Status Report

NSF Invites Science Writers to June 3rd Astronomy Conference in Washington, D.C.

By SpaceRef Editor
May 11, 2010
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The National Science Foundation (NSF), in cooperation with the Thirty Meter Telescope Project (TMT) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) invites journalists to attend Future Science: The Frontiers of 21st Century Astronomy. This science writers’ conference will be moderated by Miles O’Brien, managing editor of Space Flight Now’s “This Week in Space,” and former chief technology and environment correspondent at CNN. Panelists will explore the current state of our understanding, the most recent results of ongoing research, and the future trajectory in this field. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute (Search for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) will be the lunch speaker. His talk is titled, “Searching for ET: the Agony and the Ecstasy.”

What: Future Science: The Frontiers of 21st Century Astronomy

When: Thursday, June 3, 2010, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Where: University of California (UC), Washington Center, 1608 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

RSVP: Please send your name and affiliation to Cindy Holloway, Grand Challenge Topics for

Discussion, Led by Noted Experts in the Field:

First Stars and First Light: Epoch of Reionization
Elizabeth Barton, UC Irvine; Zoltan Haiman, Columbia University (invited)

In its infancy the universe was suffused with a dense, obscuring fog of primordial gas. As the first stars switched on, they began to reionize the cosmos, punching ever-larger holes in their murky surroundings. Eventually, the effect of these young, massive stars enabled light to shine freely through space. Peering ever deeper into these “dark ages” has been both a challenge and a quest for astronomers, with today’s best telescopes giving tantalizing clues as to the nature of these early stars and the assembly of the very first galaxies.

From Dust and Gas to Planets and Stars
Lynne A. Hillenbrand, California Institute of Technology; Jean L. Turner, UC Los Angeles

From a collapsing cloud of dust and gas four-and-a-half billion years ago, the Earth and rest of our solar system began to form. The exact processes that drive star and planet formation, however, are not well understood. Tracking the evolution of nascent stars and protoplanetary disks will give astronomers many of the missing pieces to this intriguing puzzle. Recent discoveries in infrared and radio astronomy are also helping to unravel this mystery.

The Universe as Laboratory: Fundamental Physics
Scott Ransom, NRAO

The universe is a great laboratory that challenges the frontiers of physics. The most advanced laboratories on earth never will match the extreme conditions provided by black holes, pulsars, or supernova explosions. The next generation of telescopes will allow us to tap these exotic laboratories to make major advances in understanding particle physics, general relativity, and other fundamental areas of science.

Dark Energy
Rachael Bean, Cornell University

For decades, astronomers assumed that the expansion of the universe was slowing. Scientists studying distant galaxies and supernovae were surprised to discover, however, that the universe was actually expanding faster and faster. Astronomers have attributed this to an unknown force called “dark energy.” By studying the most distant objects, astronomers hope to shine more light on this mysterious repulsive force, how it affects matter, and what part it will play in the future evolution of the Universe.”


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF (703) 292-8311
Dave Finley, NRAO (575) 835-7302
Charles Blue, Thirty Meter Telescope (202) 236-6324
Program Contacts
Robert (Scott) Fisher, NSF (703) 292-8225

SpaceRef staff editor.