Thursday, September 14, 2017

AAS Outreach Workshop

A Workshop for Early-Career Astronomers 
Who Want to Do Better Outreach to Students & the Public

Sunday-Monday, 7-8 January 2018, in conjunction with the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in National Harbor, MD, near Washington, DC.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is sponsoring a skill-building workshop -- and an ongoing community -- to support early-career astronomers in doing effective outreach to schools, families, and the public. Working with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and other outreach organizations, the AAS Astronomy Ambassadors program (now in its sixth year) offers you two days of hands-on training, extensive resources, and pre-tested activities -- plus a like-minded group of peers. If you are a graduate student, postdoc, new faculty, or advanced undergraduate committed to a career in the astronomical sciences, and if you’re interested in spending a small fraction of your time helping laypersons become more scientifically literate, this is an invitation to sharpen your outreach skills and join the growing AAS Astronomy Ambassadors community.

The sixth annual AAS Astronomy Ambassadors workshop will be held on the Sunday and Monday before the start of the 231st AAS meeting, 7-8 January 2018. Participants will spend two active days learning techniques, examining selected materials, and getting to know each other and an existing community of astronomers doing and supporting outreach. There will be sessions appropriate for those who have done outreach already and for those who are just beginners. No experience is required. We especially want to encourage participation by members of groups underrepresented in science.

Workshop costs are being underwritten by the AAS Board of Trustees, so registration (for the workshop only, not for the AAS meeting), materials, and two days’ lunches are free. We can also reimburse you for up to two nights’ lodging if your attendance at the workshop requires you to travel to the meeting venue earlier than you otherwise would.

Applications are due by 19 October 2017, and applicants will be notified of their acceptance into the program before the meeting’s regular registration deadline of 2 November 2017.

For more information about the AAS Astronomy Ambassadors program, see 

For more information about the workshop and a link to the online application, see 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Statement on DACA

Dear fellow astronomers,

   Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on behalf of the POTUS, announced this administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. This program was created in 2012 by the Obama Administration to provide minimal protections for undocumented folks who arrived to this country as children. These protections include the halting of deportation, the ability to acquire a work permit, and eligibility to travel abroad. Currently, nearly 800,000 people are protected by DACA - and an estimated additional one million would also be eligible for the program if the program were to continue [1]. Today’s news are infuriating and heartbreaking, especially for those without documents or with undocumented friends and family members - many of whom are your colleagues or students in your classroom.

    Let us be clear. The rescinding of DACA is the reflection of a much bigger problem. It is amongst the many racist policies that, over the last few centuries, have primarily targeted a large fraction of the descendants of the first inhabitants of this continent (also known as ‘Indigenous-Latinx’), as well as people who were forced out of their lands as a result of colonialism and imperialism. In other words, the primary targets are Black and Brown folks from what some call the ‘Third World’, both from this continent and from other parts of the globe. Such maintenance and control of the flow of migrant workers - i.e., of the very people who, with their labor, drive the economies of the wealthiest nations on the planet - has long been an integral part of a larger system of power that is fueled by racism. As a result, millions of human beings have been denied their rights, and continue to live in fear of deportation and in a state of perpetual exclusion. Moreover, in order to maintain this economic order, it is important for those in power to enforce social and legal constructs like borders, citizenship, and immigration status. And while DACA itself was problematic - because it perpetuated the criminalization of most undocumented migrants, the glorification of having a ‘legal status’, and the attachment of human worth to being economically viable - in practice it provided hundreds of thousands of young people with means to employment, education and the ability to visit their loved ones. Overnight, all of these young people are again at risk for deportation and separation from their families. Those affected cannot plan their own future in the long term, nor cement their roots in their communities because their status is so uncertain, and because, once again, they are being forced to live in fear.

Many astronomers are educators, and thus we have interacted with DACA-protected students and families. Please extend your support to your students and colleagues who might be affected by this recent change in immigration policy. Concrete steps include:

(1) Reach out to your state representatives to support the Dream Act [2], which would offer a concrete path to citizenship for many immigrants. 

(2) Educate yourself and find ways to support compassionate, meaningful immigration reform [3,4]. This includes books, electronic media, and discussion with groups in your community.

(3) Organize meetings in your departments and institutions and brainstorm on ways to best support your students.

(4) Devote class time to discuss this situation. Empower your students, both those who might be directly affected by this decision and others. Be sure to adhere to the Inclusive Astronomy guidelines when you do this, as these difficult conversations can be extremely overwhelming for those affected. 

We, the members of the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy, reaffirm our unconditional solidarity and support for every astronomer, especially astronomy students of color, affected by the decision to end DACA. You belong in this country, you belong in astronomy, and you can always count on us. 

Immigrant rights are human rights! No human is illegal!

September 5th, 2017

Prof. Jorge Moreno
Dr. Lia Corrales
Dr. Keith Hawkins
Prof. Kathryne Daniel
Prof. Jillian Bellovary
Prof. Adam Burgasser
Dr. Nicole Cabrera Salazar
Prof. Aparna Venkatesan
Charee Peters
Prof. John Asher Johnson
Prof. Kim Coble

Disclaimer: The above signatories are private citizens exercising their constitutional right to express their personal views. This is not an official statement by the American Astronomical Society nor the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy and should not be construed as such.

Links and resources