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Index of CfA Almanac stories.

The CfA Almanac

July 1997

SAO AWARDED $63 MILLION TO RUN AXAF FLIGHT OPERATIONS

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) has received a 5-year, $63-million addition to an existing contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to run the Flight Operations Control Center (OCC) for the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) satellite, now scheduled for launch in the fall of 1998.

The OCC addition, granted in late June, extends the previously awarded contract to operate the AXAF Science Center (ASC), including the small preliminary award that allowed build-out and initial occupation late last year of a 25,000 square-foot OCC facility in leased space at 1 Hampshire Street near Kendall Square.

When combined with operation of the ASC, it means that, immediately after the spacecraft's deployment from the Space Shuttle, SAO will be responsible for every aspect of the AXAF mission--from planning observations, to uplinking and executing spacecraft commands, to receiving data, to analyzing results, to archiving records for the international scientific community.

(Of course, SAO is also providing one of the major instruments aboard AXAF--the High Resolution Camera--and one staffer served as the Telescope Scientist. See related stories and pictures.)

By January 1998, some 50 people will be associated with the OCC--approximately 20 new SAO employees and 30 contractors supplied by TRW, the AXAF prime contractor. An additional 20 to 30 members of the ASC, especially those with frequent and essential interactions with the flight operations and mission planning groups, are already housed at Hampshire Street.

One of the more interesting aspects of the new facility will be the "viewing gallery," a glass- walled enclave where press, public, and visiting staff from other SAO locations in Cambridge can be invited to watch the AXAF mission specialists put the spacecraft through its paces.

AXAF MIRRORS EXCEED EXPECTATIONS

Performing far beyond expectations, AXAF's high-resolution mirrors successfully completed their initial testing at the Marshall Space Flight Center's X-ray Calibration Facility in Huntsville, AL, earlier this year.

"The first ground-test images ever generated by the telescope's mirror assembly are as good as--or better than--expected," said Dr. Martin Weisskopf, MSFC's chief scientist for AXAF.

The mirror assembly, four pairs of precisely shaped and aligned cylindrical mirrors, will form the heart of the space observatory. Rather than reflecting light directly as do conventional optical telescopes, AXAF's slightly bent, tube-like, nesting mirrors cause incoming x-rays to bounce off the inside of the mirror surfaces at slight, grazing angles to strike detectors at a focal point some 10 meters (30 feet) beyond the telescope's aperture. The greater the percentage of X rays brought to this focus, and the smaller the size of the focal spot, the sharper the image.

Tests show that, when in orbit, the AXAF mirror assembly will be able to focus approximately 70 percent of X rays from a source to a spot equivalent to one-half-arcsecond in radius. The telescope's resolution is equivalent to being able to read the text of a newspaper from half a kilometer away. Previous X-ray telescopes--Einstein and ROSAT--were only capable of focusing X rays to five arc seconds. In short, AXAF's resolving power is ten times greater.

"Images from the new telescope will allow us to make major advances toward understanding how exploding stars create and disperse many of the elements necessary for new solar systems and for life itself," says SAO's Harvey Tananbaum, director of the AXAF Science Center.

"We will observe X rays generated when stars are torn apart by the incredibly strong gravity around massive black holes in the centers of galaxies," added Tananbaum.

On a larger scale, the telescope will play a vital role in answering fundamental questions about the universe. "The superior quality of the mirrors will allow us to see and measure the details of hot gas clouds in clusters of galaxies, giving us a much better idea of the age and size of the universe," says SAO's Leon Van Speybroeck, Telescope Scientist.

"These same observations also will measure the amount of dark matter present, providing unique insight into one of nature's great puzzles," said Van Speybroeck.

The AXAF is, of course, NASA's next observatory-class astronomy satellite--the X-ray equivalent of the Hubble Space Telescope. Two cameras (ACIS, built by Penn State and MIT, contains ten X-ray CCD imagers based on ASCA/SIS technology; and, HRC, built by SAO, has four microchannel plate pairs similar to the ROSAT/HRI, but much bigger) will detect the X rays, and two gratings may be placed in the beam for high-resolution spectroscopy. These instruments will be used to make high spatial and spectral resolution observations of X-ray sources such as quasars, clusters of galaxies, supernova remnants, binary and active stars, and even comets.

