2012 IAU General Assembly
The IAU XXVII General Assembly (GA) was held in Beijing, China from 20-31 August 2012. The GA was the largest ever organized, attended by almost 3,000 scientists from about 80 countries, including the United States. A National Science Foundation grant to the American Astronomical Society provided travel funding for approximately 100 U.S. astronomers.
The opening address was given by Xi Jinping, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China. The vice president’s remarks addressed not only astronomy, but the importance of science and technology both to individual countries and to the entire world. His thoughtful remarks, widely distributed in China both in print and on television, may be read in full here
An exciting scientific program was offered at the GA. It focused on both recent results and astronomical history. Eight Symposia, seven Joint Discussions, and eighteen Special Sessions were held. These covered a wide variety of topics, particularly development, advancement, and collaborations within astronomy.
Scientific questions were addressed, and four resolutions were approved. The IAU website
notes, “these included new guidelines for the designations and specifications of optical and infrared filter passbands, the redefinition of the astronomical unit of length, the establishment of an International Near-Earth Object (NEO) early warning system, and the restructuring of the IAU Divisions in order to bring them in line with current major research areas in astronomy and enable the IAU to be more involved with education and outreach.”
The IAU is one of the few international unions with individual members, and 1,006 new members were approved. This brings the total IAU individual membership to almost 11,000. Members represent 90 different countries.
Finally officers for the 2012-2015 triennium were elected. These include president Norio Kaifu (Japan), general secretary Thierry Montmerle (France), assistant general secretary Piero Benvenuti (Italy) and president-elect Silvia Torres-Peimbert (Mexico). Robert Williams (USA) will serve as past president.
USNC Active at 2012 IAU General Assembly
Sponsored by the USNC/IAU through a grant from the National Science Foundation and, for the first time, co-sponsored by the Norwegian National Academy of Sciences and Letters, the lunch attracted nearly 280 individuals. Special thanks go to Edward Guinan (Villanova University) and Kevin Grovender (IAU Office of Astronomy for Development) for their organization of the event. The Young Astronomers lunch featured roundtable discussions involving one to two senior astronomers and eight to nine young astronomers. Discussions focus on pre-selected topics, such as career paths, research funding, successful job strategies, fellowships opportunities, the future of astronomy, and job prospects in the U.S. A questionnaire was distributed and completed by the participants at the end of the event. Almost all attendees recommended that a similar event be offered at future General Assemblies. Most of the young astronomers had received their PhD, but a few were either undergraduates, graduate students without a PhD, or in post-doc positions. Almost all were between 20 and 35 years old.
Sponsored by the USNC/IAU through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the fourth Women in Astronomy Luncheon was again a success. Organized by the IAU’s Women Astronomers Working Group (WAWG), and in particular Sarah Maddison, Francesca Primas, and Yanchun Liang, the August 27 luncheon attracted a crowd of about 250 people, mostly women. The geographical distribution ranged from large, developed countries to developing countries.
Two opening talks were given. The first, by Xiangqun Cui, President of the Chinese Astronomical Society and former Director of the Nanjing Institute of Astronomical Optics and Technology, highlighted the careers of prominent women astronomers in China. The second, by Bryan Gaensler, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics
(CAASTRO) in Australia, discussed specific steps that can be taken by employers to make work environments more supportive of women astronomers.
Each table of 8-10 people of different ages and from different countries then discussed specific issues pertaining to the careers of women astronomers. Many interesting and lively discussions ensued, and summaries of each were prepared for further evaluation.
The Women in Astronomy lunch was followed by a meet-a-mentor session later that day. Hosted by the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAOC), the focus of this smaller event was to discuss specific career issues and questions. Roughly 100 women attended this pre-registered event. The small group settings permitted quieter, more focused conversation between mentors and mentees.
United States Reception
The USNC/IAU sponsored a U.S. Reception on August 22, during the 2012 General Assembly. Held at and cosponsored by the Kavli Institute at Peking University, the event was attended by about 120 people. The reception provides a wonderful opportunity for members of the USNC/IAU to meet and talk with current and incoming officers of the IAU, leaders of various astronomical societies, government officials, the local organizing committee, and other important astronomers.
for more information. Banner copied from www.astronomy2012.org.
International Travel Grants and Educational Activities
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) administers a travel grant program open to U.S.-based astronomers for attendance at international meetings. Endorsed by the USNC/IAU and funded by the National Science Foundation, the AAS grant program corresponds to IAU General Assembly years. To attend the IAU General Assemblies and other international conferences, individuals at U.S. institutions may apply to the AAS International Travel Grant Program. Learn more about the AAS International Travel Grant program, including submission deadlines.
Valuable educational programs are also reported by IAU Commission on Astronomy Education and Development (Commission 46). For researchers and students in countries with economic difficulties, travel grants to IAU-sponsored meetings and general assemblies are available. Grants for Exchange Astronomers, travel awards for short term visits, are administered by the IAU Commission 46. The IAU also conducts International Schools for Young Astronomers, a Visiting Lecturer Program, and the Worldwide Development of Astronomy.
International Year of Astronomy
The year 2009 marked the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first use of a telescope to observe the universe. At the request of the IAU and its members, UNESCO passed a resolution proclaiming 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy, which recognizes the importance of Galileo’s achievements. The International Year of Astronomy presented the opportunity to increase awareness of the field and attract young people to careers in science and technology.
In celebration of the Year, the USNC/IAU worked with the National Research Council Board on Physics and Astronomy and the Space Studies Board to host the symposium Beyond the Decade: The Future of International Astronomy on October 9, 2009. The symposium explored various dimensions of international astronomy in celebration of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy. Three panels respectively discussed contributions of international astronomy focusing on program and activities in six countries and regions; three case studies of multi-national cooperation; and implications for the future from a perspective of four key disciplines.