Public Invited to Three Presentations at American Astronomical Society Meeting

Press Release From: American Astronomical Society
Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Citizens in and around Miami, Florida, are invited to attend three free public presentations by distinguished scientists during the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), May 24-26, 2010. The topics include NASA's recently launched solar observatory, the threat to our planet from asteroid collisions, and the paradox of so many people believing in pseudoscience in our modern age. More than 700 astronomers, solar physicists, and science journalists will converge on the Hyatt Regency Miami for a joint conference of the AAS and its Solar Physics Division. They'll share their latest research results with each other and discuss plans for future projects. Although most of the meeting is open only to paid registrants, three popular talks on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evening are free and open to the public. Described below, all will be held in the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Miami, 400 SE Second Ave., Miami, FL 33131-2197.

Monday, May 24, 2010, 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. EDT
"The Solar Dynamics Observatory: Your Eye on the Sun"
Dean Pesnell (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the first mission in NASA's Living With a Star program, was launched on February 11, 2010, to study "space weather" and how changes on the Sun affect our daily lives. SDO's instruments are now measuring the Sun's light output, gas flows, magnetic fields, and sound waves to give us unprecedented views of our daytime star both inside and out. NASA scientist Dean Pesnell will describe SDO's construction and launch and show some of the dazzling images and movies produced by the spacecraft during its first months in orbit.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. EDT
"Avoiding Armageddon: Diverting Asteroids with Nuclear Explosives"
Dave Dearborn (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Thanks largely to NASA's Spaceguard Survey, we now know of more than 200 potentially hazardous asteroids with a small but finite probability of smashing into the Earth within the next 100 years. Astrophysicist Dave Dearborn presents an overview of the impact threat, followed by a systematic look at the requirements to divert such objects. He will explain why nuclear explosives are our best bet for deflecting large asteroids or breaking them into smaller, less threatening pieces. Armageddon? You've seen the movie; come learn the science!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. EDT
"The 2010 Andrew Gemant Award Lecture:
Science, Pseudoscience, and Education"
Daniel Altschuler (Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico)

How can it be that, collectively, we know a great deal more about life, the universe, and everything than the great scientists of past centuries, yet many members of the public maintain beliefs worthy of a cave person? Daniel Altschuler, who heads the Office for the Public Understanding of Science at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, explores what leads people to believe what to some is unbelievable. He suggests why we should care -- and what we should do -- about the prevalence of pseudoscientific thought in the 21st century. This lecture is presented in collaboration with the American Institute of Physics, which has given Altschuler its 2010 Andrew Gemant Award for significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics.

Directions to the Hyatt Regency Miami may be found on the hotel's website:

About the Gemant Award

The award is made possible by a bequest of Andrew Gemant (1895-1983) to the American Institute of Physics. The awardee is named by the AIP Governing Board during the annual spring meeting based on the recommendation of an outside Selection Committee appointed by the Institute's Board Chairman. Gemant award recipients are invited to deliver a public lecture, given $5,000, and are asked to designate an academic institution to receive a grant of $3,000 to further the public communication of physics.

About the American Institute of Physics

Headquartered in College Park, Md., the American Institute of Physics is a not-for-profit membership corporation chartered in New York State in 1931 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare.

About the American Astronomical Society

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899 and based in Washington, D.C., is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 7,000 also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity's scientific understanding of the universe.

Dr. Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1-202-328-2010 x116

Jason Socrates Bardi
AIP Manager of Member Society Media Services

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