Spring meeting whirlwind
Last month the AAVSO co-hosted its Spring Meeting with the American Astronomical Society in downtown Boston. I hope those of you who attended found it as much fun as I did. I also hope you've had a chance to rest up as well -- there was a lot happening at this meeting! We had our own activities from Saturday through Monday, and had a full slate of fun and interesting AAS sessions to attend throughout the rest of the week as well. There was plenty of great science throughout the week, and with this being one of the best-attended Summer AAS meetings in recent history there were plenty of things to see and people to talk to.
I was fortunate to have an inside perspective on this AAS meeting. Over the past nine months I worked with Lee Anne Willson (Iowa State) and Christine Jones (CfA), both Vice Presidents of the AAS, on schedules and special sessions of interest to the variable star community, in particular to the AAVSO members who would be joining the AAS meeting. On Saturday and Sunday morning we had two full sessions of AAVSO talks featuring many long-time members and friends of the AAVSO, and on Sunday afternoon we had a fascinating special session with the AAS Historical Astronomy Division on topics related to the AAVSO and variable star astronomy. Then, as part of the AAS meeting itself, we arranged two special sessions on Monday -- Astrophysics with Small Telescopes, and Variable Stars in the Imaging Era -- as well as a plenary talk by Jeremy Drake of the CfA. We also had a full slate of posters from AAVSO staff, as well as a formal press conference where the Hubble Heritage images of M31_V1 were finally released. I was pleased to see the turnout for all of these sessions, and hope all meeting attendees found them as enjoyable and informative as I did.
After Monday, I was able to occasionally take off my AAVSO hat and put on my AAS hat to take in some of the rest of the meeting. I've been attending AAS meetings since January 1995 as a first-year graduate student, and have always found them to be a great way to catch up on current science as well as with old friends. There's always something new and interesting to attend and this meeting -- with so much participation from the Boston-area astronomical community -- was no exception. Of particular interest to me was a special session on Data Archiving and knowledge propagation in the era of large databases and large surveys. The half-dozen or so speakers all came from different areas of the science, from large scale data-producing facilities and satellites to groups like the Astronomical Data System, to the Virtual Observatory. There's a wealth of data available now, both as data itself and as publications and other materials, and a large part of research now will depend upon making sense of these resources. You can see one example of the work being done in this area at the Seamless Astronomy.
The other big item for me was all the wonderful science coming from Kepler. There were a number of presentations at this meeting about new science coming from Kepler -- the great volume of data being produced is now yielding new information, new insights, and new understanding on everything from extrasolar planets to fundamental stellar astrophysics. Kepler is a unique mission in astronomy right now, and it's unlikely that we'll see a similar mission again for many years. But while we have it, it's a remarkable resource, and one that you can take advantage of yourself! A great deal of the Kepler data is now publicly available, and you can access and analyze it yourself with any number of tools (including the AAVSO's own VStar). There's a lot of science waiting to be done with Kepler data, and I encourage you to explore this wonderful archive.
It was a pleasure to help organize the AAVSO's joint meeting with the AAS, and I hope all attendees -- both AAVSO and AAS -- found it a productive and enjoyable gathering. However, our biggest meeting of the year is still to come -- our Centennial Meeting in October! We hope to see even more members of the AAVSO community join us in October for what will be a very memorable meeting to come.