Adam Burgasser elected to American Astronomical Society Council


Cool Star Lab PI Adam Burgasser has been elected as a Counciler for the American Astronomical Society (AAS), a 3-year term that begins June 2016. AAS Councilers represent the governing body of the AAS and are responsible for the management, direction and control of the affairs and the property of the AAS.  This includes consideration of resolutions that direct the research, educational and professional mission of the AAS. Adam was elected by a general vote of the AAS membership, which comprises 7,000 professional and amateur members.  Adam has been serving as Chair of the AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy and is a AAS Agent.

Adam’s election statement was as follows:

Astronomy inspires people from all ages, backgrounds and abilities to be curious about the Universe, explore the physical underpinnings of Nature, and develop critical and scientific thinking. Yet, like many fields of physical science, our profession does not reflect the demographic composition of our nation, and various forms of subtle and overt racism, sexism, genderism, ableism, classism, and other exclusionary practices prevent the full spectrum of people, ideas and perspectives from being brought to bear on the greatest problems of our Universe.

As Chair of the CSMA, I have worked with our community to identify and address barriers to entry and advancement in Astronomy, including: financial barriers and biases associated with the GRE, imbalance in resources and opportunities for students and faculty of color at HBCUs and MSIs, and accessibility for all abilities. I served on the organizing committee for the first Inclusive Astronomy Conference, and am working with co-organizers and the community to develop recommendations to improve the climate for ALL astronomers. As a AAS Councilor, I will make sure our Committees of Community (CSWA, CSMA, SGMA) have a voice in AAS governance, and will serve the diverse community of students, amateurs and professionals that comprise our Society.

Dianna Cowern & Beach Physics Awarded Funding by Inaugural La Jolla Community Foundation Grants Program

Dianna Cowern receiving the "big check" with Susan McClellan of the LJCF (left) and Lucille Schindler of the UCSD Development Office (right)

Dianna Cowern receiving the “big check” with Susan McClellan of the LJCF (left) and Lucille Schindler of the UCSD Development Office (right). Photo courtesy Carol Hobson

Beach Physics was one of four programs to be awarded funding by the La Jolla Community Foundation, in their inaugural Foundation Grants program.  Beach Physics Creative Director Dianna Cowern (aka “The Physics Girl”) received the $8300 grant – the largest awarded this year – at an awards ceremony at Madison Gallery.  The grant will support two projects in 2015 that aim to enrich science education for La Jolla students and will move Beach Physics from online lessons to live events:

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Carl Melis’s Precision Distance Measurement of the Pleiades Makes the Cover of Science

F1.medium-1Carl Melis and collaborators have just published the most accurate distance measurement to the Pleiades Star Cluster – reported on the cover of Science magazine – and one conclusion stands out: Hipparcos was wrong.

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Dianna Cowern wins National Science Communication Award


Cool Star Lab Outreach Coordinator Dianna Cowern took the top video prize at this year’s Flame Challenge, a national science communication contest run by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science headquartered at SUNY Stony Brook. Dianna was among hundreds of scientists who tackled the question “What is Color?”, using either video or written formats. Her video was judged as the best entry by over 27,000 11-year olds from around the world.  This is the third year of the Challenge; previous contests asked “What is a Flame?” and “What is Time?“.

Both Dianna and the winner of the written category Melanie Golob, received their awards from Alan Alda during an event at World Science Festival.  This event, hosted by Brian Greene, can be viewed here; the awards are announced toward the end.

Several news agencies reported Dianna’s win, including NBC News and io9, and UCSD profiled Dianna in This Week. You can see more of Dianna’s videos at her Physics Girl YouTube channel.

Congratulations Dianna!



Cloud properties of Nearest Brown Dwarfs Revealed through Spectral Monitoring Study

starweatherWe’ve just reported the first results from our April 2013  campaign to monitor the nearby brown dwarf binary Luhman 16AB, in a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal.  Our results confirm the earlier “flux reversal” seen in FIRE spectroscopy, and allow us to make the first constraints on the cloud coverage fraction and the temperatures of the “clouds” and “holes” in the atmosphere of Luhman 16B.  We also confirm an apparent correlation between rotation period and variability amplitude, which may emerge if cloud features are related to the Rhine’s scale of brown dwarf atmospheres.

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