Wednesday, January 09, 2008

American Astronomical Society Meeting, Day 2

It's a crisp morning here in Austin, as I've arrived for day 2 of the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society. As I had a related meting just prior to the main meeting, this is actually day 4 for me.

Yesterday, things started with the former Lieutenant Governor of Texas, William Hobby, talking to us about astronomer and its relation to Texas. This was followed by an invited talk on how to find planets around other stars, and then the 1500+ of us broke into individual sessions for talks on very specific subjects.

After a first round of talks, we came back for a lecture from Michael Griffin, the administrator of NASA. He was very frank, and painted a fairly bleak picture about NASA funding. On Monday, I heard a talk from an administrator at the National Science Foundation painting a similarly bleak picture. In short, astronomy will be lucky to see a budget that matches inflation and may see a flat budget. And while this may sound bad, our budgets are doing much better than most of the federal budget.

The fact is, out of the $2+ trillion federal budget, only about $400 billion is available to be split among all non-defense related budgets, and most of those areas are seeing cuts in funding. So, we should be happy for a flat budget in some ways. The only way to change this state is to either raise taxes or hope that the economy magically takes off again.

On a different topic, last night there was a meeting of astronomy bloggers at a local restaurant. Alas, I didn't make the meeting. It's not that I didn't want to meet my fellow bloggers, many of whom are far more accomplished than me, it's that I was exhausted. So, I hope that they will forgive me for not showing up.

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