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President's Message


Satoshi Yamamoto
(The University of Tokyo)June 2021

Satoshi Yamamoto(The University of Tokyo)

Greetings. My name is Satoshi Yamamoto, and I was recently chosen to serve as president of the Astronomical Society of Japan. I am currently a Professor in the Department of Physics in the Graduate School of Science at The University of Tokyo, where I use radio observations to study the formation of stars and planetary systems and the evolution of materials within them. Serving as president of this Society is a very serious role with significant responsibility, and I am honestly worried as to whether I can fully meet your expectations. Nevertheless, with the kind help of our members, including the Vice President and Directors, I will do my utmost to further develop our Society and I thank you in advance for your support.

Looking back, the first meeting of the Astronomical Society of Japan I attended was the Autumn Annual Meeting held at Nagoya University in October 1985. What particularly impressed me at the time was the sense of collegialityーwe even took a group photo with all the participants. There were parallel sessions at two venues over three days. I remember it as being very compact and approachable event compared with my previous experience at the Annual Meeting of the Chemical Society of Japan. Thirty-five years later, astronomy has significantly expanded, and the Astronomical Society of Japan has grown even further.

Astronomy is expanding in many directions, but I would like to take this opportunity to mention three in particular. Firstly, our means of carrying out space research have greatly expanded, now covering not only all regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, but even neutrinos and gravitational waves. International cooperation has resulted in the creation of advanced observation equipment that has revealed new aspects of the universe one after another. Alongside this observational work, theoretical studies including large-scale simulations are being actively developed. Another recent development is the significant advancement of multi-messenger astronomy, which removes barriers for all observation methods and integrates all observational information, and I feel that efforts in this direction are rapidly intensifying.

Secondly, astronomy is expanding its areas of cooperation beyond physics and the earth and planetary sciences to also include chemistry and biology. Of particular note is that the discovery of many exoplanets is attracting increased attention and new academic fields such as astrobiology are developing, allowing us to consider the universe as a wonderous stage that involves all domains of the natural sciences.

Thirdly, astronomy is expanding into society. Because many people feel a sense of familiarity with astronomy, it plays a major role in deepening the public's interest and understanding of science. We see frequent reporting on space in the media and online, with the active involvement of many astronomy enthusiasts and citizen scientists. We are furthermore seeing the start of astronomical heritage initiatives, further improving cooperation with local communities. I hope to support in any way I can these remarkable developments in the research, education, outreach, and social contributions of astronomy.

Astronomy is thus expanding and deepening, but nature remains as profound as ever. We can see this through frequent "unexpected" discoveries and developments, both large and small. This also applies in a broader sense, for example, when we frequently hear the word "unexpected" applied to natural disasters. While it is true that humanity has acquired a great deal of knowledge, we should remain humble with regards to how little still we understand nature. That is not to say we should be disheartened. Indeed, it means we are faced with infinite possibilities. A vast untouched future lies in front of us, young people in particular. When we take the position "We don't know," we can recognize the value of various new attempts and ideas. For this reason, research based on the free ideas of individuals--that is, curiosity-driven research--is fundamentally important for our academic development, and ultimately for our social development. However, when I consider the current situation surrounding basic science in Japan, I cannot help but feel that the research environment supporting it is insufficient, or even deteriorating, in many ways. This situation has potential to disrupt the foundation for guaranteeing "academic freedom," so I believe we must keep an eye on future trends, particularly those related to astronomy.

Since early 2020, we have also seen various restrictions on academic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, we were forced to hold our annual meeting online so that our members could gather and discuss their research activities. This was our first time to hold a meeting in this way, but considering the circumstances, I think we did a wonderful job, thanks to the dedicated efforts of everyone involved. While it remains impossible to predict when the COVID-19 pandemic will subside, I will nonetheless do everything I can to maintain and improve the level of Society activities, in particular our support for the activities of students, graduate students, and young researchers. Meanwhile, our current situation has led us to discover new forms of activities that we can utilize in the future, with online conferences and seminars being one example. I believe it will be important to actively incorporate such ideas as a way to enhance Society activities. Astronomy has continued to develop internationally, despite the pandemic, and I hope to take a developmental approach to my work on Society activities so that Japan will not fall behind.

Satoshi Yamamoto(The University of Tokyo)

As a graduate student, I majored in physical chemistry, studying in the fields of molecular structure theory and molecular spectroscopy. Later, as an Assistant Professor at Nagoya University, the discovery of a new interstellar molecule attracted me to the field of astronomy. I am therefore deeply grateful to the Astronomical Society and its community for warmly welcoming newcomers like me. Astronomy is widely expanding today, and through this experience I hope to contribute to the further development of the Society. I look forward to serving as your president.