Thursday, January 07, 2010

Day 3 of the American Astronomical Society

Yesterday was the third day of the 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, and the final day that I was there.  Today I am at the airport hoping to get home, though my original flight was canceled and my new flight is delayed.

Day 3 started with a talk by John Grunsfeld, retired space shuttle astronaut, Hubble Space Telescope repairman, and newly-appointed Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, the governmental organization that oversees Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope (Hubble's replacement).  Dr. Grunsfeld's talk was mostly about STS 125, the final space shuttle mission to repair Hubble.  He also spoke of a desire to use Hubble himself to study the Tycho crater on the moon, which formed about 100 million years ago in an impact that likely led to weeks or months of intense meteor activity on the Earth.  Grunsfeld mused about what the dinosaurs might have thought about the meteors ("BOOM. 'Well, there went Fred.'")

I spent most of the rest of the day hanging around my contribution to the meeting, a poster describing Hubble data that a collaborator and I  are analyzing, looking for white dwarfs in the open star cluster NGC 188.  We aren't finding as many white dwarfs as we expected, and those that we are finding are younger than we expected.  We don't understand why.  Our poster was moderately popular, and I had many good talks with acquaintances and folks I hadn't met before.  I have lots of good ideas to pursue before we finalize our results ("I dunno what's going on" is not a very good conclusion).

All in all, I had a great time in DC.  I saw many friends from my 18 years in astronomy, met many new people (and a few fans!), got a lot of ideas, and learned many new things.  I'm ready to go home, as I've been on the road for nearly three weeks.  And I get a whole three days at home before I take off for another week-long trip, this time to Tucson to work on gravitational lenses.

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