NEW JUPITER-LIKE EXTRA-SOLAR PLANET DISCOVERED; CIRCULAR ORBIT SUGGESTS IT FORMED LIKE PLANETS IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

The notion that giant, Jupiter-like bodies may be a common occurrence around stars like the Sun has been bolstered by the discovery of such an object orbiting Rho Coronae Borealis, a star in the constellation Northern Crown. The newly discovered planet offers additional evidence for how such systems form, and supports the idea that other worlds like our own may be widespread throughout the galaxy.

The discovery was made by a team of scientists from three institutions--SAO, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO, and the Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA--based on observations made at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory.

The scientific team included Sylvain Korzennik, Martin Krockenberger, Peter Nisenson, and Robert Noyes of SAO; Harvard University graduate student Saurabh Jha; Timothy Brown and Edward Kennelly of NCAR; and Scott Horner of Penn State.

Using a special instrument known as the Advanced Fiber Optic Echelle (AFOE) spectrograph located at the 1.5-meter Tillinghast Reflector of the Whipple Observatory, the scientists detected extremely small variations in the recession velocity of Rho Coronae Borealis that are thought to be caused by the presence of an orbiting companion.

With the AFOE capable of measuring velocity variations smaller than 10 meters per second (about 22 miles per hour), the scientists found that the speed of Rho Coronae Borealis varied back and forth by about 67 meters per second, or 150 miles per hour, over a 40-day period. This led the team to conclude that the star has a companion in a 40-day orbit and, from the size of the velocity variation and the mass of the star (almost identical to the Sun), they calculated that the companion must be slightly more massive than the planet Jupiter.

The short orbital period means the planet must lie only about 1/4 of an Astronomical Unit from the star--closer than Mercury orbits the Sun. (An AU is the distance of the Earth from the Sun.) This also implies its temperature would be about 300C, or more than 500F--much too hot for liquid water to exist, and hence not a likely place for life to form.

According to the researchers, the circular nature of the orbit suggests that the planet was formed like the planets in our own solar system, that is, through the slow coalescence of dust and gas from the circularly rotating disk that is thought to surround all newborn stars. A more eccentric, or highly elliptical orbit, could imply that the companion object was a failed star, the unsuccessful second partner in a potential binary star system.

"This discovery helps show that giant planets like Jupiter may be reasonably common around ordinary stars," says SAO's Robert Noyes. "Moreover, they can be found at a variety of distances from their parent stars, ranging from very close in, like the companion to 51 Pegasi, to very far away, like Jupiter relative to the Sun. The planet around Rho Coronae Borealis, like several others, is in between.

"It is exciting to think that there may be many smaller planets much more like the Earth in orbit around these stars, as in our own Solar System," says Noyes.

VIOLENCE IN THE GAMMA RAY UNIVERSE

An excess of TeV-energy gamma rays seen pouring from galaxy Markarian 421 may oblige astronomers to revise their models of active galactic nuclei (AGN). Many suspect that AGNs, quasars, and, indeed, all the most violent celestial objects in the universe share a common energy-production architecture--a black hole, supplied by a surrounding accretion disk, broadcasting powerful jets of matter in two polar directions. Mrk 421 (400 million light years away) is the closest such object whose jet axis is aimed directly at us. Last year Mrk 421 rewarded patient observers with the most explosive gamma display ever, with a flux ten times higher than that of the much closer Crab Nebula, the strongest known steady gamma-ray source in the sky.

At a meeting of the American Physical Society in Washington, DC, this spring, Trevor Weekes of the Whipple Observatory presented a detailed spectrum for Mrk 421. The flux of gamma rays falls off at the highest energies (up past 6 TeV), but not nearly as fast as one would have expected. Weekes suggested that the anticipated effect of two sources of attenuation, dust near the AGN and the amorphous population of infrared photons in intergalactic space, may have been overestimated.

* * *

Obviously, the sky seen by very-high-energy gamma-ray astronomers turns out to be a far different place than seen by astronomers at other wavelengths. In this universe, extremely distant, normally faint, but extraordinarily violent galaxies are the brightest objects rather than the Sun, planets, or stars. Although detectable in the other more familiar wavebands of astronomy (radio, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-ray), these galaxies emit the bulk of their energy in the gamma-ray bands. Not surprisingly, such violent emission is unsteady, with the observed gamma-ray signals varying on time-scales of months, days, and even hours.

While the orbiting Compton Gamma Ray Observatory has been remarkably successful in sensing the universe at wavelengths beyond x-rays, even the powerful instruments on board this mission cannot detect the highest gamma-ray photon energies. Only ground-based gamma-ray telescopes can measure these very-high-energy gamma rays, which reveal a population of distant galaxies displaying unprecedented violence.

