Super Bowl of Astronomy Kicks Off in Long Beach

The International Year of Astronomy begins in earnest Sunday as the American Astronomical Society convenes its 213th national meeting at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

Astronomers from around the world will discuss black holes, planets and astronomy in China, among other topics, at what is sometimes called the "Super Bowl of Astronomy."

More than 2,400 astronomers are scheduled to attend.

The U.S. opening ceremony for the International Year of Astronomy at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Convention Center is open to the public, unlike the meeting's scientific sessions.

The ceremony will mark the start of U.S. celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope. Light -- traveling toward Earth from the Pleiades star cluster for the last four centuries -- will be received at the Cincinnati Observatory with a resulting signal relayed to the meeting to begin the event, organizers said.
The public session will include the world premiere of "400 Years of the Telescope -- A Journey of Science, Technology and Thought," a documentary that will be broadcast by PBS next spring.

A dozen news conferences have been organized by the AAS during the conference, at which astronomers will discuss discoveries from telescopes on Earth and in space.

At one briefing, astronomers will present the first 3-D fly-through of the expanding debris from a supernova with comment by Harvard professor Alyssa Goodman, who leads the Astronomical Medicine project.
The new 3-D visualization is based on eight years of observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

At another news conference, the first findings will be presented from a survey of quasars in the local universe in a form of radiation called "hard X-rays," which are essentially the same as those used to search for cavities by dentists.
"The conference features the most elaborate participation by astronomers from China in AAS history," according to an AAS statement. "The scientists, who will describe major telescope and space projects in China, include experts from five major Chinese institutes."

The AAS meeting will include the submission of more than 1,800 scientific papers, several prize lectures and a public policy address by the new Chief Scientist of Australia, astronomer Penny D. Sackett.

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