Each year, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) hosts two big meetings in January and June that span all of astronomy and its subfields of cosmology, helioastronomy, and planetary science. The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll, beginning in June 2020, when the meeting format pivoted to online presentations. The January 2022 meeting was canceled outright, but by June 2022, the society pivoted again, offering a hybrid mix of in-person and online formats. These two meetings underscored the unquenchable thirst for astronomical questing among our veteran and rising scientists. Here are a few highlights from these meetings.
Fast Radio Bursts are flashes of radio emission lasting for several milliseconds. The time of arrival of signals depends on the radio frequency, called the dispersion measure (DM), which depends on the environment through which the signals travel, specifically the number of free electrons in their path. Very few FRBs have matches with sources observed at other wavelengths (Wikipedia - Fast Radio Burst).
This January, the American Astronomical Society held its big annual meeting completely online. The Covid-19 pandemic ruled out the society’s planned gathering in Scottsdale, AZ but the AAS pivoted by opening-up digital access to thousands of astronomers across the United States and around the world. More than 3,000 registrants were listed in the online portal, thus demonstrating that the vital communication of astronomical research, education, and public outreach could carry on in this alternative format.
If the Big Bang theory is correct, how fast is the universe expanding? Astronomers are facing a troubling disconnect between different methods used to measure the expansion rate, known as the Hubble constant. The two methods are giving similar but slightly different rates. Either one method is providing inaccurate results, or there is some kind of unknown physics operating in the universe.