, and because we need to provide a head count to the restaurant in advance, you must RSVP to AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg by no later than Monday, 8 January.

Press Tour & Science Writers Workshop

Friday, 12 January, 8:00 am
Space Telescope Science Institute

Two-dozen pre-registered science writers will 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 Webb 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. A list of participants will be posted in the press office (Chesapeake ABC). If you are on the list but your plans have changed and you won’t be joining us, please inform AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg at your earliest convenience.

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

Note: We will keep the press office open on Friday for press registrants spending the day attending science sessions rather than going on the press tour. There will be no news briefings on Friday.

APOD Public Event

Tuesday, 9 January, 7:00 pm
Potomac Ballroom D

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 Nemiroff, Bonnell, and other astronomers attending the meeting.

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, @AAS_Publishing, and @AASNova. Journalists (and scientists) tweeting from the meeting are encouraged to use the hashtag #aas231.

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.