If it's March, it's time for LPSC, the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. The 2016 LPSC runs from March 21 to 25; I'll be attending the first three days of it. LPSC is one of two large annual conferences that focus on planetary science. It emphasizes planetary geology -- the mineralogy, petrology, geomorphology, geophysics, and geochemistry of solid worlds -- as opposed to planetary astronomy, which receives a heavier emphasis at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting every October.
The LPSC 2016 program is absolutely packed. Here is the full conference schedule at a glance (PDF), here is the program with links to abstracts (PDF), and here is the personal schedule I've worked out for myself: lots of Mars and Ceres and Pluto, with a smattering of Moon and Mercury and some general sessions on planetary mapping, plus whatever I can pick up at the poster session Tuesday afternoon. I and many other people will be tweeting the talks using the hashtag #LPSC2016.
With as many as five parallel sessions, all on planetary geology, conflicts are inevitable; I always want to clone myself. On Monday morning alone I have to choose between Curiosity, Dawn, and MESSENGER. In the afternoon, the choice is between Chang'e 3, New Horizons, and Curiosity. (Though if the past is any guide, the State Department will narrow that choice by failing to grant visas to the Chinese scientists in time for them to attend to give their talks.) There are two missions that are doing press conferences at the meeting: New Horizons on Monday, and Dawn on Tuesday. Apart from the subjects that I need to follow in order to report on ongoing missions, there are certain people whose talks I always try to attend because they are fantastic speakers who never fail to educate me.
It's impossible for one person to cover it all, so as always I am looking for scientist volunteers to write guest blogs about work presented at the meeting. Have you thought about blogging, but aren't sure how to get started or how to find an audience? This is your chance! I will also be prowling around looking for authors for feature stories for The Planetary Report, so if you have a good story to tell, please find me.
Not everything that happens at LPSC is science. On Monday evening, there will be the usual "NASA Night," where Jim Green (head of science missions at NASA) and Jonathan Rall (head of the grant programs that fund most NASA researchers) will talk about NASA's current and future plans, and listen to scientists' questions and comments. Our own Casey Dreier will be hosting a followup conversation in Waterway 6 during the lunch break on Tuesday on "The 2017 NASA Budget: The Planetary Community Response and Your Q&A". In addition to The Planetary Society, representatives of the American Geophysical Union, Division of Planetary Sciences, and Geological Society of America will also be there.
A few (mostly Pluto-related) events will be Livestreamed or recorded and made available for viewing later, including both press briefings, NASA night, a public lecture by Alan Stern about New Horizons, and one of the Pluto scientific sessions..
The ultimate reason to attend meetings is to see people -- to catch up with friends from grad school, to meet face-to-face with colleagues I interact with virtually, and to make new connections among scientists and trainees doing interesting research. It'll be a busy, but fun, few days!