In The Field

IAU: the rest of the universe

Everyone has something to complain about. The astronomers who aren’t disgruntled about the planet definition are mostly moaning that the subject has taken over the meeting.

They say the outside world’s impression of the 2006 IAU General Assembly is that 2,500 astronomers have met in Prague to talk about nothing but what makes a planet. They’re probably right.

If the media coverage of the planet issue has been a flood, other stories have come out in a trickle. In the press room yesterday, there were even a few reporters wondering what they were meant to do on Wednesday. There’s no activity on the planet front whatsoever today (at least in the open). The definition on which the IAU members will vote is not released until tomorrow morning.

But, really, the question of what defines a planet is a bit of a sideshow here. It has consumed the lives of the committee members involved in making a definition, and upset a portion of people that deal with planets, but many of the astronomers registered for the meeting are going about their business unbothered. Their interests run the gamut from the Milky Way’s black hole to convection in stars and the International Year of Astronomy (assigned to 2009). I spent the morning, for example, in an interesting session on globular clusters , which are great balls of stars. More on that later.

Update: The promised more on globular clusters has become a news story, Key stars have different birthdays.

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