In February, an international collaboration of astronomers working at the SAO's Whipple Observatory, saw the gamma-ray signal from one such galaxy, Markarian 501, increase by a factor of ten. European gamma-ray astronomers working in the French Pyrenees and on the Spanish island of La Palma quickly confirmed the high flux level. Although the flux varied greatly, the average level continued to be high. Thus, for two months this spring, the previously unremarkable object, Markarian 501, became the brightest object in the high-energy gamma-ray sky. It dwarfed the emission from nearby supernova remnants such as the Crab Nebula in our own galaxy.

Markarian 501 is a giant elliptical galaxy some 400 million light-years from the Earth. It belongs to a sub-class of galaxies that have an active core (generally assumed to be a rotating super- massive black hole) with jets of high-speed particles apparently emanating from their poles. Like Markarian 421, the first such object detected by the Whipple group as a very-high-energy gamma-ray source, Markarian 501 is unusual in that the axis of the jet happens to be pointing in our direction.

Because of the shielding effect of the Earth's atmosphere, gamma rays must generally be detected by Earth-orbiting gamma-ray telescopes such as Compton. However, if the energy is sufficiently great they can be seen indirectly with sensitive telescopes on mountain tops. Gamma rays are photons with very high energy; the photons seen in these observations have energies that are more than a million million times that of a photon of visible light.

The gamma rays are detected as distinct events as they strike the Earth's upper atmosphere. Their collision with an air molecule generates a cascade of light-emitting particles which can be detected by large optical detectors such as the Whipple's 10-meter optical reflector.

The Whipple Observatory Gamma-Ray Collaboration, which involves scientists from SAO, Iowa State University, and Purdue University, as well as University College, Dublin, in Ireland and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, pioneered the technique which identifies these gamma rays from various background radiation.

NEW SOLAR SYSTEM OBJECT -- AN ICY MINIPLANET IS FOUND

Jane Luu and Brian Marsden of the CfA, together with colleagues at the University of Hawaii, University of Arizona, and a private observatory in New Mexico, have announced the discovery of a new class of objects roaming the outer solar system. One of these objects, unromantically dubbed 1996 TL 66, can be described as a Texas-sized, icy miniplanet. This miniplanet is orbiting between the Kuiper Belt, a broad band of icy planetesimals beyond Pluto, and the Oort Cloud, a spherical halo around our solar system thought to contain trillions of comets. Astronomers previously thought this area of space was empty. While this is the first such object to be found in this "no man's land," Luu estimates as many as 6,000 other objects like 1996 TL 66 may exist.

RESEARCH BRIEFS

William Nielsen Brandt and Smita Mathur of the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) and their colleagues elsewhere, in a presentation at the AAS in June, reported seeing amazing X-ray variability from some galaxies. In particular, they saw persistent, giant-amplitude (over a factor of 30) variability events from galaxy IRAS 13224-3809 recorded by ASCA and ROSAT satellites. "The variability appears to be highly nonlinear and may be due to unusually strong relativistic effects," they noted.

* * *

A patent application for an unusual technique of xenon polarization that was "allowed" last August by the US Patent Office to Ron Walsworth and colleagues, has been "granted," i.e., given a number (5,617,860) and published to the world as a US Patent.

* * *

Wally Tucker of HEAD reports discovery of what may be the "hottest known cluster of galaxies." In a paper presented at the June meeting of the AAS, Tucker noted that "X-ray data obtained with the ROSAT and ASCA [satellites] suggest that 1E 0657-56 is a highly luminous cluster in which the merger of subclusters is occurring."

CfA PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, ON THE MOVE

Craig Foltz, who has been Acting Director of the Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory since Fred Chaffee left to head up the Keck Observatories in Hawaii, has agreed to accept the position of MMTO Director.

* * *

Martha Hazen, HCO astronomer and curator of the HCO Photographic Collections, has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an honor unintentionally missed by the last issue of The CfA Almanac. The editor offers an apology and belated congratulations.

On April 14, in Italy, Owen Gingerich presented the keynote address at a conference sponsored by the American Academy of Rome celebrating the moment in 1611 when Galileo Galilei presented his "telescope" to the intelligentsia of the Eternal City, having used it first to observe the heavens less than a year earlier. Gingerich's talk was given in the very room--recently refurbished by the Academy--where Galileo himself spoke on that historic occasion. Earlier, the Academy asked CfA director Irwin Shapiro and computer guru Doug Mink to produce a map of the stars as they appeared over Rome on that night 386 years ago.

