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 (www.iau.org
) 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.
U.S. Scientists Earn Gruber and Kavli Prizes
The IAU is closely involved in the nomination of candidates and selection of recipients for two major prizes in cosmology and astrophysics.
Gruber Cosmology Prize
The Gruber Cosmology Prize, supported by the Gruber Foundation, is awarded annually to one or more scientists of any nationality working in the fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and philosophy of science, for scientific advances in our understanding of the Universe. The prize consists of a gold medal and a cash prize of roughly $500,000. For 2012, the recipient is Charles Bennett (Johns Hopkins University) and the WMAP Team. The presentation was made at the IAU General Assembly.
Kavli Prize in Astrophysics
The Kavli Prize in Astrophysics is awarded for outstanding achievement in advancing knowledge and understanding of the origin, evolution, and properties of the universe. This includes the fields of cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy, planetary science, solar physics, space science, astrobiology, astronomical and astrophysical instrumentation, and particle astrophysics. For 2012, the winners are David C. Jewitt (University of California, USA), Jane X. Luu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) and Michael E. Brown (California Institute of Technology, USA).
USNC Active at 2012 IAU General Assembly
The USNC/IAU was active and visible at the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) General Assembly in Beijing this past August, sponsoring several very successful, well-attended events.
Young Astronomer Activities
The IAU General Assembly features several activities geared especially to young astronomers. The first Young Astronomers lunch was held at the 2006 IAU General Assembly with the aim of stimulating networking opportunities between senior astronomers and those at the beginning of their careers. Since then, the Young Astronomers lunch continues to be the largest and most visible of the young astronomer events.
Sponsored again this year 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 features roundtable discussions involving 1-2 senior astronomers and 8-9 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 is 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.
IAU Announcement of Opportunity:
Regional Nodes and Language Expertise Centres
Astronomy for Development
Robust education and development programs are key features of the IAU strategic plan, and the IAU’s Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) has been tasked with fostering and implementing these programs. Working through the OAD, the IAU is trying to increase global participation through the establishment of Regional Nodes and Language Expertise Centers.
United States to Host IAU GA in 2015
The IAU General Assembly is coming to the United States! Honolulu, Hawaii will be the venue of the IAU’s XXIX General Assembly from August 3-14, 2015. The last IAU GA held in the U.S. was in Baltimore, MD in 1988.
The meeting website is already up at astronomy2015.org
. For now, the website contains basic information, but in the coming months, additional information will be added, including program specifics, travel advice, and tour opportunities. For example, tours of telescope facilities in Hawaii will be offered before, before, during and after the GA but will not conflict with the scientific sessions.
Planning for the scientific program is already underway. Letters of intent to propose symposia are due September 1, 2013. Think now about the interesting science you would like to discuss in Hawaii. The IAU GA will replace AAS’ regular summer meeting in 2015.
As Kevin Marvel, executive officer at the American Astronomical Society, stated at the IAU General Assembly in Beijing, “The next General Assembly will be an interesting and exciting conference, enabling collaboration and networking while enhancing our scientific understanding of the universe through shared discourse.” We hope to see you there!
IAU Strategic Plan: “Teaching Astronomy for Development”
The most important decision undertaken by the IAU General Assembly in Brazil was the Strategic Plan for Astronomy in the Developing World. The Plan is an ambitious vision for expanding astronomy development programs over the next decade. The plan builds on the success of current IAU education, teaching and outreach programs (Commission 46) and the great success of the IYA.Major points of the IAU Strategic PlanComplete plan on the IAU website