Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics|
Publications and Public Affairs
PUBLIC EVENTS, SPECIAL OCCASIONS
The 1998 Lowell Lectures on Astronomy cosponsored by the CfA and the Hayden Planetarium of the Boston Museum of Science was an unqualified success. Six exceptional lecturers--including John Wood, Shadia Habbal, and Jane Luu of the CfA--offered updates on our new and improved understanding of the Solar System after a decade of unusual exploration and discovery. (Habbal actually did double duty on the night of April 15, both speaking about her own solar research and serving as scientific spokesperson at the press preview of the new planetarium show, "The Life and Death of the Sun," that opened the following day.)
"Minds of Our Own," the PBS series produced at the CfA, was awarded aSilver Hugo award in the "Television Series Educational/Documentary" category at the 1997 Chicago International Television Competition. Subsequently, the series was honored at the 1998 National Educational Media Network Film and Video Festival with the award of "Gold Apples" for the individual programs Can We Believe Our Eyes? and Under Construction; and a "Silver Apple" for Lessons from Thin Air. The series focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of how children are taught science and how it relates to the world around them. CfA staff involved include: Nancy Finkelstein, Alex Griswold, Robb Moss, Philip Sadler, Ara Sahiner, Matthew Schneps, Irwin Shapiro, and Charles Whitney.
Patrick Slane of the High Energy Astrophysics Division will discuss "X-Ray Astronomy: Probing the Energetic Universe with AXAF" at the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in Albuquerque, NM, late in June.
About 80 gamma-ray astronomy experts from around the world are expected to attend the first VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) Scientific Workshop on "TeV Astrophysics of Extragalactic Sources" to be held October 23-24 in the CfA's Phillips Auditorium. The workshop will include discussion of recent discoveries of TeV gamma-ray emission from Active Galactic Nuclei, as well as plans for major new instruments in space and on the ground. Among the proposed new instruments is an array of eight 10-meter-diameter atmospheric Cherenkov imaging telescopes at the F.L. Whipple Observatory. (Public notice and request for comment on the FLWO's plan to build such a facility in the Montosa Canyon area at the base of Mt. Hopkins was distributed in southern Arizona in late April by the USDA/Forest Service, FLWO's "landlord.")
The summer schedule for the CfA's monthly "Observatory Nights for the Public" will feature special guest appearances by two of America's top writers on astronomy--Michael Lemonick of Time and Alan MacRobert of Sky and Telescope. The programs, always given on the third Thursday of every month beginning at 8 pm in the Phillips Auditorium, include telescopic observing, if skies are clear. The speakers and topics are: June 18, Lemonick, Time, "The Search for Life on Other Worlds;" July 16, MacRobert, Sky & Telescope, "Finding Your Way in the Sky; " August 20, Peter Garnavich, CfA, "Supernovae and the Fate of the Universe;" and, September 17, Jim Davis, CfA, "Taking Measure of Our Planet: GPS Surveys Earth."
The longest running study tour conducted by The Smithsonian Associates, "New Astronomies," celebrated its 15th year with a successful program in Tucson, May 18-23. The six-day astronomical briefing and observatory tour was led and organized by Dan Brocious, the public information officer at SAO's Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, and was open to Smithsonian Associates. Activities for this year's 35 participants included a tour of the University of Arizona's Mirror Lab (where the finishing touches on the MMT's 6.5-meter mirror are being done), the Kitt Peak National Observatory, and the Whipple Observatory. The participants also enjoyed a series of lectures on a wide range of topics in astronomy. Lecturers included Mike Cantanese, a postdoctoral fellow under Trevor Weekes working with the gamma-ray telescope at FLWO, and Craig Foltz, director of the Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory.
Again this summer, the Visitors Center of the Whipple Observatory will be open for business on Saturdays, beginning May 30 and continuing through August 15. Funded in part by the Smithsonian's Latino Outreach Initiative, the summer Saturdays will feature informal talks and demonstrations by FLWO staff and guests, usually revolving around a special theme each weekend. For example, June 6 will feature natural history ("Fur & Feathers"), June 20 will promote good outdoor lighting; and, July 4 will be devoted to Native American astronomy. On June 27, the afternoon programs will segue into the evening hours, when the Center holds a quarterly "Star Party," with telescopic observing provided by members of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. The husband-and-wife team of Maritza Marmolejo and Oscar Villasenor will be on hand every weekend to help Public Affairs Officer Dan Brocious with bilingual assistance for Spanish-speaking guests, as well as to provide activities for elementary school kids. Any CfA staff who plans to be at the FLWO this summer are encouraged--urged--to join in the programs. Call Jim Cornell (x5-7462) or Dan Brocious (520-670-5706), if you'd like more information.
