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HEAD Business Meeting, January 2000



Minutes of the business meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society.

January, 13, 2000 -- Atlanta, Georgia


Report by the Chair

The meeting was called to order at 1:10 p.m. by the Chair, Gordon Garmire. He welcomed members to the first HEAD business meeting of the new millennium. Dr. Garmire thanked Alan Guth, Art Davidsen, and Richard Lingenfelter, members of the HEAD Executive Committee whose terms end at this meeting, for their service to the Division. Dr. Garmire reported that 240 of ~700 members voted in the recent elections and announced the results of the election: new members of the Executive Committee elected for two year terms are Lars Bildsten, Victoria Kaspi, and Martin Weisskopf; new Secretary-Treasurer elected for a three year term is Paul Hertz; new Vice-Chair elected for a two year term is Jonathan Grindlay. Dr. Garmire noted that Dr. Grindlay will become Chair of the Division in two years.

Dr. Garmire announced that the 2000 Rossi Prize has been awarded to Peter Meszaros, Bohdan Paczynski, and Martin Rees for the development of theoretical models of Gamma Ray Bursters and their afterglows. The Rossi Prize Lecture will be delivered by the winners in one year at the 2001 winter meeting of the AAS in San Diego. Unfortunately Dr. Paczynski will not be able to attend the San Diego meeting.

Dr. Garmire then thanked the outgoing Secretary-Treasurer, Alan Marscher, for his three years of service to the Division, especially his hard work in bringing the Division fully into the electronic age.

Report by the Secretary-Treasurer

Alan Marscher, Secretary-Treasurer of the Division, reported that there are 695 dues paying members of the Division. He reports that a great deal of effort has gone into recovering former members of the Division who may have been lost from the rolls when the AAS changed its billing system. He noted that there has been an increase of more than 100 members in the last year, and that some of these are young members who were attracted by the visibility of current high energy missions and by the free Division membership for Junior members of the AAS.

Dr. Marscher reported that the Division is financially stable with total accounts of approximately $28,000. The annual income of the Division is approximately $5,000; of this approximately $3,600 comes from dues, $200 comes from contributions, and $1,350 comes from interest including interest on the Rossi Prize endowment. As income has exceeded expenses for the last few years, the Division has begun paying the travel expenses for Prize winners and the Division Press Officer.

Dr. Marscher noted that the Division's new prize, the David N. Schramm Prize for a popular article on high energy astrophysics, will be an additional expense and that expenses are now expected to approximately balance income. The Schramm Prize will be given for the first time at the November 2000 HEAD meeting, and the deadline for nominations is in June. Dr. Marscher also announced that the Division website has been moved to a permanent location at the AAS (http://www.aas.org/head/) and he thanked Lynn Cominsky and Tim Graves for their work on the new design of the Division homepage. He requested that all bug reports be sent to Paul Hertz, the incoming Secretary-Treasurer.

Finally Dr. Marscher noted that it has been his great pleasure to serve the Division as Secretary-Treasurer for three years, and that it was his even greater pleasure to retire from that service.

Report from NASA Headquarters

Dr. Alan Bunner, Science Program Director for the Structure and Evolution of the Universe in the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, reported on activities at NASA which are of interest to Division members. Dr. Bunner noted several accomplishments of 1999: the Chandra X-ray Observatory (formerly AXAF) was launched and is working well; GLAST was included in the NASA budget and the instrument AO was released with selection expected in February 2000; there were several science breakthroughs concerning gamma ray bursters; the SEU theme has created a new Roadmap called Cosmic Journeys -- the Roadmap is available at the AAS meeting, the high priority near term missions in the Roadmap have been included in the NASA Space Science 2000 Strategic Plan, and thanks are due to Bruce Margon and the SEUS for their hard work on the Roadmap.

Dr. Bunner then reported on the ongoing activity which will lead to a budget initiative in the 2002 federal budget to pay for the missions described in the Cosmic Journeys Roadmap. This initiative will be presented to our science colleagues, the NASA Administrator, the Office of Management and Budget, the Administration, and the Congress. The initiative builds on the many exciting recent discoveries in astrophysics, cosmology, and particle physics and presents a paradigm for exploring new physics. The initiative will be a multi-agency program (NASA, DoE, NSF) and will follow the recent Inner Space/Outer Space conferences in presenting a common goal for multiple communities. The near term missions in Cosmic Journeys are Constellation-X, ACCESS, and LISA.

