Charles Blue (left), AIP’s Manager of Media Services, organized the Wednesday-afternoon press reception at which Vicki Oransky Wittenstein was recognized for her book Planet Hunter, a profile of exoplanet sleuth Geoff Marcy. At center is Wittenstein’s husband, Andrew. Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
At the closing reception, Lee Anne Willson strode to the podium to show her winning ticket to Kevin Marvel. Tim Puckett (Apogee Instruments) had just drawn her number from the bowl held by AAS Member Services Coordinator Tracy Beale. The prize: an Apogee CCD camera.
At his Monday invited talk, Robert Benjamin (Univ. of Wisconsin, Whitewater) showed that the simple picture of the Milky Way as a bulge, disk, and halo has been made more complex with recent discoveries of new spiral-arm segments, multiple bar-like components, and other features.
Linda Tacconi (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics) received her Berkeley Prize certificate from AAS President Debra Elmegreen (Vassar College) on Thursday afternoon, then gave a prize lecture on her discovery that distant star-forming galaxies were rich in molecular gas and that star-formation efficiency is not strongly dependent on cosmic epoch.
Hale Bradt (MIT) received the Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for his book Astrophysics Processes: The Physics of Astronomical Phenomena (Cambridge University Press).
Gina Brissenden (Univ. of Arizona) led a pre-meeting workshop for astronomy educators.
On display in the exhibit hall was the Prime Focus CCD Camera used in the 1990s on the 4-meter Blanco telescope at CTIO in Chile. Observations of Type Ia supernovae with this instrument played a key role in the discovery of dark energy.
At Tuesday morning’s press conference Will Dawson (Univ. of California, Davis), Michele Trenti (Univ. of Colorado & Univ. of Cambridge, U.K.), Larry David (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), and Jack Hughes (Rutgers Univ.) presented new results on galaxy clusters, including the biggest one found so far, nicknamed “El Gordo.” Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
A full program of press conferences kicked off Monday morning with a briefing on dark matter and ways to map it on scales from individual galaxies to the large-scale “cosmic web.” Reporters heard from Rachel Mandelbaum (Princeton Univ. & Carnegie Mellon Univ.), Sukanya Chakrabarti (Florida Atlantic Univ.), Catherine Heymans (Univ. of Edinburgh), and Ludovic Van Waerbeke (Univ. of British Columbia).
Presentation of LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomyby HAD Prize Committee chair Thomas Hockey (left) to Woodruff T. Sullivan, III, 9 January 2012.
Ric Edelman, one of the nation’s top-ranked independent financial advisors, gave a Tuesday workshop entitled “Personal Finance in Turbulent Times.”
HAD held two sessions on Sunday, including one on transits of Venus in celebration of the 5-6 June 2012, event, the last Venus transit anyone alive today will have a chance to witness. Speakers were Jay Pasachoff (Williams College), Bill Sheehan (Sky & Telescope), Nick Lomb (Powerhouse Museum, Australia), and Chuck Bueter (TransitOfVenus.org).
Standing with the HETDEX camera at UT-Austin’s Center for Electromechanics are the scientists and engineers who explained to reporters how they’ll use the Hobby-Eberly Telescope to learn more about dark energy’s influence on the universe’s expansion rate over cosmic history: Gary Hill, Marc Rafal, John Booth, Joe Beno, and Richard Hayes. Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
On Sunday afternoon the Univ. of Texas’s McDonald Observatory hosted a press tour of the UT-Austin Center for Electromechanics, where a new 11-meter-wide top end for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) is being built for the upcoming Dark Energy Experiment, HETDEX. Attending reporters were suitably impressed; it was hard not to be, given the scale of the HETDEX hardware. Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
If Jonathan McDowell (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) wondered why he didn’t get more interest in his graduate-program display at Sunday evening’s undergraduate reception, this photo offers a possible explanation.
As a NASA astronaut, Steve Hawley (Univ. of Kansas) deployed the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes and participated in the second Hubble servicing mission. He provided a personal retrospective on 50 years of human spaceflight. Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
AAS President Debbie Elmegreen and AIP Executive Director Fred Dylla (right) jointly awarded the 2011 Dannie Heineman Prize in Astrophysics to Bob Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA). Kirshner’s prize lecture was entitled “Exploding Stars and the Accelerating Universe.”
David Helfand (Quest Univ.), who takes the reins as AAS President in June, held students’ rapt attention.
The very-high-energy universe was the subject of a midday news briefing on Tuesday. David Thompson (NASA GSFC) reported on Fermi observations of GeV sources, Greg Sivakoff (Univ. of Alberta) described a black-hole outburst, and Daniel Stern (JPL/Caltech) previewed NASA’s upcoming NuSTAR mission to unveil the universe in hard X-rays.
A Tuesday-afternoon press conference featured the latest images from four high-flying infrared observatories: SOFIA, Herschel, Spitzer, and WISE. Presenting those images, and here standing in front of a Spitzer mosaic of the Cygnus-X region, were Erick Young (USRA), Margaret Meixner (STScI), Joe Hora (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), and Xavier Koenig (NASA GSFC).
Matt Greenhouse (NASA GSFC) was among the speakers at Monday’s James Webb Space Telescope Town Hall, where attendees learned about recent progress in the observatory’s construction and about some of the programmatic changes intended to keep the mission on track for launch in 2018.
In her Wednesday invited talk, Kathryn Johnston (Columbia Univ.) considered what the distribution of stars in the Milky Way tells us about the messy baryonic physics that forms galaxies more generally.