* * *

Citing her dedication to "helping the rest of us acquire the sense of awe, excitement, and joy that comes from uncovering...the origins, structure, and future of [the] universe," the President of Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota conferred upon the CfA's Margaret Geller the honorary degree of Doctor of Science following her commencement address to the college's Class of 1997 this spring.

* * *

Richard Eldred, an engineer whose career spanned the Space Age, from providing support of early satellite tracking cameras to work on sophisticated x-ray detectors for a space observatory to operate in the next millennium, retired after some 34 years with SAO. His party on April 9 at The Crest in Waltham, included a special guest appearance by former SAOer Pres Clark (see Obituary).

* * *

Suzanne Romaine of the High Energy Astrophysics Division and the CfA's resident expert on coatings for telescope mirrors was one of 40 outstanding women scholars appointed as 1997-98 Fellows of Radcliffe College's Bunting Institute. Romaine's project will be the "development of a graded d-spacing multilayer telescope for high-energy x-ray astronomy."

* * *

Ursula Marvin, SAO geologist, explorer, and tireless advocate for women in science, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) this spring. (See profile that follows.)

* * *

Long-time Harvard professor, author, musician, and tennis devotee, David Layzer, has retired from teaching and research duties to become the Donald H. Menzel Professor of Astrophysics Emeritus.

* * *

Wesley Traub has been appointed Project Scientist for the Infrared Optical Telescope Array (IOTA). Wes succeeds Nat Carleton, who has retired after many productive years at CfA, including a decade as IOTA project scientist and, earlier, involvement in the successful design and construction of the Multiple Mirror Telescope. Carleton will continue to work on IOTA as his time allows.

* * *

Marion Aymie resigned as Manager of Human Resources for SAO to accept an executive position with TAD Resources International, a global temporary employment service. She went out in a style as robust and as flamboyant as her tenure, with a CfA-wide party in Phillips Auditorium featuring a special memorial presentation from each CfA division and the naming of an asteroid in her honor.

* * *

Travel specialist Carmen Dunlap was given a surprise wedding shower by her CfA friends and colleagues in the Conference Room at Porter Exchange on June 4.

* * *

Dr. Paul Gorenstein has succeeded Prof. Owen Gingerich as Chairperson of the Hayden Planetarium Advisory Committee at the Boston Museum of Science.

* * *

Fred Whipple received The UCLA Medal at the commencement ceremony for the Division of Physical Sciences in UCLA's College of Letters and Science, Sunday, June 15, in the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the UCLA campus. Although Whipple has visited UCLA many times since his graduation from the institution in 1927, his return to campus on June 15 marked a special recognition for one of the century's best known scientists. "The UCLA Medal," the university's highest honor, was given in recognition of his "technological forethought and bold insight that have profoundly enhanced the science of astronomy."

* * *

Kate Kirby, Associate Director for Atomic and Molecular Physics, joined Harvey Tananbaum as a CfA Ombudsperson, starting May 1, 1997.

* * *

A.G.W. (Al) Cameron was honored by the American Astronomical Society with award of the Russell Prize for 1997, given in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in science. In keeping with AAS tradition, Cameron presented the Russell Prize Lecture at the June meeting in Winston- Salem, NC. In his talk, he discussed how "star formation [may be] triggered by shocks, probably from supernova explosions a few parsecs away" and gave evidence of how "such shocks dominate the total star formation process." Following the lecture, he received the Russell citation and diploma from CfA colleague and out-going AAS President Andrea Dupree.

* * *

Jim Buckley of the Whipple Observatory Gamma Ray Collaborative is the recipient of the 1997 Shakti P. Duggal Award. Given every two years by the international cosmic-ray community to recognize the outstanding work of a young (under 36) scientist, the award includes a $1200 stipend and an invited lecture at the Bartol Institute. The award was announced and presented at the International Cosmic Ray Conference in Durban, South Africa, in July. In August, Buckley takes up a tenure-track position at the Washington University.

* * *

Giovanni Fazio has been awarded the Tsiolkovsky Medal by Russia's State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics for his contributions to space education, especially for his role in the formation and development of the International Space University (ISU). (The medal's namesake, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky [1857-1935], was a high school teacher and rocket theorist, whose visions of spaceflight inspired a generation of Russian and American rocket scientists.)