Mitch Begelman asked when the community would be informed about this initiative. Dr. Bunner noted that there has been community involvement at a number of past and future meetings, including the Inner Space/Outer Space II conference (June 1999, Fermilab), the Cosmic Genesis Workshop (October 1999, Sonoma State), and the Winter Aspen Astrophysics Workshop (February 2000, Aspen). John Nousek asked if missions would be solicited through the AO process. Dr. Bunner replied that the priorities in this initiative arose through the strategic planning process, which has plotted out priorities into a coherent plan for the SEU theme and OSS in general. Dr. Bunner concluded the discussion by noting that outreach to inform the community further is incipient, that the initiative will gain visibility as it gains momentum, and that the community would be informed when its help would be appropriate.

Dr. Bunner next reported on the reorganization in the Research and Analysis (R&A) grants programs. Starting with the 2000 ROSS NRA, separate disciplines will be brought together into clusters which will share a common review and will allow for cross comparison of the proposals in the various disciplines. The high energy astrophysics cluster will contain the gamma ray, X-ray, and cosmic ray physics disciplines. Another cluster will contain the visible, ultraviolet, submillimeter, infrared, radio, gravitational physics, and fundamental physics disciplines. A third cluster will contain the astrophysical theory, astrophysical data, long term space astrophysics, and space physics theory disciplines. The cluster reviews will allow the discipline review panels to compare notes on borderline proposals and ensure that the best proposals are being selected. The planned yearly opportunity will impose an additional burden on the Headquarters staff but provide additional opportunities for the community. Typically 1/3 of the funding will be competed every year for three year grants. In response to a question, Dr. Bunner was unsure how grant programs with typical grant lengths other than three would be incorporated.

Dr. Bunner reported on several launches which are on deck: HETE-2 is scheduled for a January 28 launch, Astro-E is scheduled for a February 8 launch, and MAP is scheduled for a launch late in 2000. [Note added later: the HETE-2 launched has been delayed until May.]

Dr. Bunner concluded his report by discussing the status of CGRO. NASA has a policy of requiring a controlled reentry into the ocean for satellites which are too large and/or massive to completely burn up during reentry. When CGRO lost a gyro in November 1999, it was left with only 2 gyros which is the minimum required for a controlled reentry. Since that leaves CGRO only one gyro failure away from no controlled reentry, planning has begun for a controlled reentry beginning on March 16, 2000. In parallel NASA is also studying the possibility of a controlled reentry with only one gyro. The study report is due by mid-February, and a meeting is planned on February 16 to make a decision. Neil Gehrels noted that every possible effort is being made at GSFC to find a one gyro solution.

Report by the Press Officer

Lynn Cominsky reported that there were three press conferences and three press releases at the Charleston HEAD meeting. She noted with pride that HEAD had successfully experimented with press conferences via conference call and all briefing materials available via an embargoed website. She noted that the addition of the David Schramm Prize should increase articles about high energy astrophysics in the popular literature and press. Dr. Cominsky also reported on press activities at the Atlanta AAS meeting which are of interest to HEAD: an RXTE all sky monitor movie was presented by Hale Bradt and Jean Swank, the possible resolution of the X-ray background mystery with Chandra was reported by Richard Mushotzky and Amy Barger, initial science results from Chandra were reported by Claude Canizares, Gordon Garmire, and Steve Murray, and the nearest galactic microquasar was discussed by Bob Hjellming, Ron Remillard, and Donald Smith.

At this point, the position of Chair of HEAD was transferred from Gordon Garmire to Alice Harding.

Report by the new Chair

Alice Harding began her term by thanking Gordon Garmire for his excellent job as Chair for the past two years and as Vice-Chair for the two years before that. She noted that this was Dr. Garmire's second term as Chair.

Dr. Harding announced to the members several decisions of the HEAD Executive Council. She noted that the next HEAD meeting will be held on November 5-10, 2000, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The dates were chosen so that the meeting would receive good room rates at a good hotel. However, as that week includes election day, she joked that HEAD members attending the meeting would either have to vote via absentee ballot or change their voter registration to Hawaii.

Dr. Harding also announced that HEAD would begin having yearly meetings, rather than meetings every 18 months. The next meeting following the Honolulu meeting will be held in November 2001 in the southeastern United States. In April 2002 there will be a joint meeting with the Division of Astrophysics of the American Physical Society; this meeting will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and will be a large meeting with our physics colleagues.

As there was no other business, Dr. Harding adjourned the meeting at 1:55 p.m.

These minutes submitted by Paul Hertz, Secretary-Treasurer, High Energy Astrophysics Division, American Astronomical Society.

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    Comments, questions, or feedback to Paul Hertz, Created February 14, 2000