The Gaia DR2 workshop and Stars Group meeting were both very well attended! At the former, Price-Whelan (Princeton) showed us PyGaia, a tool from Anthony Brown's group in Leiden to simulate the measurement properties of the Gaia Mission. It is really a noise model. And incredibly useful, and easy to use.
In the Stars meeting, so many things! Andrew Mann (Columbia) spoke about the reality or controversies around Planet 9, which got us arguing also about claims of extra-solar asteroids. Kopytova (ASU) described her project to sensitively find chemical abundance anomalies among stars with companions, and asked the audience to help find ways that true effects could be scooped. Her method is very safe, so it takes a near-conspiracy, I think, but Brewer (Yale) disagreed. Veselin Kostov (Goddard) talked about searching for circumbinary planets. This is a good idea! He has found a few in Kepler but believes there are more hidden. It is interesting for TESS for a number of reasons, one of which is that you can sometimes infer the period of the exoplanet with only a short stretch of transit data (much shorter than the period), by capitalizing on a double-transit across the binary.
Didier Queloz (Cambridge) was in town for the day. Bedell (Flatiron) and I discussed with him next-generation projects for HARPS and new HARPS-like instruments. He is pushing for extended campaigns on limited sets of bright stars. I like this idea for its statistical and experimental-design simplicity! But (as he notes) it is hard to get the heterogeneous community behind such big projects. He has a project to pitch, however, if people are looking to buy in to new data sources. He, Bedell, and I discussed what we know about limits to precision in this kind of work. We aren't far apart, in that we all agree that HARPS (and its competitors) are extremely well calibrated machines, much better calibrated than the end-to-end precision obtained.