Astronomers’ Days 2022 (AD2022) in Jyväskylä, Finland

When the society was established, the main purpose of the Finnish Astronomical Society was to organize the Astronomers’ Days (AD), set to happen every two years. During this event, the professional astronomers, including students, from Finland gather together in a nice location, to meet each other, discuss research, and network.

Due to the pandemic, the AD2020 was canceled, as we could not meet in person. In 2021-2022, the FAS board tried again to organize, and thankfully the pandemic restrictions were eased enough that we could meet in person as a group. The AD2022 was a great success. We thank all the participants, the scientific organizing committee, and the local organizing committee, as well as the invited speakers. The local organizing committee consisted of the FAS members Maria, Olli, Elina, Derek, Karri, Emma and Riku. The scientific organizing committee was Juri Poutanen (chair, Turku), Alexis Finoguenov (Helsinki), Anne Lähteenmäki (Metsähovi), Roberto de Propris (FINCA), and Vitaly Neustroev (Oulu).

AD2022 was hosted in the beautiful city of Jyväskylä. We had around 70 participants, with about 20% of participants from abroad. Participants could attend remotely or in person. The remote attendance allowed more participants both from Finland and from abroad, who otherwise could not come in person. The venue was the Scandic Hotel, which was close to the transportation hubs and in a good location to nearby leisure and dining places. Jyväskylä city was also easily accessible from different corners of Finland by train.

Group photo

In-person participants of the Astronomers' Days. Credit: Maria Stone.

AD2022 covered a range of research topics carried out in Finland: from our solar system to stars to galaxies. Students and researchers at all levels were able to present their work. Few Finnish astronomers traveled from abroad to present at AD2022. We are grateful for all of the researchers who also volunteered to chair the science talk sessions (Juri Poutanen, Pasi Nurmi, Elina Lindfors, Seppo Mattila, Peter Johansson, Mika Juvela and Kari Nilsson).

Presentation by Karri Muinonen

Prof. Karri Muinonen presenting the results of Gaia mission. Credit: Maria Stone.

In particular, Seppo Mattila shared the current state of affairs and ideas for future development of the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT). Finnish astronomers make frequent use of the NOT for their research. Plus, NOT studentships can support financially doctoral researchers in Finland, while getting experience to work in an observatory (in a sunnier place).

Furthermore, for the first time, the Astronomers’ Days included a significant education component in collaboration with the International Astronomical Union, organized by Elina Lindfors. We hope to continue this collaboration as a society and as a community in general, given the national goals to support astronomy in education, which are aligned with the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education.

Dr. Heino Falcke Our invited speaker Heino Falcke shared his contribution to the supermassive black hole research. Heino is a world renowned radio astronomer and theoretical astrophysicist, currently at the Radbound University. If you missed AD2022, you can learn about his research from his recent podcast here.

On the right: Dr. Heino Falcke.
Image credit: NWO - NWO Spinoza Prize 201, CC BY-SA 4.0..

Further, we awarded Natalia Lahen with the Väisälä Prize for her outstanding doctoral work, in the amount of 1000 euros. She was able to travel from Germany and present an overview of her interesting work. We thank the Vaisala organization for the prize funding. The judge Jukka Maalampi, professor emeritus from University of Jyväskylä, selected her work from amongst 8 application submissions for the award (4 from Turku and 4 from Helsinki).

Natalia Lahen is now a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. She completed her doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki, on the research of numerical simulations to study how galaxies interact with each other.

We encourage all graduating PhD students to apply for this award. More information can be found here.

We received from the event 13 new member subscriptions to the society, 5 student members and 8 senior members, which significantly boosts the membership count of our society. We welcome all astronomers (students, postdocs and researchers) to join the Finnish Astronomical Society, here is how to do it.

In addition to the science meetings, with the idea to organize a dinner of the event on the boat from Karri Koljonen, we experienced the graceful lake waters as the beautiful boat Rhea meandered for several hours that evening. The peaceful greenery of coastal trees, brightly clear sky, a tasty menu with a refreshing beverage in a glass provided some relaxation and an opportunity to meet new friends as well as catch up with the old ones after a long Monday - post travel and post over 10 talks right before.

