Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics|
Publications and Public Affairs
Three asteroids--International Astronomical Union (IAU) objects known previously only as "Numbers 7738, 8161, and 8357"--have been renamed "Heyman," "Newman," and "O'Connor" respectively, in honor of Secretary I . Michael Heyman, Undersecretary Constance B. Newman, and Provost J. Dennis O'Connor of the Smithsonian Institution. All three asteroids, or, more correctly, "minor planets," were discovered by SAO astronomers at the Smithsonian-operated Oak Ridge Observatory in Harvard, MA; and, as astronomical tradition dictates, discoverers have the prerogative to choose names for their discoveries. The new names were announced to the world scientific community in the August issue of the IAU's "Minor Planet Circular;" and, a special presentation, with citations noting the long support of astronomical research by all three officials and charts showing their places in the heavens, was made by SAO Director Irwin Shapiro November 3 in an informal ceremony at the Institution.
Starting January 1, Professor Bill Press will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Harvard for "national service." During that time, he'll be the Deputy Laboratory Director for Science, Technology, and Programs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Since this is the principal deputy position, he'll also serve as Acting Laboratory Director when the Laboratory Director (John Browne) is out of town--which is about 1/3 of the time. The rest of the time, he'll be responsible for managing LANL's technical and scientific programs, through the three Associate Laboratory Directors who report to him, and their approximately 35 Divisions and Programs.
LANL has a staff of about 8000 people, with an annual budget of about $1.2 billion. It occupies 43 square miles of land in northern New Mexico, about 25 miles NW of Santa Fe.
Approximately 100 participants from around the world attended the first VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) Scientific Workshop on the "TeV Astrophysics of Extragalactic Sources" held October 23-24 at the CfA. The meeting was sponsored by the VERITAS Collaboration, an international consortium of institutions, including SAO, which is dedicated to the construction of an array of eight atmospheric Cerenkov imaging telescopes at the Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona.
The workshop dealt with the scientific issues raised by the recent discoveries of TeV gamma-ray emission from Active Galactic Nuclei. Although the main emphasis was on emission from blazars, the workshop also covered emission from other extragalactic sources, absorption in the intergalactic medium, the current observational status of Very High Energy Gamma Ray Astronomy, and future plans for major new instruments in space and on the ground.
Amanda Preston has been appointed as Development Officer for SAO. In this new position, she will plan and implement a program to attract private gifts to SAO from individuals, foundations, and corporations. She will work closely with SAO researchers and scientists to develop the appropriate strategies for approaching selected private funders. Amanda brings 25+ years of experience in fundraising for educational, research, and arts organizations. She lives in Andover, MA.
Laura Conway, a member of SAO's Human Resources Department, was named its new director this summer, with responsibility for the development, organization, direction, and evaluation of a total program of human resource management. Prior to joining SAO, she was Director of Personnel at the Army Research Laboratory in Watertown, MA.
Antony Schinckel has been named Operations Manager for the SMA in Hawaii. A native of Australia, where he was educated and worked for several years as a researcher at major observatories, "Ant" Schinckel was most recently Technical Manager of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, also on Mauna Kea.
The CfA's Margaret Geller was one of several distinguished participants in an unusual public forum entitled "Children and Books at the Crossroads" held at Boston's John F. Kennedy Library October 9 under the sponsorship of the Teresa and John Heinz III Foundation. She was a member of a panel chaired by CBS News correspondent Charles Osgood. Other speakers included: poet Maya Angelou ("Absolutely inspiring," says Geller. "There wasn't a dry eye in the place!"), historian David McCullough, film producer Marian Rees, and Teresa Heinz, the wife of Sen. John Kerry and an activist for social issues, especially those concerning children. Geller's invitation to speak was partly a result of her essay in Science, one of several commissioned by the magazine to celebrate the AAAS' 150th anniversary. One of the few scientists to take part in the Kennedy Library forum, she spoke on the links between literacy and science.
On the evening of Tuesday, October 27, the SAO half of the CfA hosted a reception, tour, and dinner for nearly three score members of the Smithsonian National Board and other prominent citizens of the Northeast. The event was one of several regional "informational gatherings" organized by the National Board and the Smithsonian Institution's Development Office and intended to acquaint people with the diverse resources of the Institution, and particularly those off-the-Mall and in-your- neighborhood facilities near to their homes, businesses, and foundations. Attendees included Smithsonian Secretary Michael Heyman, Provost Dennis O'Connor, and Development Officer Bob Hanle; for most, this was their first visit to SAO. Obviously, the event also represented a unique opportunity to present SAO's projects, programs, and people to a group of potential supporters.
