Yesterday saw the start of the 27th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union. These meetings are among the largest meetings of astronomers in the world, and they bring together astronomers from almost 100 nations.
The meetings are held every three years; this year's meeting is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and it runs through August 14. Alas, I am not there. Too many things were conspiring against my ability to attend this time. This year's IAU General Assembly also coincides with the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), so many activities at the assembly are devoted to promoting the IYA.
Evidently, all is going well, although I hear through the grapevine that there is an unfortunate lack of coffee at the meeting. If you had the misfortune of seeing the movie Airplane II, you may remember a scene where the passengers on a space flight remain calm while they are told that they are millions of miles off course, and that the entire flight crew has been ejected into deep space by a maniacal computer. But when the flight attendant announces that they are out of coffee, mayhem erupts. Astronomers are like that, only worse. In a few days, there better be coffee, or you may be hearing news about roving mobs of caffeine-starved astronomers in Rio.
As I hear news from the meeting, I'll let you know. You can also follow news from the meeting on Twitter by following astronomer Mike Brown (plutokiller) or reading his blog. For a more formal news source, the IAU is publishing a daily newspaper called the Estrela D'Alva ("The Morning Star") available online with stories from the meeting.