Hello! I’m Megan Bedell, a Physics/Astronomy double major in the class of 2012. Last week I was lucky enough to attend the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which was held in Seattle, WA this winter. The meeting consisted of literally thousands of astronomers from all over America (and a few from the rest of the world!) gathering to share their current research findings in the form of posters and short talks. Over the past summer I participated in an REU at the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket, so I had my own research from the summer to present in poster form at the AAS meeting along with my fellow summer interns. I spent 4 days at the conference attending talks and trying to absorb as much awesome astronomy knowledge as I could. The conference was a bit overwhelming at first- as soon as I registered, I received a humongous book packed with lists of all the talks and posters that I could see, if I only had time to go to it all! (Just as importantly, I also received my allotted number of tickets for free drinks at the coffee/tea station, which I was instructed to guard with my life. Astronomers do not kid about their caffeine.) Unfortunately I soon found it physically impossible to attend every single thing that interested me, but I did get to see some great talks on a wide range of topics, from exoplanets to cosmology.
A few highlights of my trip:
- my happy REUnion with my fellow summer interns (get it?? okay, sorry). I also got to catch up with Maya Barlev ’12, whom I hadn’t seen in ages due to us both studying abroad!
- a hilarious talk by Michael Turner and Rocky Kolb (who has spoken at Haverford!) on the current state of cosmology, featuring many, many string theorist jokes.
- hearing about early results from the Planck satellite mission, which had been kept confidential until January 11.
- getting my mind blown by some posters about blind astronomers, who have star maps in Braille!
- the session of talks on the LSST, including a great one by Prof Beth Willman- I loved hearing the speakers get super excited about the revolutionary possibilities of the LSST’s new technology.
- the session on the Kepler mission was also very cool.
- going inside the awesome inflatable planetarium in the exhibit hall- Haverford, can we please set one of these up in Zubrow???
- of course, getting to present my own poster! It was great to get feedback from interested astronomers, and I had some really good conversations with people who stopped by. I also just found out that my friend and coauthor Alexa’s poster, which I was secondary author on, received the Chambliss award for undergraduate research, which is really exciting!
- last but definitely not least: scoring a free holographic bookmark of the SOFIA airborne observatory!! I will treasure it always.
All in all, I had a wonderful time at the AAS meeting, and it opened my eyes to the huge amount of interesting research going on in the astronomical community today. Thanks so much to Haverford’s Louis Green Fund for funding my travels, and to Beth Willman and the MMO for helping me a ton in working out the logistics and making it happen!