AAS Post #1: Setting up

Contributed by
Jan 8, 2006
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'I am at the 207th American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC. This is the meeting for the largest society of professional astronomers in the US. I love going to these meetings. I get to see old friends, have a lot of fun, and... wait, something else... oh yeah, the science! It's wonderful. New findings are announced, progress on interesting observations is given, ideas for new projects bounce around.

After breakfast with a famous blogger this morning, it was time to set up. My group has a booth we send to the meetings where we hand out info about what we do, new products we have, and information about our satellites. When I got to the exhibit hall, very few people were there. The most obvious thing there was a 1/4 scale model of the European satellite Planck, which will observe the leftover fires of the Big Bang with higher sensitivity than ever before. That will help astronomers nail down such things as the age of the Universe, the amount of matter and energy in the Universe (both dark and light), and much more.

I'll have to talk to those folks when the exhibit hall opens later.

Wandering around more, I found a huge pile of boxes that will eventually be the Chandra X-Ray Observatory exhibit. I had to laugh: they have their own toolboxes, complete with stencils!

I guess weird things strike me as funny. Anyway, they have an elaborate and very large booth, where they have a tremendous amount of info about Chandra.

Later, I was on a panel talking about unorthodox methods of education and public outreach, talking to postdoctoral students who are funded by the National Science Foundation. That was fun! On the panel was fellow science blogger Mark Trodden of Cosmic variance (check my blogroll!). We talked about ways of getting science info into the public brain, including the use of blogs, websites, and other methods. I was very impressed with the crowd of younger scientists, and encouraged them to start a group blog. I think they could do some good.

Finally, it was time for the dinner reception, where I got to meet up with so many old friends! Pamela Gay from Slacker Astronomy was there (though in truth I had already been out with her a couple of time before tonight) and many others. Big names, important people, people I didn't know... and most importantly, I think, young astronomers. A lot of them. This is a huge meeting (maybe the biggest astronomy meeting ever, with 2700+ people), but there we so many young 'uns! Undergrads, by the looks of them., and I can't remember ever seeing so many at a meeting. I was really happy to see them. It's wonderful to see so many people, especially women, starting a career in science. Gives me hope, it does.

That's it for now. I'll have lots more this week; I'll be blogging as often as I can when I hear cool news or something fun happens. Tomorrow, I promise, I'll have some good stuff. There's already some interesting news afoot...'