The American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences annual conference

Posted by Anonymous
on Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences (AAS DPS) held a full day of sessions October 9 at its annual conference in Pasadena, California. Monday’s sessions included talks on extrasolar planets, the origin of satellites, outer-planet atmospheres, and comet nuclei. Scientists gave mission highlights on Venus Express, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and asteroid 1 Ceres.
 
A 90-minute session is composed of 9 speakers, with each speaker having only 10 minutes to present his or her topic and answer questions. Veteran speakers made efficient use of their time, used the clip-on microphone without generating feedback, and presented their topics clearly. One such polished speaker was Alan P. Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who spoke on the rapid formation of gas-giant and super-earth planets around M-dwarf stars with confidence.
 
One of the most interesting moments of the day came when Joseph Harrington of the University of Central Florida said direct observation of extrasolar planet HD 189733b confirmed that it was round — an obvious reference to the International Astronomical Union’s recent demotion of Pluto. Laughter erupted in the room, and an unknown attendee commented, “Otherwise, it’s not a planet.” More laughter ensued. And, by the way, he’s looking for a graduate student.
 
The Planetary Society held a panel discussion Monday evening titled “Humans and Robots: A Space Exploration Team.” Louis Friedman moderated the talk, which was open to the general public. Bill Nye, Buzz Aldrin, Jim Bell, Chris McKay, and Bruce Murray were on-hand to participate in the discussion. Ray Bradbury was expected to make an appearance, but he was too ill to attend. Bruce Murray accepted the Thomas O. Paine Award for the Advancement of Human Exploration of Mars on behalf of Bradbury. Buzz Aldrin said he believes there’s no conflict between science and exploration. He also said humans and robots go hand-and-hand. More than 200 people attended the event.
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