29 August 2013

From the Executive Office

Sunday, July 14th, was no ordinary day. In addition to it being my birthday, it was the start of the highly talked about AAS Topical Conference Series, or AASTCS. Responding to our original 2011 announcement, hopeful conference organizers submitted proposals to the AAS Council in June 2012. Approval came soon after, and then planning started in earnest. The organizers didn’t need to concern themselves with logistical details; the AAS handled registration, abstract submission, and all the arrangements with the meeting venue, allowing the proposers and their organizing committees to focus on the scientific content of their conference.

Attendees came from all parts of the world to the Hyatt Regency in beautiful Monterey, California, for two 5-day conferences in July. The first, Probes of Dark Matter on Galaxy Scales, included participants who engaged in interactive presentations and productive networking activities on dynamical studies (utilizing new simulations as well as new observational data), gravitational lensing, kinematical studies of dwarf galaxies in the Local Group and beyond, and indirect probes of dark matter.

One week after the conclusion of AASTCS #1, the next conference started in the same manner and with the same positive vibe. Giants of Eclipse provided a forum to discuss the physics of cool giants in eclipsing binaries, such as Epsilon Aurigae, to examine new data for such objects, and to compare the latest theories. It featured workshops on phenomena, data, instrumentation, methods, and models, and brought together experts in spectroscopy, photometry, imaging, interferometry, spectropolarimetry, stellar magnetic activity, and evolution, including both professionals and amateur astronomers.

Response from attendees at both conferences was positive. Many said that thanks to the quality of the science, the amount of engagement among participants, the confortable setting, and the convenient location, the inaugural AASTCS meetings were both productive and successful.

The AAS, including staff, leadership, and membership, would like to express a special and sincere “Thank you!” to Sukanya Chakrabarti, Leo Blitz, Elizabeth Griffin, and Robert Stencel and all the members of their science organizing committees. Without their dedication and hard work these conferences would not have been possible.

Two AASTCS conferences are scheduled in 2014, one on the challenge of exascale radio astronomy and another on the origin, evolution, and collapse of dense cores in star-forming regions. Detailed information on both meetings will be coming soon. Proposals for future AASTCS conferences will be due late next year. I invite anyone interested in submitting a proposal — or simply thinking about possible topics and/or wanting to know more about what’s involved — to email me for more information.