this week i attended the 219th american astronomical society meeting held in austin, texas. almost 3000 astronomers participated in the event, sharing research results, learning new science, meeting distant collaborators, interviewing for jobs, (eating tex-mex and BBQ) and catching up with old friends.
i gave a talk on wednesday about my reserach on the star-forming properties of galaxies in the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey. it was a 5 minute talk, so not a whole lot of time, but a couple interesting discussions sparked from it afterwards.
steve hawley, about the history of human spaceflight. he flew on five shuttle missions, including STS-31, which deployed the hubble space telescope into orbit around the earth!
his talk was casual and joking and he shared many anecdotes from his experiences. during the first few human space flights, the astronauts would be in orbit for a very short time, and experience an uncomfortable stomach sickness that they called "space adaptation syndrome." they only learned later that after a couple days, astronauts gets over space sickness!
he also told us that the programming computers used on the space shuttles, called High-order Assembly Language or HAL, were about 0.005 percent as powerful as an Xbox 360!
i had goosebumps several times during his presentation - as i always do whenever it hits me just how many challenges there were to sending humans into space in such a short time frame! at the end of his talk, hawley received a standing ovation from our crowd of ~3000 astronomers. well deserved, indeed.
for more science highlights revealed at the meeting, see the complete coverage from space.com and the top AAS stories from wired.com.
unfortunately, the meeting ended on a sad note, as yesterday we heard the news of the untimely and sudden death of oxford professor steven rawlings. i will write more about this soon, as he was a great man, a collaborator, and a friend. but for now, i am dealing with the shock of the loss and my feelings of sadness, and send my thoughts out to his family and friends.