Thursday, January 13, 2011

American Astronomical Society meeting, days 2 and 3

It's been a busy couple of days here at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.  I've spent a lot of time in meetings and talks the last two days, so I haven't had much time to sit down and blog. Here are a few little tidbits, not meant to be comprehensive.  Just nuggets that I found interesting.  Click on the links for more info.
  • The biggest picture yet made: The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which is taking pictures large portions of the sky, released what they are calling the largest picture ever made, over 1 trillion pixels.  I'd suggest against downloading the full-resolution picture (which actually isn't available as a single file), unless you have a roughly 10 Terabyte (10 trillion byte) hard drive.  However, you can go to their website and look up portions of the picture corresponding to your favorite objects, if that object is in the portion of the sky looked at by Sloan.
  • New, amazing pictures in wavelengths of light invisible to the human eye were released.  Planck, a satellite studying the entire sky in microwaves, released their early science data.  Lots of cool stuff there.  Fermi, a gamma-ray satellite, also talked about some amazing discoveries, including anti-matter made in thunderstorms on Earth.  The Herschel Space Observatory, which looks at the sky in long-wavelength infrared ("heat" from very cold objects) released lots of science results, including this picture of the Andromeda Galaxy, a nearby sibling of the Milky Way.
  • Lots of talks on planets around other stars. That's great, because there is a ton of great data streaming in from numerous missions and planets.  I did think there were too many plenary talks (talks designed for everyone to attend) about planets.  There are other topics in astronomy, too.
  • Anyone who still holds the stereotype of the astronomer as an old male hermit should have been at this meeting.  There are a lot of young, motivated researchers, socially well-adjusted, and of all genders and ethnicities.  This is not to say that astronomy does not still have issues with genders and minorities -- it does!  But the science results are not dominated by an old man's club anymore.
All in all, I had a great time and have some inspiration for more research work.  But for now, it's time to go home and prepare to teach the spring semester.

1 comment:

  1. Astrology is not against God. I think most horoscopes you read in papers are a bit of fun, but ultimately useless. But "real" astrology is actually what has convinced me that the universe was created with beauty and perfection. Real astrology has made me more a believer in God than reading the Bible ever did.