The 45th Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, Oct 6-11, 2013
Next week is one of my two favorite meetings of the year: the 45th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, referred to as "DPS". DPS takes place in a different location every year in October; this year it's in Denver, where it's currently 40 F / 5 C and raining -- ick -- but it's supposed to be a lot warmer next week.
The government shutdown has not come at a good time for this meeting; there will be last-minute cancellations by scientists employed directly by NASA or other federal agencies like the United States Geological Survey. However, there are fewer cancellations than there might have been, because many of these people have had trouble getting permission to travel professionally ever since the sequester hit. I am working very hard not to go off on a ranty tirade about the fact that these repeated last-minute, nonsensical, manufactured budget crises fail to save the federal government (or, more accurately, us taxpayers) any money. It's incredibly wasteful and disruptive, antithetical to fiscally conservative ideals. Excuse me. I'll get back to science.
We will miss our federally employed colleagues but I still am eagerly anticipating this meeting. Meetings like DPS are incredibly productive. The presentations are interesting but it's really all about the hallway conversation that happens around the presentations. I exist in a funny role straddling a boundary between journalism and science. At DPS, I really get to be a scientist, or at least a peer to scientists -- I get to participate in those hallway conversations, tossing ideas back and forth, criticizing (constructively or destructively) the presentations we see, asking questions and learning from the answers, telling people about how this or that thing they're interested in is also happening on another world somewhere else in the solar system. We do this for nine hours a day at the conference hall and then we adjourn to a bar and keep doing it. Periodically I reach the limit of my endurance for interacting with people and abscond to my hotel room for a mental health break, and write and write and write. It's fun and exhausting.
Here's a rough rundown of the schedule:
Asteroids all day Monday through Thursday
Exoplanets Monday through Wednesday
Mars all day Thursday and Friday
Monday: Education, Mercury, Moon
Also Monday: special meeting of the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society -- I will probably attend all of these talks, as they look pretty interesting, and different from the usual
Tuesday: Venus, planetary rings, and Titan
Wednesday: Pluto, Titan
Thursday: Enceladus, dust, Pluto, other moons, comets
Friday: Jupiter's moons, comets, solar system origins, TNOs, giant planets
I will also be on a panel 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, "Negotiation Skills for Planetary Scientists."