237th meeting

Press Information

Virtually Anywhere
237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society
Virtually Anywhere
10 – 15 January 2021

14 October 2020

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

Media Invited to Virtual “Super Bowl of Astronomy”

The January meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), often called the Super Bowl of Astronomy, is most years’ biggest conference in the astronomical sciences. The 237th AAS meeting was originally scheduled in Phoenix, Arizona, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led the Society to make it fully virtual, as with the 236th AAS meeting last June. Thanks to the lower registration fees and lack of travel and lodging expenses, AAS 236 attracted twice as many attendees as a typical summer meeting, and from many more countries. If the same thing happens this winter, as seems likely, AAS 237 will be the biggest, most diverse, and most inclusive meeting in the Society’s 122-year history.

AAS 237 is now scheduled 11-15 January 2021 “virtually anywhere” with internet connectivity. The meeting, held jointly with the AAS Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) and High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD), will feature a robust science program of prize and invited talks by distinguished astronomers, daily press conferences, a virtual exhibit hall, and a wide variety of short talks, digital interactive iPosters, and iPoster-Plus presentations combining talks and iPosters. Meeting hashtag: #aas237.

We learned from our first online conference that attendees want to be able to interact with each other more like they do at in-person meetings, so we’ve added more real-time interactive tools to our virtual toolbox and have scheduled a speed networking night to help participants connect with each other. And to maximize engagement and minimize exhaustion, we’ve changed the format from four long days to five shorter ones.

The AAS offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and public-information officers (PIOs), as explained below. A highlight of AAS 237 for press registrants is a free virtual workshop on multimessenger and time domain astronomy. This will occur on Friday afternoon, 8 January, before the regular science meeting gets under way; see details below.

AAS 237 Meeting Links

Press Registration

To request complimentary press registration, first check our eligibility criteria, then 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 email you a special promotional code that you can use to register the same way regular attendees do, i.e., via the AAS 237 registration page. This is a change from how we used to handle press registration, so please follow these instructions carefully.

Once you’ve received your promo code, go to the AAS 237 registration page and click the “Register for AAS 237” button. This will take you to our “members only” website, where you can sign in if you already have AAS credentials, which is likely if you’ve attended a recent AAS meeting, even if you’re not a member of the Society. If you’re not sure, or if you’ve forgotten your AAS credentials, click the “Forgot username?” or “Forgot password?” link and follow the instructions that pop up, or email [email protected] for assistance. Otherwise you can create a new account (again, you don’t have to be a member of the AAS to do so).

After you sign in, click the “Register Myself” button. You will see several options at different prices. Click the radio button labeled “Press Registration,” shown with a $473 fee. Don’t panic! Your promo code will reduce the fee to $0 during checkout. After answering a few questions to confirm that you understand and agree to our meeting policies, click the “Save Responses” button. Next set the “Select programs by” pulldown menu to “View all.” This will open a pane listing all the professional development workshops being offered at the meeting. If you’re interested in attending the media workshop mentioned above and described in more detail below, scroll down toward the end of the list and click the “Add” button next to the workshop title, “Media Workshop on Multimessenger & Time Domain Astronomy.” If you’re interested in any of the other workshops being offered on 7 or 8 January, you are welcome to add those too, but you will have to pay their associated fees — your promo code covers only your press registration and, if you opt for it, the media workshop.

Once you’ve answered the questions and added (or decided not to add) the workshop(s), click the “Proceed to Checkout” button. You’ll see “AAS 237 Virtual Meeting” listed with a charge that includes the $473 registration fee and any workshop fees you agreed to pay; the workshops won’t be itemized separately on this screen. Enter your promo code in the “Promotional Code” box and click the “Apply” button; you should now see the $473 registration fee wiped out. Click the “Submit Order” button to complete your registration; unless you opted to attend a paid workshop, you won’t have to pay anything, and the next screen will confirm your registration -- and will list any workshop(s) you signed up for. You should soon receive two emails: an order confirmation/receipt from the addresses [email protected] and virtual meeting instructions from the address [email protected]. If you don’t see these emails within 24 hours, check your junk/spam folder.

If you encounter any problems during the registration process, email [email protected] or AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg. Please register by Wednesday, 6 January 2021. If you wait till the workshops and science sessions are under way, we may not be able to process your registration in time for you to attend that day’s events.USRA Logo

A very special “Thank you!” goes out to the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) for generously sponsoring the AAS 237 virtual press office!

Media Workshop on Multimessenger & Time Domain Astronomy

GEMMA LogoOn Friday, 8 January 2021, from 12 noon to 4 pm Eastern time (17:00 to 21:00 UTC), the international Gemini Observatory, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab, will present a virtual media workshop. Its objective is to inform science writers — both journalists and public-information officers (PIOs) — about multimessenger astronomy (MMA, combining electromagnetic, gravitational, and particle observations) and time domain astronomy (TDA, the study of celestial transients) and to provide a glimpse into the likely future of these rapidly advancing fields. The workshop will consist of a panel of scientists from leading MMA/TDA research facilities who will share their views on the state of each field and their vision for the future of MMA/TDA science and technology. A panel discussion and Q&A on MMA/TDA and on communications in the context of large scientific collaborations will round out the event, which will be recorded and made publicly accessible afterward. [More information about the workshop.]

