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Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013

IU astronomers to have significant presence at 222nd meeting of American Astronomical Society

Two free public events planned; entire conference open for a fee

May 31, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- The center of the universe will be here June 2 to 6, at least as far as the study of the universe is concerned, as more than 500 scientists, educators and journalists are expected for the 222nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society.


Taking center stage is a contingent of nearly 40 faculty, research scientists and students from Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Astronomy, in addition to a number of recent graduates from the department, which operates within IU's College of Arts and Sciences. In all, the group of IU astronomers will present 32 new research papers, host a series of sessions on the WIYN Observatory in Arizona and help communicate the work of AAS to the attending public.

IU is a consortium partner in the ownership and operation of the WIYN Observatory and its 3.5-meter telescope with the University of Wisconsin, Yale University and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. A number of IU faculty who sit as board members and committee members for the facility will host special sessions and present new research.

WIYN board member and IU astronomy professor Caty Pilachowski will chair a Monday morning session on groundbreaking science and education produced by WIYN. IU astronomy professor Katherine L. Rhode will chair a Monday afternoon session on WIYN's One Degree Imager and other WIYN instrumentation. And on Tuesday, WIYN board president and IU astronomy professor John Salzer will chair a panel on the future of WIYN. IU astronomy professor Eileen D. Friel organized the WIYN-centered "meeting in a meeting" for the AAS conference.

IU's University Information Technology Services Research Technologies and its Pervasive Technology Institute will also be represented during the conference through work by scientists in those units on the One Degree Imager's Web-based science gateway, the Pipeline, Portal and Archive. The ODI-PPA allows astronomers to work with huge data sets and images through a national grid of supercomputers and without needing to download any data to personal computers.

Two free and open-to-the-public events designed to bring people into contact with astronomers are planned at the Convention Center Plaza in downtown Indianapolis.

On Monday, a star party will begin at 9 p.m. on the Convention Center Plaza, at the corner of South Capitol Avenue and West Maryland Street. Visitors can look through telescopes and meet astronomers from all over the country.

Co-hosts for this evening under the stars are the AAS and Indianapolis' premier amateur-astronomy club, the Indiana Astronomical Society. Weather permitting, members of the AAS and IAS will set up telescopes, with the prime target being the planet Saturn with its glorious rings and bright moon Titan. Suitable for children and adults, the event offers a unique opportunity to explore the universe with professional astronomers and to meet the leading amateur astronomers of the Indianapolis area.


Photo courtesy of NASA

Saturn will be a prime target for public viewing Monday night at the free star party in Indianapolis hosted by AAS and the Indiana Astronomical Society.

Print-Quality Photo

In case of a weather cancellation, the event will be rescheduled for the following night at the same time and place. Star party updates, including weather and logistics, will be posted on the AAS Facebook page.

A second free public event is a lecture by astronomer and BBC's The Sky at Night co-presenter Chris Lintott. "Discovering Planets From Your Sofa: Adventures in Citizen Science," begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Wabash Ballroom 1 of the Indiana Convention Center.

"Overwhelmed by the flood of information we can now obtain about the cosmos, astronomers are turning to the public for help," said AAS press officer and communications director Richard Fienberg. "Hundreds of thousands of citizen scientists have classified galaxies, surveyed the Milky Way, discovered clusters of stars in the Andromeda Galaxy, and even been the first to find planets around other stars. Lintott will share these success stories and look ahead to a time when humans will collaborate with astronomically minded robots."

Lintott is a citizen-science project leader at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and a researcher at the University of Oxford. He is also the author, with Queen guitarist Brian May and the late British astronomy popularizer Patrick Moore, of "Bang! The Complete History of the Universe."

For the first time, AAS is opening its meeting to amateur astronomers and other interested members of the public through a special one-day registration rate of $50 per day on Monday or Tuesday, or both days for $100. Conference hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT.

In addition to the regularly scheduled science talks, there will be four presentations designed especially to appeal to amateur astronomers and the public who have registered. Each of the presentations will be in Indiana Convention Center Room 116.

  • 9:30 to 10 a.m. Monday, "Hubble Space Telescope Astrometry -- Still Useful After All These Years."
  • 1:30 to 2 p.m. Monday, "Interstellar Destinations: Nearby Earth-Size Exoplanets."
  • 9:30 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, "A Glimpse of Galaxies at the Dawn of the Universe."
  • 1:30 to 2 p.m. Tuesday, "Pluto's Demise and Resurrection."

A Tuesday event designed for Indianapolis-area middle school and high school students has already been filled to capacity. Following a presentation by astronomer Gail Zasowski, an expert on our own Milky Way galaxy, the students will visit the AAS Exhibit Hall, meet astronomers from all over the country and participate in a variety of hands-on educational activities.