Highlights of CfA’s First Quarter Century of Research
 

1973 The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), a joint venture of the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), is founded; Dr. George B. Field of Berkeley is the first director. The "CfA Preprint Series" is established. "Coronal holes" on the Sun are discovered by CfA instrument aboard Skylab. A "black hole" candidate is identified in constellation Cygnus.

1974 SAO's "Standard Earth III" is published. The CfA's Women's Program is established. A second black hole candidate is seen in Circinus.

1975 Atmospheric ozone measurement program begins. The first "Space for Women" conference explores science careers for high-schoolers.

1976 Rocket experiment tests Einstein's gravitational redshift theory. The long-running CfA lectures on astronomy begin in Boston, Washington, and Arizona.

1977 The launch of Einstein Observatory, an orbiting x-ray telescope, ushers in new age of high-energy astrophysics.

1978 Minor Planet Center, the worldwide clearinghouse for asteroid discoveries, moves to Cambridge. First simultaneous optical and x-ray observations are made of a "cosmic burster."

1979 George Field is named chair of the Astronomical Survey Committee that will chart course of American astronomy in 1990s. Lightning bolts are seen on the night side of Jupiter. Meteorites are retrieved from the Antarctic iceshelf. The Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT), an innovative instrument that will revolutionize optical telescope design, is dedicated in Arizona. CfA's Steven Weinberg wins Nobel Prize for Physics.

1980 CfA hosts the first "Cool Stars, Stellar Systems, and the Sun" workshop. The age of the Universe gets adjusted downward. X rays from Jupiter are seen, as is a bright fireball in the Jovian atmosphere.

1981 The landmark CfA Red Shift Survey of galaxies in the northern hemisphere is completed. Radio tracking of water masers in Orion offers new cosmic distance measurement technique.

1982 "Astronomy for the 1980s," aka "The Field Report" is published. SAO's Arizona field site is renamed the "Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory." A rapidly rotating x-ray pulsar is found in a supernova remnant. Professor Irwin I. Shapiro of MIT is named new CfA director.

1985 The Infrared Telescope (IRT) flies aboard a Space Shuttle.

1986 CfA astronomers describe the large-scale structure of the cosmos as a "soap-bubble universe," in which galaxies are apparently distributed on the surfaces of thin sheets surrounding vast voids in space. Halley's Comet returns and space observations confirm Fred Whipple's "dirty snowball" concept of cometary structure.

1987 Supernova 1987A discovered--the brightest exploding star seen in more than 400 years and the first detected early enough to allow detailed studies with modern astronomical instruments, including a host of CfA experiments. Theory suggests the Moon was created in a collision between Earth and another body. Apollo 15 lunar samples reveal new rock varieties. Project STAR (Science Teaching through its Astronomical Roots) initiates a series of innovative CfA programs aimed at improving science education.

1988 Observations at CfA’s Oak Ridge Observatory in Harvard, Massachusetts, provide first convincing evidence for a planet orbiting a star other than our own.

1989 Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics (ITAMP) established in Cambridge. NASA selects CfA to build and operate the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS).

1990 The largest single coherent structure ever seen in nature—a "great wall" of galaxies stretching across the sky--is identified from CfA's three-dimensional map of the Universe. CfA serves as data center for the ROSAT x-ray satellite. CfA team at Whipple Observatory identifies the Crab Nebula as a source of gamma rays. Balloon-borne infrared spectrometer studies molecular constituents of Earth's upper atmosphere.

1991 NASA selects CfA to operate the international science center, which will receive, analyze, and store data from the Advanced X-ray Astrophysical Facility (AXAF) space observatory.

1992 A 6.5-meter-diameter glass blank intended to replace the six separate mirrors of the MMT was successfully cast. Ground-based detection of the most powerful gamma-ray object outside our galaxy is made at Whipple Observatory. Measurement of "starspots" provides first direct evidence for a magnetic cycle on a star other than the Sun.

1993 Two small, expendable, tethered-satellite systems conceived and designed by CfA scientists are flown successfully.

1994 The CfA Redshift Survey is extended to the Southern Hemisphere, bringing the total number of galaxies mapped to more the 14,000.

1995 CfA astronomers produce the best evidence to date for existence of super-massive black holes. Ground is broken for the Submillimeter Telescope Array near the summit of Mauna Kea, HI.

1996 A new class of active galaxies is discovered by gamma-ray astronomers at Whipple Observatory. A CfA-designed instrument aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite produces first images of Sun's extended atmosphere and detects both "fast" and "slow" solar winds. Unusual partnership between astrophysicists and medical specialists tests use of polarized xenon to improve MRI techniques. Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory provides unprecedented views of carbon atoms in our galaxy. CfA astronomer uses the Hubble Space Telescope to make the first direct image of the surface of a star other than the Sun’s. CfA is selected as Flight Operations Center for AXAF.

1997 An entirely new kind of object--an icy miniplanet—is found at the edge of the Solar System. And a giant, Jupiter-like planet is detected orbiting a star, bolstering the idea that such planets may be common. The "event horizon," a previously only theoretical region-of-no-return surrounding a black hole, is confirmed. The first individual ultraviolet images and spectra of the giant star Mira and its companion are obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope. Radio astronomers pinpoint the center of the Milky Way.

1998 The CfA celebrates 25 years of success with a ceremony honoring past and present directors and all the people who have been, and will continue to be, part of it.

 
 

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