Thanks to generous support from the Kavli Foundation, the first invited talk at our meetings is the Kavli Lecture, given by a particularly distinguished astronomer. Receiving that honor in Austin was Lyman Page (Princeton Univ.), who described how studies of the cosmic microwave background can be used to constrain the masses of various types of neutrinos.
The George Van Biesbroeck Prize honors a living individual for long-term extraordinary or unselfish service to astronomy. Hubble scientist Dave Leckrone (NASA GSFC) received the prize from Debbie Elmegreen.
Students were invited to a special Tuesday-morning “meet-up” with JWST Senior Project Scientist and Nobel Prize-winner John Mather (NASA GSFC).
At a Town Hall on Wednesday, NOAO Director Dave Silva briefed attendees on the latest goings-on at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.
At Monday’s National Science Foundation Town Hall, NSF’s Director of the Division of Astronomical Sciences, Jim Ulvestad, provided an update on the ongoing Portfolio Review, which aims to recommend how support for existing facilities and activities should be prioritized and interleaved with new initiatives from the Astro2010 decadal survey in light of current and future budget limitations.
Even though the hors d’ oeuvres are supposedly “not to be construed as dinner,” attendees who jammed themselves into the opening reception on Sunday evening found a Texas-size selection of tasty tidbits that left them with little appetite, or need, to go out to eat afterward.
Kavli Lecturer Lyman Page (Princeton Univ.) had much more than the whole world in his hands — he had the entire observable universe, represented by a globe charting the microwave glow of the Milky Way and the ubiquitous cosmic background radiation.
Gaspar Bakos (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), seen here with AAS President Debbie Elmegreen, received the Pierce Prize on Tuesday afternoon for “his contributions to our understanding of the unexpected diversity of exoplanet properties and the extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit and capability he has shown in the development of one of the most successful systems for detecting transiting extrasolar planets (HATNet).”
The press office in the Austin Convention Center was a hive of activity. More than 75 reporters and public-information officers attended the meeting, and dozens more tuned in to the news briefings via live webcast. Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
The AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) met with the Society in Austin. On Tuesday morning, HEAD Chair Chryssa Kouveliotou (NASA MSFC) presented the coveted Rossi Prize to Peter Michelson (Stanford Univ.) and William Atwood (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) for their work with the Fermi Large Area Telescope.
At Monday’s midday press conference, reporters learned how to build a Milky Way from scientists who’ve been figuring that out using the SDSS-III SEGUE Survey and the new APOGEE near-infrared spectrograph, which is peering through the dust in our galaxy’s midplane. SDSS scientific spokesmen Michael Wood-Vasey (Univ. of Pittsburgh, back row, left) and Jordan Raddick (Johns Hopkins Univ., back row, right) helped organize the briefing, which featured presentations by John Wilson (Univ. of Virginia), Steve Majewski (Univ. of Virginia), Judy Cheng (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz), and Constance Rockosi (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz). Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
Sandra Faber (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) spoke at the Society of Physics Students special poster session on Tuesday evening, offering career advice based on her own experiences and those of the many students she has mentored over the years. Faber is this year’s recipient of the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship and will give her Russell Lecture at the Anchorage meeting in June.
AAS Vice-President Lee Anne Willson (Iowa State Univ.) introduced Dimitar Sasselov (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), whose Tuesday-afternoon invited talk explored how the burgeoning field of exoplanet discovery and characterization is challenging our theoretical understanding of planet formation, planetary structure, and life as a planetary phenomenon.
On Tuesday evening independent filmmaker David Gaynes (right) screened his new movie Saving Hubble for a packed house that included John Mather (NASA GSFC), Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, and three-time Hubble repairman John Grunsfeld (NASA HQ), the new head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Ball Aerospace ensured a standing-room-only crowed by providing candy, popcorn, and drinks.
Jonathan Fay (Microsoft Research) and Mike Simonsen (AAVSO) talked about their work with huge cosmic databases during the Sunday-afternoon workshop “Science Tools for Data-Intensive Astronomy.”
Type Ia supernovae and their progenitors, from the Local Group to high redshifts, were the subjects of a midday briefing on Wednesday. It featured new findings by Steven Rodney (Johns Hopkins Univ.), Joshua Bloom (Univ. of California, Berkeley), and Doxsey Prize-winner Ashley Pagnotta (Louisiana State Univ.) along with sage commentary by AAS Past-President Craig Wheeler (Univ. of Texas, Austin). Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
Thomas Olsen (AIP) set up a table at the undergraduate reception to attract new members to the Society of Physics Students, which held a reception and special poster session later in the week.
Kim-Vy Tran (Texas A&M Univ.) gave an invited talk on Wednesday afternoon in which she reviewed multiwavelength studies of star formation in galaxy clusters from Coma to the most distant such objects yet discovered at lookback times of 10 billion years.
AAS Executive Officer Kevin Marvel welcomed students to Sunday evening’s undergraduate reception. Joining him were Education Officer Tim Slater (Univ. of Wyoming), President Debbie Elmegreen (Vassar College), and Vice-President Lee Anne Willson (Iowa State Univ.). Photo by Rick Fienberg, © 2012 AAS.
obel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg (Univ. of Texas) gave a public talk entitled “Big Science in Crisis” on Monday evening. He expressed concern that new political and economic realities will spell the end of big-science projects such as particle colliders and large ground- and space-based telescopes.