On the Road: American Astronomical Society May 2011 meeting, Sunday recap

Posted by Bill Andrews
on Monday, May 23, 2011

The 218th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) officially began Sunday, with the opening reception taking place in Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza (just a stone’s throw from the famous Boston Common, and right next door to the shapely Hancock tower). It’s a real thrill staying and, ostensibly, working so close to one of Beantown’s most famous landmarks, and really helps drive home that I’m back in familiar territory.

The crowds gathered for the opening reception of the 218th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s Grand Ballroom. // Bill Andrews photo
The reception, as in years past, wasn’t so much a ceremony as just a chance for attendees to get together and mingle, chat, network, etc. No official bell marked the start of the conference, as I’d vaguely imagined last year before attending my first AAS meeting, and that’s fine. This crowd doesn’t seem overly concerned with formality, which makes sense because the AAS conference also meets with the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), a group of almost professional-level amateur astronomers.

And so, the reception began slowly, in waves, as everyone entered the room and decided which food to eat first. This being Boston, we could smell the seafood selection before we saw it, and got to choose from crab cakes, lobster ravioli, cod and potato cakes, as well as traditional cocktail party fair like roast beef and an assortment of cold meats and cheeses. Hundreds of scientists, professors, students, amateurs, and even a few lucky members of the press crowded in and partook, enjoying the last night before the conference begins proper Monday morning.

Because I just got off the plane Sunday, I didn’t have much time to do anything except attend the aforementioned festivities. Everyone seemed excited about the talks and announcements coming this week, and Monday’s schedule looks especially crowded (a full day of talks, press conferences, and meetings — including a rumored talk with a component delivered in song — plus a chance to visit the Boston Museum of Science’s Charles Hayden Planetarium, plus an open house at the Cambridge headquarters of the AAVSO). I’m sure Sunday will prove to be my lightest day here, which is just how I like it!

Keep checking back for more reports from the AAS meeting, and be sure to follow @AstronomyMag for live tweet updates (#AAS218).

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On the Road: American Astronomical Society May 2011 meeting preview

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