AAS, Day 3

Posted by barb on Jan 7, 2004 in Random Thoughts |

We continued people-watching today. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but frankly astronomers are an interesting bunch. And, suppose I need to put myself into that category. One thing that might help our reputations immensely would be the adult equivalent of Garanimals. Remember those? They are mix-and-match clothing where if you buy two pieces with matching animals, you are assured that they match. We could update these for astronomers — say a line of Astranimals. Instead of animals, we could use constellations — match the Big Bear clothes for a snappy outfit, or try the Orion clothes for an evening out.

I took in an invited talk by Sunyaev this afternoon, who was receiving an AAS award. (I knew him from the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect in Astro 1). His talk was on turbulence in galactic clusters and its effect on the iron line. The exciting part is that this effect might be seen in the spectra from the XRS instrument on the upcoming ASTRO-E 2 mission. Cool!

I was once again reminded of how optical and X-ray astronomers speak different languages. While I was at the booth this afternoon, a young man came up and asked what an X-ray spectrum looked like. I wasn’t sure what he meant, since a spectrum is a spectrum. Then he started asking how we “split our beams”, and I knew there had to be miscommunication of some sort. He mentioned that he was an optical astronomer, and they split their beams to get spectra. So I explained that in X-ray astronomy, we get so few photons coming into our detectors that we can count them…individually…and attach an energy to each incoming photon as it arrives. Fortunately this satisfied him. It reminded me a bit of my proposal defense, where Dr. Harrington was asking questions that seemed really odd to me. It was only when I realized that optical and X-ray astronomers live in different worlds that I started to understand his questions.

I decided to get room service tonight, since I haven’t even come close to spending my perdium any day this week. I foolishly got not just an entree, but dessert. I ended up finishing all of my sandwich, salad and french fries, only to discover I was too full. So, I called Maggie and talked for a bit until I was ready to see how much of the peach cobbler ala mode I could finish. Yum.

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