I have found that “real astronomy” involves a lot of data processing. In addition, I have found that collaboration is a very important aspect of the process.
I can't wait to get started, and neither can my students!
To me what stood out [at my first AAS] was the wide variety of work – from characterization of the structure of the Milky Way (more of a challenge than I ever knew!) to the search for and characterization of exoplanets to the understanding of how quasar evolution relates to the origins of the Universe.