Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Astronomy: The 225th American Astronomical Society Meeting


I've made it a habit to go to the winter meeting of the american astronomical society and this year was no exception. This time it was held in Seattle, Washington which marks the first time I repeat the "cycle": the winter meeting cycles between four locations (though it looks like next year will break this). In this blog, I briefly summarize my experience at the meeting.

Hubble Space Telescope view of the
Pillars of Creation, more details here.
First and foremost, AAS meetings are, I believe, more geared towards networking than science. While I learned about some good new results, I mainly enjoyed meeting up with my friends and colleagues. I was on the job market this year (like last year), but this time I actually had some interviews lined up and spoke to others informally as well. I think my interviews went well, but more importantly I got a better sense of where I want to end up and what I need to work on to achieve this. Given the difficulties of the present job market, I may not land anything this year, but at least I know what I can do to improve my CV for next time.

As for most big astronomy meetings these days, twitter is huge and an integral part of the meeting. I personally didn't tweet too much, but I paid attention to the near constant barrage of information being presented. This included snippets from talks, announcements of interesting sessions and posters, humble-brags on flights or adventures (guilty, haha!), press releases, and general reporting of what was going on. Given the sheer volume of talks, posters, and sessions it is impossible for a single person to do everything. While twitter doesn't solve this, it gives you a sense of the activity going on. Add to that the excellent new Guidebook App and you'll have all the information you need to go where you want/need to go.

See all the twitter statistics and details here.
Unfortunately, by the time I got back home to Chile I was too late for a Storify to gather all the conference tweets. Lesson learned: If you’re going to do a Storify summary, grab the tweets on a daily basis. Nevertheless, as in prior years, Douglas Burke has run statistics on the #aas225 hashtag while at the meeting. This is a great way to see the volume of tweets and to see who are the popular people and what are the hot topics being discussed.

Since I've been to Seattle before, I didn't spend too much time exploring. I did walk around Pike Place Market and checked out the Seattle Art Museum. There were some cool exhibits there on the Native Americans of the region and Japanese and European art. I also got myself a utilikilt since they are sold in Seattle, though I didn't wear it for the meeting. I did wear it afterwards and it was cool, but I got asked a few times if I was Scottish (I’m not). Coincidentally, while at the meeting, epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was in Seattle for two days to sign books as he was on tour to promote his new book Firefight (which I just finished). It would have been cool to see him, but I’ve met him before and have several of his books singed already.


Overall it was a good meeting and I had a great time catching up with people. I honestly have no idea where I'll be for the next winter meeting as my current fellowship ends before then. However, the next AAS meeting is in Kissimmee, Florida and close to where my brother lives. It may be likely that I'll attend regardless of my job situation and may even have discounted lodging at good ol' Brother's Home ;)

In the meantime, I'm excited for the IAU Symposium 314 on Young Stars and Planets Near the Sun. This will be held in Atlanta in May and so it's not part of the General Assembly in Hawaii. If you work on moving groups, young stars, nearby objects, exoplanets, instrumentation, circumstellar disks, binary stars, etc, etc, you won't want to miss it!


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