Astronomers from across Texas will be visiting the Texas A&M University campus next month for a weekend workshop focused on the growth of astronomy and related scientific collaborations throughout the Lone Star State.
Building Astronomy in Texas is set for September 26-27 at the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. The event, sponsored by the Mitchell Institute and the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy, will be held in conjunction with the 5th annual Texas Astronomy Undergraduate Research Symposium, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 25.
The organizing committee, led by Texas A&M astronomers Jennifer Marshall and Lucas Macri, also includes astronomers from the University of Texas at Austin, UT-Arlington, UT-Rio Grande Valley, UT-San Antonio, Baylor University, Rice University and Texas Christian University. Although agenda details are still being finalized, Marshall says one of the highlights will be talks from astronomers recruited to Texas universities within the past three years — a list of about a dozen including Marshall and Texas A&M astrophysicist Louis Strigari — as well as the preceding undergraduate research symposium, an annual event that rotates between the participating institutions which is free and open to the public.
According to Marshall, the impetus behind the workshop stems from dinner discussions during the past year with various visiting speakers from across the state as well as the Texas A&M astronomy group’s past experience at a previous Building Astronomy in Texas (BAT) event hosted by the University of Texas at Austin.
“They hosted BAT in Austin five years ago, mainly to acknowledge Texas A&M’s presence as a new astronomy group,” Marshall said. “We thought it time to do the same for other groups across the state. There have been a lot of astronomers hired across Texas in the last few years, and this progress is something we astronomers, along with the State of Texas, should be proud of and celebrate.”
The late George P. Mitchell ’40, Mitchell Institute founder and namesake, likely would agree, considering he established the institute based on his lifelong interest in physics and astronomy and his desire to help position both his alma mater and his home state as a world leader in fundamental physics and astronomy. Fittingly, Mitchell Institute-affiliated astronomers are taking a page from his playbook while paying homage to one of his similarly enterprising visions, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), which Mitchell founded and headquartered in the heart of The Woodlands — the master-planned new town he also established — as a gateway to scientific discovery dedicated to his longstanding belief that if Texas’ great universities would work together, they could compete on any level.
“Thanks to George Mitchell’s visionary support of astronomy at Texas A&M and elsewhere, astronomers in our state are playing major roles in globally recognized projects from Chile to West Texas,” Macri said. “This is a great opportunity for us to get together and talk about carrying his vision into the next decade and beyond.”
Learn more about Texas A&M astronomy.
BONUS: Read a post-event feature story from Houston Chronicle science writer Eric Berger.
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