* * *

On June 20, approximately 100 colleagues, collaborators, and former students of CfA's Pat Thaddeus gathered in Harvard's Fairchild Lecture Hall for the special "Molecules in Space and in the Lab Conference." Held in honor of Thaddeus 65th birthday, the conference celebrated his contributions to the study of interstellar molecules. After welcoming remarks from Harvard Dean Paul Martin and the CfA Director Irwin Shapiro, moderator Tom Dame opened the conference by showing a 1960's NASA black-and-white documentary film, "Universe on a Scratchpad," featuring a young theorist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

* * *

In the last, and perhaps most memorable, Observatory Night given in the old, pre-renovation, Phillips Auditorium, Barbara Welther orchestrated (literally) a multi-media presentation on May 15 celebrating "Astronomy in the Time of Leonardo DaVinci." Obviously linked to the giant Leonardo show at the Boston Museum of Science (where she presented a version of this program), Welther's night included slides and text describing the art, science, and technology of Leonardo's time, providing a cultural and historical context for his extraordinary achievements. This was accompanied by musical interludes by Sheila Bosworth's eight-member early-music ensemble installed in the Phillips balcony. However, the evening's real show-stopper was an appearance by Leonardo himself, reading from his works and demonstrating his inventions.

CfA PRE-DOCS AND POST-DOCS SELECTED FOR 1997

The following CfA postdoctoral and SAO Predoctoral fellows have been selected for 1997:

CfA Postdoctoral Fellows

Wesley N. Colley will begin his postdoctoral fellowship on September 15, with the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division. He comes from Princeton University, and the title of his thesis was "Physical Cosmology from Various Datasets."

Vassiliki Kalogera received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, and will begin her postdoctoral fellowship appointment on September 1, with the Theoretical Astrophysics Division. The title of her thesis was "The Origin and Properties of Low-Mass X-Ray Binaries (LMXBs)."

Dimitrios Psaltis, a graduate of the University of Illinois, will also begin his postdoctoral fellowship with the Theoretical Astrophysics Division on September 1. The title of his thesis was "X-Ray Spectra of Weakly Magnetic Accreting Neutron Stars."

SAO Predoctoral Fellows

Hagai El-Ad of the Racah Institute of Physics, Israel, will begin his predoctoral fellowship on September 1, with the Theoretical Astrophysics Division. His SAO advisor will be Myron Lecar.

Martin Gotz is a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University. He will begin his predoctoral fellowship on September 1, with the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division. His SAO advisor will be John Huchra.

Rolf Jansen of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute of Groningen University, the Netherlands, will come to SAO on January 1, 1998, to begin his predoctoral fellowship with the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division. Daniel Fabricant will be his SAO advisor.

Massimo Marengo of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA/ISAS), Trieste, Italy, will arrive on September 1, to begin his predoctoral fellowship with the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division. His SAO advisor will be Giovanni Fazio.

August Muench, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida, is expected to begin his predoctoral fellowship with the Radio and Geoastronomy Division on August 1. His SAO advisor will be Charles Lada.

James Muzerolle is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Massachusetts and will begin his predoctoral fellowship with the Radio and Geoastronomy Division on September 1. His SAO advisor will be Lee Hartmann.

Jukka Nevalainen of the University of Helsinki, Finland, will arrive on September 1, to begin his predoctoral fellowship with the High Energy Astrophysics Division. William Forman will act as his SAO advisor.

Alberto Vasquez is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He will join the Solar and Stellar Physics Division this fall as a predoctoral fellow, and John Raymond will be his SAO advisor.

THREE TOP-RANKED JUNIOR SCIENTISTS JOIN CfA

Each of the three top-ranked national candidates for "junior" scientific staff positions, selected by the Federal Scientist Appointments Committee, has accepted offers of appointment at the CfA.

Michael McCarthy, the Yoram Avni Fellow, joined the Atomic and Molecular Physics Division on July 1. McCarthy is a laboratory spectroscopist who developed new instrumentation to measure the structure and rotation frequencies of many new carbon-chain molecules of astrophysical interest. He has been a CfA postdoc, working in Pat Thaddeus' group.

Matt Holman, presently at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, will join the Planetary Sciences Division in mid- to late-September. Matt is a theoretical dynamicist who developed, with Jack Wisdom of MIT, a clever method of integrating orbits far faster than previously possible. He also has made other major contributions to the dynamics of solar-system bodies.

Brian McLeod will begin his appointment in the Optical and Infrared Astronomy (OIR) Division at the end of September. Brian is an innovative designer and builder of instruments for optical telescopes, including MEGACAM, the large-format CCD camera being built for the converted MMT. He has been a CfA postdoc in the OIR Division.

