The NRAO at the American Astronomical Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science Meetings
The city of Austin, Texas hosted the 211th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) from Monday, January 7 through Friday, January 11, 2008, and more than 2,500 persons attended.
Six NRAO press releases describing diverse research results from the GBT, VLA, and VLBA were distributed to the media at this AAS meeting. The release describing research conducted at the GBT by Jay Lockman (NRAO) and his colleagues—R. A. Benjamin and A. J. Heroux (both University of Wisconsin-Whitewater), and G. Langston (NRAO)—proved the most popular. Lockman et al. conducted a detailed study of a massive cloud known as “Smith’s Cloud”. Their neutral hydrogen observations revealed that Smith’s Cloud is expected to collide with the Milky Way in 20–40 million years producing a burst of star formation. Smith’s Cloud is named after its discoverer, Gail Bieger, née Smith, who was an astronomy student at Leiden University in the Netherlands. In addition to extensive print and Internet news coverage, several broadcast media outlets interviewed Lockman, including National Public Radio (NPR), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Our new radio program, Cosmic Radio, also debuted at the Austin AAS meeting. Cosmic Radio includes 26 programs, each ~2.5 minutes in length, and is a collaboration between NRAO and Allegheny Mountain Radio in West Virginia. Program topics range from recent scientific discoveries, to how radio telescopes explore the Universe, to the history of radio astronomy. Produced with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the programs are free to all radio stations. Cosmic Radio has already been provided on CD to more than 500 NPR-affiliated stations, and the entire program set is available on-line.
A well-attended AUI/NRAO reception was held Tuesday evening during the AAS meeting. A new 4.5 minute ALMA high-definition video trailer debuted at this reception. Director Fred K. Y. Lo and AUI President Ethan Schreier hosted a ceremony to present awards to the First, Second, and Third Prize winners from the recently concluded 3rd annual AUI/NRAO Image Contest.
The 2008 NRAO Calendar features these prizewinning images and was very popular with meeting attendees. The 2008 NRAO Calendar also showcases outstanding astronomical visualizations created by Travis Rector (U. Alaska), Aeree Chung (NRAO), C. Rodriguez and Greg Taylor (UNM), Juan Uson (NRAO), John Hibbard (NRAO), and last year’s First Prize image by Jayanne English (U. Manitoba). All of the calendar images are available in the on-line NRAO Image Gallery.
A well-attended, hour-long NRAO Town Hall meeting was held for the astronomical community on Thursday afternoon, January 10. Director Fred K.Y. Lo provided an overview of the outstanding science being enabled at the NRAO and briefed the attendees on the status of ALMA and EVLA. North American ALMA Science Center Director Chris Carilli highlighted current and future science synergies with NRAO telescopes. Jim Ulvestad updated the community on VLBA science and developments, including on-going Large Proposals; and Jay Lockman spoke about recent GBT research and instrument status. A question and answer session followed.
NRAO Education Officer Sue Ann Heatherly and Public Information Officer Dave Finley joined the AAS, the Association for Astronomy Education, and several other observatories to host and provide handson activities for a fun four-hour open house called AstroZone on Sunday afternoon that was attended by more than 400 Austin area families, teachers and young people.
The NRAO exhibited at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting for the first time in 2008. Held in downtown Boston from Thursday, February 14 through Monday, February 18, this year’s AAAS meeting was attended by more than 5,000 scientists from around the world. The meeting attendance also included more than 1,000 journalists. The annual AAAS meeting is an excellent opportunity to communicate the NRAO mission, science, and technology to the broad science community, and the AAAS media attendance is always much larger than at a AAS meeting.
We debuted a new 15-minute ALMA high-definition video feature at the AAAS meeting. This narrated feature tells the story of ALMA science and technology and millimeter astronomy, including compelling animations, and sound bites provided by key ALMA personnel. Copies of the video were distributed to the large media contingent attending the meeting, and to persons visiting the NRAO exhibit. All NRAO videos, including this feature, can be downloaded from our web site in low, medium, and high-resolution formats.
NRAO Education Officer Judy Stanley hosted and led hands-on astronomy activities throughout the free Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) Family Science Days that were an integral part of the AAAS meeting. More than 1,500 Boston area adults, teachers, and young people participated.