There is no charge for this workshop, but it is available only to press registrants, and if you wish to participate you must sign up for the workshop when you register; see the instructions above.

Press Conferences

During the week of 11-15 January 2021, daily press conferences will be conducted via Zoom for press registrants and any other meeting registrants wishing to attend. They’ll also be live-streamed on the AAS Press Office YouTube channel for others who are interested — but not interested enough to register. You will not be able to ask questions via YouTube; to do that, you’ll need to register for the meeting and join the briefings via Zoom. Recordings will be archived on the AAS Press Office YouTube channel afterward. The press conference schedule, topics, and speakers will be announced in another media advisory by mid-December.

Plenary Lectures

With support from the Kavli Foundation, the AAS Vice-Presidents name a special invited lecturer to kick off each semiannual AAS meeting with a presentation on recent research of great importance. The AAS 237 Fred Kavli Plenary Lecture will be given by Paul Demorest (National Radio Astronomy Observatory), a leader of NANOGrav, the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves. He’ll describe progress toward detecting very-low-frequency gravitational radiation from a variety of cosmic sources, including supermassive black holes orbiting each other in the centers of galaxies.

Other prize talks include the Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal lecture by Sandra Faber (University of California, Santa Cruz), who received the medal for her contributions to the design of large telescopes and novel instruments and for her outstanding research on galaxy structure, galaxy evolution, and cosmology. Scott Tremaine (Institute for Advanced Study) will give the career-capping Henry Norris Russell lecture, featuring insights into the dynamics of natural cosmic systems on scales ranging from comets to clusters of galaxies. Caroline Morley (University of Texas, Austin), recipient of the Annie Jump Cannon Award, will describe her innovative work on modeling the atmospheres of exoplanets and brown dwarfs. Helen B. Warner Prize winner Smadar Naoz (University of California, Los Angeles) will present some of the latest findings from her ongoing studies in cosmology and dynamics.

Christopher Kochanek (Ohio State University) will present the AAS/American Institute of Physics Dannie Heineman Prize lecture on his work combining observations and theory to investigate topics such as the lives and deaths of massive stars and the evolution of stellar populations in galaxies and quasars. Sheperd Doeleman (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian) will provide an update on Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) imaging of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, for which he and the EHT team received HEAD’s Bruno Rossi Prize. And the recipient of HAD’s Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize, Ileana Chinnici (National Institute for Astrophysics/Astronomical Observatory of Palermo, Italy), will share some stories from her prize-winning book “Decoding the Stars: A Biography of Angelo Secchi, Jesuit and Scientist."

Other plenary lectures include David Chuss (Villanova University) on magnetic fields in astrophysically interesting environments, Priyamvada Natarajan (Yale University) on using gravitational lensing to infer and constrain the properties of dark matter, Lisa Randall (Harvard University) on the physics of the early universe, Adrian Price-Whelan (Flatiron Institute) on tidal streams in the Milky Way’s halo as revealed by the Gaia space mission, Chris Packham (University of Texas, San Antonio) on accretion disks around supermassive black holes and planet-forming protostars, Marcelle Soares-Santos (Brandeis University) on the search for visible counterparts to gravitational-wave events, and Brian Nord (Fermilab) on the implications of artificial intelligence in science and society, in particular with respect to systemic racial discrimination.

Sherry Suyu (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics & Technical University of Munich) will present the closing plenary lecture on the work of the H0LiCOW collaboration to measure the cosmic expansion rate, for which she was awarded the Lancelot M. Berkeley–New York Community Trust Prize for Meritorious Work in Astronomy. Her team’s prize-winning research article confirms that “local” measurements of the expansion rate don’t match up with values obtained by measuring certain properties of the early universe’s cosmic microwave background radiation and extrapolating to the present using the standard cosmological model developed over the last few decades.

Special Sessions & Town Halls

Among the many sessions of short talks and iPoster presentations are numerous Special Sessions on topics of keen interest to the astronomical community. Here’s a sampling: “Massive Stars in Colliding Wind Binaries,” “Radio Galaxies on All Scales,” “Atmospheric Characterization of TESS Exoplanets,” “New Views of Galaxy Formation and Evolution,” “Assessing the Impact of Stellar Feedback,” “Dark Energy Survey: New Results and Public Data Release,” “Subaru Prime Focus Spectrograph,” “Astronomy Education in a Rapidly Changing World: Best Practices from Research and Instruction,” “Astronomy and Satellite Constellations,” “Scientific and Cultural Engagement with Arizona Indigenous Communities,” and “A Discussion on Anti-Blackness in Astronomy.”

AAS 237 will also feature a wide assortment of Town Halls where you can hear from, and ask questions of, representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and several key ground- and space-based observatories, including NSF’s NOIRLab, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the James Webb and Nancy Grace Roman space telescopes, and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

Every day wraps up with a social hour, and you won’t want to miss our ever-popular Open Mic Night, where you can enjoy watching astronomers show off their talents as musicians, singers, storytellers, comedians, magicians, poets, jugglers, and more.

AAS 237: Your inside look at the latest discoveries in astronomy. We hope to see you there (wherever you happen to be)!

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