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10 October 2018

Shantanu Naidu / Rick Fienberg
DPS Press Officer / AAS Press Officer
+1 917-373-8840 / +1 857-891-5649

Japan’s Hayabusa2 is now exploring asteroid Ryugu, and NASA’s New Horizons is closing in on the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed "Ultima Thule." At this historic juncture in the exploration of our solar system, more than 700 researchers will gather in Knoxville, Tennessee, 21-26 October for the 50th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Two of four daily press conferences will feature the latest news from the Hayabusa2 and New Horizons teams. Two others will highlight new findings on various planets, moons, and asteroids based on observations from ground- and space-based telescopes as well as from robotic interplanetary missions.

The meeting takes place at the Knoxville Convention Center, 701 Henley St., Knoxville, TN 37902. The AAS/DPS offers complimentary press registration to journalists and public-information officers (PIOs); see details below. Meeting hashtag: #dps18; you may also wish to follow @DPSMeeting and @AAS_Press on Twitter.

Meeting links:

In addition to daily oral and poster sessions, the meeting features more than a dozen plenary talks from distinguished planetary scientists. André Izidoro (São Paulo State University) and Thomas Kruijer (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) will offer new views of the evolution of the early solar system, while Jennifer L. Eigenbrode (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Courtney Dressing (University of California, Berkeley), and Hikaru Yabuta (Hiroshima University) will present new views on habitability near and far.

Fran Bagenal (University of Colorado, Boulder), Carolyn Brinkworth (National Center for Atmospheric Research), Clark Chapman (Southwest Research Institute), Anita Cochran (University of Texas, Austin), Dale Cruikshank (NASA Ames Research Center), Thomas McCord (Bear Fight Institute), David Morrison (NASA Ames Research Center), and Carle Pieters (Brown University) will discuss significant developments in the history of planetary science and look to a future that it more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Two 2018 DPS award winners will give prize talks: Francesca DeMeo (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), recipient of the Harold C. Urey Prize for her work on asteroids and asteroid classification; and Julio Fernandez (Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay), recipient of the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for his work on comets and the origin of the solar system. Bonnie Buratti (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), winner of the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding public communication by an active planetary scientist, will give a public talk to which the citizens of Knoxville will be invited. Faith Vilas (Planetary Science Institute) will receive the Harold Masursky Award for meritorious service, and Alexandra Witze will receive the Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award for her article “Next Stop, Mars,” which appeared in Nature.

Complimentary Press Registration

The AAS/DPS 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. We strongly advise you to register in advance to avoid lines at the registration booth. Please send your email request to Rick Fienberg no later than Thursday, 18 October. After that, you’ll have to register on-site.

Press Facilities

A press office will be set up in Room 300C on the third floor of the Knoxville Convention Center and will be open to journalists during normal conference hours. Among other amenities, it will offer workspace, internet connectivity, and a printer.

Press-office staff:

We will not have a separate press interview room for use by press registrants, but except during press conferences (see next section), Room 300D will be available. To reserve this space at a particular date and time, you’ll be asked to fill out the sign-up sheet that will be posted on the door or in the press office (Room 300C).

Press-Conference Schedule, Topics & Speakers

News briefings for the media will be conducted daily Monday-Thursday, 22-25 October, during the midday lunch break, next door to the press office in Room 300D, which will be equipped with a sound system, mult-box, and wireless internet connectivity. Note that lunch is from 12:00 to 1:30 pm EDT each day (EDT = UTC − 4 hours). The briefings themselves will begin at 12:15 pm EDT; each will last about 1 hour. There is no press conference on Friday, 26 October.

Following is the preliminary press-conference program, which remains subject to change. In [square brackets] under each speaker’s name is the session or 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. Please review the complete AAS/DPS embargo policy before coming to Knoxville.

Note: All new discoveries are subject to confirmation by independent teams of scientists. Inclusion here does not imply endorsement by the American Astronomical Society or the Division for Planetary Sciences. The AAS and DPS do not endorse individual scientific results.

Monday, 22 October 2018, 12:15 pm EDT
Europa, Jupiter, and Big Asteroids

A Closer Look at Galileo Thermal Data from Possible Plume Sources Near Pwyll, Europa
Julie Rathbun (Planetary Science Institute)

Fine-Scale Waves in Jupiter’s Atmosphere Detected by JunoCam
Glenn Orton (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

ESO/VLT/SPHERE Survey of D > 100 km Asteroids (2017-2019): First Results
Pierre Vernazza (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille)

Tuesday, 23 October 2018, 12:15 pm EDT
Trojans, Triton, and Phaethon

The Trojan Color Conundrum
David Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles)

Continued Volatile Transport on Triton
Bonnie Buratti (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Physical Characterization of (3200) Phaethon: Target of the DESTINY+ Mission
Theodore Kareta (University of Arizona)

Wednesday, 24 October 2018, 12:15 pm EDT
New Horizons Beyond Pluto: The Ultima Flyby

Members of the New Horizons team will preview the mission’s 1 January 2019 flyby of “Ultima Thule” in the Kuiper Belt. This will be the most distant planetary encounter in history. Team members will cover the significance and challenges of the flyby, its science goals and operational timelines, and the Kuiper Belt in the context of solar system exploration.


    • Alan Stern (principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute)
    • Carey Lisse (science team member, Johns Hopkins Univ. Applied Physics Lab.)
    • Hal Weaver (project scientist, Johns Hopkins Univ. Applied Physics Lab.)
    • Kelsi Singer (co-investigator, Southwest Research Institute)

Related presentations: [208.01], [221], [302], [305], [311], [314], [315], Friday 12 pm workshop (“Workshop: Future Pluto and Kuiper Belt Missions”), [502], [506], [509]

Thursday, 25 October 2018, 12:15 pm EDT
Hayabusa2 Explores Asteroid Ryugu

Hayabusa2’s Operations and Observations of Ryugu and
Initial Operation of the MINERVA-II1 Rovers and MASCOT
Masaki Fujimoto (Inst. of Space & Astronautical Science / Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

Landing-Site Selection to Provide Key Scientific and
Engineering Findings from Proximal Operations and Material Sampling
Hikaru Yabuta (Hiroshima University)

Ryugu’s Surface Seen from Hayabusa2’s Remote-Sensing Observations
Eri Tatsumi (University of Tokyo)
Deborah Domingue (Planetary Science Institute)
Lucille Le Corre (Planetary Science Institute)

Initial Operation of the MASCOT After Its Deployment
Ralf Jaumann (German Aerospace Center)

Related presentations: [309.03], [411 (posters)], [501 (short talks)]

Remote Access to Press Conferences

Journalists unable to attend the meeting in person may tune in to our Monday-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. 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 on-site 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.

    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 the form linked from our Join the AAS Press List page. As described there, with few exceptions, only accredited journalists and public-information officers are eligible to receive press releases forwarded by the AAS.

    The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), founded in 1968, is the largest special-interest Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Members of the DPS study the bodies of our own solar system, from planets and moons to comets and asteroids, and all other solar-system objects and processes. With the discovery that planets exist around other stars, the DPS has expanded its scope to include the study of extrasolar planetary systems as well.

    The AAS, established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 7,500) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.