Judy Terry has been appointed joint Division Administrator for the Theoretical Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences Divisions. Actually, she is familiar to many CfA staff, since her previous position was in the HCO Administrative Office. Terry assumes the position previously held by Donna Thompson, who is now in the CfA Library.
The following scholars--with their degree-granting academic institutions, research projects, advisors, and term of appointment--have been chosen as CfA Postdoctoral Fellows in 1998:
Aaron Barth, University of California, Berkeley, "Measurement of Black Hole Masses in Low-Luminosity AGNs", with Robert Kirshner of the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division, October 1, 1998 to September 30, 2000.
Kevin Luhman, University of Arizona, "The Substellar Mass Function," Robert Kirshner of the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division, August 15, 1998 to August 14, 2000.
And, the following young researchers have been named SAO Predoctoral Fellows for the next academic year:
Maria Beltran, University of Barcelona, Department of Astronomy, "Sources Driving Molecular and HH Ouflows," with Paul Ho of the Radio and Geoastronomy Division, from October 1, 1998 to September 30, 1999.
Andrew Burdett, University of Leeds, Department of Physics and Astronomy, "A Search for Gamma-Ray Pulsars Below 250 GeV," with Trevor Weekes of the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division, October 1, 1998 to September 30, 1999.
Charles Coldwell, Harvard University, Physics Department, "Infrared Optical Telescope Array Project," with Costas Papaliolios of the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division, January 1 to December 31, 1999.
Adrian Ivan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Nuclear Engineering, "Development of Multilayer Optics for Hard-X-ray Astronomy," with Suzanne Romaine of the High Energy Astrophysics Division, September 1, 1998 to August 31, 1999.
Edisher Kaghashvili, Theoretical Astrophysics Department of Abastumani Astrophysical Observatory, "Dynamical and Compositional Properties of the Solar Wind," with Ruth Esser of the Solar and Stellar Physics Division, August 1, 1998 to July 31, 1999.
Rosalba Perna, Harvard University, Physics Department, "Searching for Gamma-Ray Burst Remnants," with Avi Loeb of the Theoretical Astrophysics Division and John Raymond of the Solar and Stellar Physics Division, August 1, 1998 to July 31, 1999.
Jorge Sanz, University of Madrid, Department of Astrophysics, "Multiwavelength Spectroscopy of Active Binaries," with Andrea Dupree of the Solar and Stellar Physics Division, September 1,1998 to August 31, 1999.
Frank Tesch, University of Hamburg, "Search for Large-scale Structures in the Spatial Distribution of X-ray Selected AGN," with Martin Elvis of the High Energy Astrophysics Division, October 1, 1998 to September 30, 1999.
CfA radio astronomers, working with a gaggle of collaborators from around the globe, have made a spate of new discoveries, thanks to the ultra-high-resolution technique known as "interferometry." By combining signals from many separate antennas, astronomers can, in essence, form one giant telescope that is hundreds (or even thousands!) of kilometers wide. Armed with this tool, the CfA researchers and their colleagues have been able to peer into the center of our Galaxy, provide evidence for planets forming around double stars, and probe a protoplanetary disk similar to the one that may have shaped our early Solar System.
At the Very Large Array (VLA), a facility of 27 radio telescopes operated by NRAO outside Socorro, New Mexico, the CfA's David Wilner and Paul Ho, along with colleagues from Mexico, Spain, and Great Britain, discovered a dusty disk orbiting a young star which, in turn, is in orbit around a stellar companion. (Other members of the research team included Luis Rodriguez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Jose Torrelles of the Astrophysical Institute of Andalucia, Spain, both of whom have spent considerable time at the CfA.) The results provide further evidence that planets can apparently form around double--or binary--stars, the type of stellar systems that predominate in our galaxy.
As part of a second international group using the VLA, Ho, Rodriquez, and Torrelles also were able to observe what may be the smallest protoplanetary disk ever seen rotating around a young star. If confirmed, this result could provide astronomers with an "ideal laboratory" for studying potential planet-forming disks of a size similar to the one that formed our Solar System.
In addition, Jun-Hui Zhao, Ho, and colleagues in Taiwan used the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a series of 10 individual telescopes located at sites across North America, to peer into the heart of the Milky Way. Since dust blocks the view to our Galaxy's center in visible light, very precise radio techniques are needed to determine the nature of the massive object lurking there that most astronomers believe is a black hole. The researchers now think the object must be at least 2.5 million times more massive than our Sun.