American Astronomical Society meeting preview

Posted by Liz Kruesi
on Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On January 4, I’ll leave the cold, snowy Midwest for the sunny (and mid-60s) Southern California (Long Beach, to be exact). Just that alone sounds great, but I’m not heading out there for a vacation. Instead I’ll be in California for the 213th American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting. The January AAS meeting is the largest astronomy-related conference each year. About 2,300 astronomers are expected, and they will present more than 1,800 scientific papers. I’ll be there to report on it.

In addition to 12 press conferences and a ton of research presentations, astronomers will also have a public ceremony to kick off the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009). Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about IYA2009. It marks the 400-year anniversary of the first documented scientific use of the telescope (by our dear friend Galileo). The public ceremony will start at 7:45 p.m. PST January 6 at the Long Beach Convention Center. So if you’re in town, head to Exhibit Hall B. If you can’t make it to California, the ceremony will be broadcast live at www.ustream.tv.

During the ceremony, astronomers will unveil a museum-wall-sized image of a galaxy taken by NASA’s great observatories. Another exhibit that will be on display is called “From Earth to the Universe.” This collection of astronomical photographs is on exhibit in various public parks, airports, and art centers. What’s really cool about this exhibit is that it’s appearing at locations in about 30 countries. The ceremony will conclude with the world premiere of 400 Years of the Telescope, a PBS television documentary.

It’ll be an extremely busy 4 days, but I’m looking forward to learning about new discoveries and revised theories. Another added bonus: The AAS meeting always inspires many articles we’ll publish in future issues of the magazine. So keep your eyes peeled for Astronomy articles based off findings announced next week. And stay tuned to Astronomy.com for blogs from AAS during my 4-day trip.

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