I just spent the week in Kissimmee, FL at the winter American Astronomical Society meeting. It was a great opportunity to talk about an exciting project I’m helping develop for JWST. I’ve spent a good portion of my thesis working on a pipeline for the interferometric imaging mode on the Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS).
With others, I developed a method for measuring the image position down to a tiny fraction of a pixel (See Thatte et al. 2015 article in SPIE). I got to talk about using this to measure the small motions of very cool sub-stellar objects to look for the presence of planets! This would follow another mission called GAIA which is doing the same thing for a billion stars at much higher precision. GAIA looks in the visible, where these cooler bodies may be too faint.
It’s hard to say what my favorite part of the meeting was. Of course it’s a great place to reconnect with colleagues and see old mentors. I was excited to hear about progress on the CHARA Array’s Adaptive optics system (e.g., this SPIE article) that will allow it to observe many more targets at its extremely high resolution.
There were some pretty nice career panels, giving general advice, but also sharing experiences from the non-academic path. I was impressed with the emphasis on anti-harassment this meeting. Many of the AAS officers showed awareness that there’s still much work to be done and are making an effort to forge the path towards a more inclusive field.
A major highlight was the first big talk of the meeting by Alan Stern, who gave an overview of results from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto. These results continue to amaze! I got pretty excited to hear Dr. Stern allude to the next obvious mission — an orbiter around pluto. Just imagine the things we’ll learn!