Lake view

Boat trip on Lake Päijänne on M/S Rhea. Credit: Anne Virkki

An interesting social programme was organized by Elina Lindfors, which included a trip to an amateur astronomy Hankasalmi Observatory and a visit to the Accelerator Lab at the University of Jyväskylä on a guided tour by Pauli Heikkinen, enriching our experience at the AD2022 event. The group was able to visit the Accelerator Lab within walking distance, and we were privileged to see the inside of the building and learn about different experiments during the excursion. On the other hand, to get to the Hankasalmi Observatory, we traveled by bus, through forests that hugged both sides of the road, until we reached a summit, which had a building for astronomers, as well as two structures - a domed telescope and a radio dish (with its own unique story tied to the Tuorla Observatory and another foreign astronomer). We were impressed by the research, extent, diversity of programs, people’s personal zeal, and organization amongst many other things of amateur astronomy in that location. Recently, some of the observations from the Hankasalmi Observatory contributed to published work. The tour to the Hankasalmi Observatory was provided by a local amateur astronomer Arto Oksanen.

Hankasalmi Observatory

Visit to the Hankasalmi Observatory. Credit: Anne Virkki.

During the AD2022, the Annual Meeting of the society was also held. During this meeting, a logo contest was held for the society. Great artistic submissions of logo designs were presented by three members, and the attending members voted. An unofficial submission was also circulated to the amusement of the attendees. We are excited to announce that the design by Derek McKay featuring the swan (Cygnus) constellation has been chosen to be the logo of the society. Derek is a researcher at the Metsähovi radio observatory. This is our first logo. In fact, a similar attempt to choose a logo was done in 2018, but it was not possible to choose a logo due to lack of submissions. We thank all participants in the logo contest for their creativity and initiative to present their artworks at the event.

Plus, the new board members were selected to serve. We thank Olli and Derek for their time and work during their terms as board members of the society. The new board members for 2022-2023 are Riku Rautio, Maria B. Stone, Karri Koljonen, Emma Mannfors, Anne Virkki and Elina Lindfors (see Hallitus).

Elina Lindfors In late spring of 2023, during the next Annual Meeting, we will have also several board members whose term is complete, and we welcome interested Finnish astronomers to contact the society if they wish to be candidates for 2023-2024. The term is one year, and a board member can serve up to 4 consecutive years.

On the right: A Board member Elina Lindfors immersed in work. Credit: Maria Stone.

This event is of great benefit especially for the young career researchers in astronomy and students. Since COVID few opportunities were present for in person networking. In the future, we hope to offer more funding to encourage larger student participation, perhaps by offering a number of travel stipends.

We enjoyed the coffee and snacks, as well as lunches at the venue. We thank all the participants and organizers, as well as our dear sponsors: FINCA, Väisälä, TSV, and Magnus Ehrnrooth Foundation. Many people noted to me personally that they had a great experience, and I pass this gratitude to everyone who contributed to make this event a reality in 2022.

From a personal note, I remember chatting with Kalle Karhunen, another PhD student, at the University of Turku, when I found out from him about the Finnish Astronomical Society and his experience serving on the board. At the time, we had our offices at the Tuorla Observatory (link here). Unfortunately, I did not attend the AD2018, which was a great event in Kuusamo. As I am passionate about being involved in serving the community, I volunteered to become a board member after an email was sent out that there was such an opportunity. I traveled to Helsinki to attend the annual meeting that year, met astronomers from other universities, and am very grateful that in 2019 I was accepted to serve on the FAS board. As a foreign astronomer doing research in Finland, I was able to learn more about the Finnish community, about the 50-year history of the society presented by Mauri Valtonen, tapped into the richness of past and present astronomers in Finland, learned a bit more how the societies work in Finland. I really enjoyed working on different projects with all the board members I interacted with, and am always impressed with their dedication (board members are not paid) and creativity. I appreciate the down-to-earth communication and humor even when challenges arise. The astronomy community in Finland is growing, and we have researchers from different countries and from different backgrounds. We have even discussed to collaborate on a joint Astronomers’ Days with the Swedish society. I encourage other researchers in Finland to join the society and support its current projects and even maybe take initiative to bring to fruition new projects, so that the Finnish Astronomical Society can continue serving the needs of astronomy researchers in Finland. I have warm memories from AD2022, and look forward to attending the future Astronomers’ Days events in Finland.

Maria Stone

Maria Babakhanyan Stone

Maria is a doctoral student at the University of Turku, studying the role of supermassive black holes in the evolution of galaxies.

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