SAO WINS THE SI SAFETY AWARD
FOR SECOND TIME
For the second time, SAO has been named Recipient of the Smithsonian Institution Secretary's award for excellence in safety (in the "large facility" category). The award was presented at ceremonies in Washington, February 18, and was accepted by Kathleen Entler, CfA safety coordinator, on behalf of Karen Lawley, safety officer, and Irwin Shapiro, director.
In his citation, SI's director of environmental safety and management William Billingsley noted that "The SAO injury/illness rate and lost-time rate decreased significantly for the second consecutive year. For the Smithsonian facility with the second largest staff population, SAO has achieved one of the institution's lowest injury rates ever.
"SAO maintains four safety committees, each in a different facility, and their committees remain among the institution's most proactive, with broad participation by all members.
"During FY 1997, the safety committees revamped the hazardous waste program, which included placing satellite collection areas in all labs and shops, disseminating information about the program, and ensuring all lab personnel attended hazardous waste training.
"SAO continued to have a very active safety training program and ten safety training classes were provided to 363 SAO staff during the FY 1997."
IN MEMORIAM: ALLAN COOK, RETIRED SAO PLANETARY SPECIALIST, DIES AT 76
Allan F. Cook II, a planetary scientist and long-time associate of both the Harvard and Smithsonian observatories, died suddenly May 26. He was 76.
Although a Princeton product through and through, having received his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. from that university, he spent almost his entire professional career in another Ivy League town, associated with both the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for more than four decades. In 1951, just three years after leaving Princeton, he joined HCO as a Research Associate and, thus, was on the staff when the headquarters of SAO moved to Cambridge in 1955. Cook's interest in meteors was, of course, shared by new SAO Director Fred Whipple, who was establishing an outstanding research group in this field. In 1961, Cook accepted a Federal position as an SAO "astrophysicist" and entered into collaborations with Gerry Hawkins, then head of the Radio Meteor Program, and Dick McCrosky, director of the Meteorite Recovery ("Prairie") Network.
Cook's parallel research in planetary atmospheres and rings, most often conducted with Fred Franklin, led to his selection by NASA as a member of the Voyager scientific team. That team included many of the major players in American planetary science, including Carl Sagan, Gene Shoemaker, and Brad Smith, and its two landmark Science papers in 1979 became classics of space science. Among the memorable results of his participation in the exploration of Jupiter was the detection of both lightning and fireballs in the Jovian atmosphere, studies of Jupiter's rings, and the analysis of volcanic activity on the Jovian satellite, Io.
Although Cook officially retired from SAO in 1978, he continued to collaborate with colleagues in the Planetary Sciences Division until 1995. He is survived by his wife, Joan, of Wellesley, three children and four grandchildren. Contributions in his memory (Class of 1947) may be made to the Princeton University Annual Fund, Princeton, NJ 08544.
Submillimeter Array project has reached major several milestones.
For example, the SMA Assembly Building is now complete on
Mauna Kea, Hawaii. (Above, the SMA facility is at the right, next
to the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.) At an altitude of
nearly 4300m, the cavernous building--big enough to accept the
6-meter-diameter radio dishes on their mounts--has been serving as
a breathtaking (literally) office for Hawaii-based staff. Construction
of the SMA Control Building,
immediately behind this
structure, is scheduled to begin
June 15. Meanwhile, in Westford,
MA, the second "prototype"
antenna has gone on line for
testing; and, by early summer,
will attempt interferometric
observations with the first
antenna. (The two antennas were
paired briefly in late May, when
the first, outside since December,
was returned to the hangar and the second was transported outside.) The first antenna originally
had its surface
set mechanically to an accuracy of 60 microns. Using electronic measurements, this has since
been reduced to 20
microns. And, when the goal of 12 microns is reached in the next few months, it will be the most
precisely set radio
telescope in its size class. (Photos: Alan Kusunoki, above; Jim Moran, below)