Gather ’round partners, it’s time for Artie Aardvark’s recap of the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas!
Yee-haw, I am off to the biggest astronomy conference in the whole wide world! This year it is in Austin, Texas, which is so far from the Netherlands I have to fly hours and hours to get there. I’m glad that gives me lots of time to look out the window!
Finally we are in Texas! When I get to the hotel room I am mesmerized by the view- we are on the 12th story “corner penthouse” room of the hotel looking right down Congress Avenue straight to the Texas Capitol in the distance. (Yvette says it never hurts to ask!) I want to go exploring but that will have to wait, there is work to do and we have to go to the convention center.
First we stop at the press room where journalists file stories to all corners of the globe! Yvette has a press pass in addition to her astronomer one, so while she checks up on the schedule it gives me time to catch up on my reading…
… but not for too long because on the very first day there is a LOFAR press conference to attend! My friends here are gearing up to tell the world that our radio telescope is up and running, and they did such a good job that Nature and Science picked up the story! Hooray!
The next day there was special session at the conference all about the first science results with LOFAR! There is lots to pay attention to during the talks, from pulsars to cosmic rays, and it is cool to see all the kinds of science you can do with a radio telescope.
I should mention that AAS is a huge conference with about three thousand astronomers attending this year, and it feels like there are hundreds and hundreds of posters and sessions. Even if you could never do it all though it makes me a little giddy to realize how you could learn about anything in the universe if you wanted to. I might not know a thing about interstellar dust, for example, but it is nice to see a session for it listed and know someone out there is interested and discussing it!
Special session done, it is now time to help out at the ASTRON booth in the exhibit hall a bit. My role is drawing people in when they ask “what is that animal?” about me, though because we are in Texas many mistakenly assume I am an armadillo. Hmph!
There are of course lots of other booths and posters to look at in the exhibit hall, so eventually it is time to go exploring! One booth I just had to visit was the one behind the Australian Square Kilometer Array (SKA) initiative, where I made friends with a kookaburra and a man who had a very strange accent. He told me that the decision to build the SKA will be made in just a few months time, between Australia and South Africa. As I mentioned before I’m crossing my paws for South Africa, of course, but wouldn’t mind making new friends in Oz either!
Finally it is the last day of the conference and time for the most important work of all- Yvette’s poster about AARTFAAC! Yvette fielded a bunch of complicated questions quite brilliantly (and Artie wouldn’t lie to you, would he? -Y), and more than one person paused to give me a back scratch. So quite a success all around! The only thing that was not enjoyable was having the poster on the very last day of the conference, as there were lots of people Yvette hadn’t seen in years who stopped by but there wasn’t enough time to catch up properly. Oh well, next time!
Work done, it’s finally time to walk down Congress Avenue to the Texas Capitol and take advantage of those 2nd Amendment rights I’ve heard so much about! I also learned a lot about Texas history while here, like the War of Northern Aggression where people in the South, animated by the spirit of 1776, died for state rights guaranteed under the Constitution when the North resorted to coercion. Well that’s what the memorial plaque on the grounds says anyway, Yvette says it was mysteriously missing a few key details about the whole affair.
After all that, it is time to return to Holland. I really enjoyed Austin and AAS though as I got to meet lots of cool people, learn a lot of new things, and enjoy a lot of good food. (They have fire ants here! So much tastier than bland Dutch ones! Though Yvette preferred the Mexican, steak, and BBQ). It was so much fun to see so many astronomers and what they do!