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The American Astronomical Society (AAS) holds two annual meetings, the larger being in January. With attendance of around nearly 3000, there are always lots of exciting announcements in a variety of areas of astronomy, cosmology, technology, education, and more. This year’s winter AAS was held January 7 - 12 in Austin, Texas. This year, for the first time, LCOGT had a booth in the exhibit hall in addition to several talks and posters. Within our 10' x 10' x 8' space, we had something from many of the niches of LCOGT. This included a world map with a shadow moving across the face with the telescope sites changing from red to green as night fell on those sites projecting on a 50” TV to emphasis the capabilities of the network (created by BJ Fulton and Jessica Barton), a 1-meter filter wheel (which will be part of Sinistro) which happily spun around awing everyone for the entire week, the moving focuser and filter wheel for the high speed camera, slides shows about the main science areas that LCOGT scientists are participating in and all of the software and engineering being done, and a laptop set up where everyone can try out the education software such as Agent Exoplanet. The background panels began with a photo by Rob Ratkowski/Maui and was edited by Federica Bianco to include silhouettes of 1-meter and 0.4-meter telescopes next to FTN.
And of course, what would a AAS meeting be without giving away free swag? Earth stress balls with our logo displayed on the table in an empty filter wheel, M&Ms in LCOGT colors, and even several LCOGT t-shirts. We also held a raffle for 2 hours of 2-meter telescope time (on either FTN or FTS).Several LCOGTers were in attendence including Federica Bianco, Melissa Graham, Avi Shporer, Andy Howell, Tim Brown, Dave Sand, BJ Fulton, Jerod Parrent, JD Armstrong, Rachel Ross, and Wayne Rosing.
When some conference attendees asked if they could take a stress ball, we encouraged them to ask as a question in exchange. A few of those who did turned out to be educators (many of whom thought we simply did technology and science) who we then steered over to try out the various software being demoed. Many other researchers and educators who also stopped by were encouraged to check the software out. This included Agent Exoplanet, Star In A Box, Virtual Sky, the public observation archive, Space Book, and tours around the different areas of the website. Overall, everyone was quite impressed with the variety of resources, especially those entirely online, that are available. Many were also enthusiastic about our citizen science program which currently encompass doing all the photometry and light curve analysis of transiting exoplanets online with no software downloads (and eventually will be adding in the ability to observe on the network when time becomes available as well as extend into several other research topics).
The winner of our 2 hours of 2-meter telescope time was Alyssa Mancini, an undergraduate at University of Scranton in Pennsylvania who is working on her BS in physics. Alyssa presented a poster entitled “The Size & Shape of the Mass Transfer Nozzle in Eccentric Interacting Binary Star Systems” at the AAS meeting and is excited to be getting some hands on experience in taking observations. Her interests include the evolution and formation of galaxies as well as gamma ray bursts and how they may contribute to the formation of other objects in the universe. Congratulations Alyssa!This was a highly successful AAS conference for LCOGT. We were able to build up a stronger presence in the astronomical community and hopefully found many potential collaborators.
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