DUPREE JOINS WARNING ON SCIENCE INVESTMENT DECLINE

The presidents of scientific organizations representing more than one million engineers, mathematicians, and scientists, issued a joint statement in early March warning of the decline of U.S. investment in science and calling on the federal government to reverse the trend.

Because the Clinton Administration's proposed 1998 budget could result in the fifth consecutive year of constant-dollar decline in the nation's federal investment in research, the nation's scientific leadership called for "a renewal of the nation's historic commitment to scientific research and education." This commitment was "vital to our nation's goals of economic competitiveness, health, security and quality of life," according to their statement.

Speaking on behalf of the more than fifteen organizations joining in the statement were: Paul Anderson, President, American Chemical Society; D. Allan Bromley, President, The American Physical Society; Arthur Jaffe, President, American Mathematical Society; and, Andrea Dupree of CfA, then President of the American Astronomical Society;

[While Clinton may not have changed his mind, Congress seems inclined to give science and technology a boost. In July, the House subcommittee for NASA, NSF, and EPA approved spending levels significantly above the President's request.]

SAO BALLOON-BORNE EXPERIMENT FLIES HIGH OVER ALASKA

On April 30, the SAO's Far Infrared Spectrometer 2 (FIRS-2) balloon-borne measurement system was flown successfully into the Earth's stratosphere above the Arctic. This was the tenth flight of the FIRS-2, but the first with recently enhanced short wavelength capability which allowed it to measure additional gases important to understanding atmospheric photochemistry and transport.

FIRS-2 was launched from Ft. Wainwright, Alaska (near Fairbanks), at 7:15 AM, on a gondola supplied by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Also on board were the JPL Submillimeter Limb Sounder, a JPL in situ ultraviolet ozone sensor, and an in situ particle (aerosol) instrument supplied by Nagoya University, Japan.

The instrument package reached a float altitude of 120,000 feet at about 10 AM and remained at that height for five hours, successfully making spectroscopic observations of the Earth's stratosphere down to the tropopause. The flight was terminated near the edge of the Brooks Mountain Range. The gondola landed safely by parachute on an ice floe, near the bank of a small river. FIRS-2 sustained no damage.

This balloon flight was a part of the international validation campaign for the Japanese Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS), developed by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), and launched August 17, 1996, to study greenhouse gases, ozone layer, and ocean temperatures. SAO's experiment was supported by NASDA for participation in this international collaborative effort, in addition to its normal NASA Upper Atmosphere Research program funding. [Unfortunately, less than two months after this flight, contact was lost with the $1.2-billion ADEOS spacecraft, apparently due to a failure of the solar power system. The loss was a serious blow to Japan's environmental remote-sensing program.]

FIRS-2 experiments were intended to validate several instruments aboard the ADEOS, including the Improved Limb Atmospheric Spectrometer (ILAS), the Interferometric Monitor for Greenhouse Gases (IMG), as well as NASA's Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS). The FIRS-2 objectives also included stratospheric HOx chemistry, ozone depletion studies, heterogeneous processing of atmospheric species on sulfate aerosols, and trends in CFCs and HCFCs. The FIRS project team includes Kelly Chance, David Johnson, Ken Jucks, and Wes Traub.

PLAYING THE "SMITHSONIAN NUMBER"

In observatories around the world, scores of astronomical timekeepers still rely on an obscure standard, a relic of the early Space Age, called the "Smithsonian Number." Before his untimely death last spring, Jack Slowey, a veteran of SAO's former satellite tracking program, recounted the following history:

When the satellite-tracking program started at SAO in the 1960s, staff scientists needed some convenient way to measure elapsed time. The Julian Date had been established long before to measure time "from the beginning of recorded history," but, by then, it had run up to a figure exceeding 2,400,000 days.

Because the trackers didn't want to deal with such a big number, they simply subtracted out the first 2,400,000 days--which brought them to November 17, 1958. They also wanted to start time from noon (so they wouldn't have to change "days" in the middle of the night), so they took out another half-day.

The result was something called the "Modified Julian Date (MJD)" and, the November 17, 1958 start date came to be known as the "Smithsonian Date," with any specific day/time/date thereafter designated as the "Smithsonian Number." SAO scientists never really meant for their "number" to persist in astronomical timekeeping, but it has.

HIGH SCHOOL PHYSICS PAIN PRODUCES LITTLE GAIN IN COLLEGE

High school physics, generally a prerequisite for college courses in the subject, does not provide much of a payoff once students encounter the realities of higher education. That's the conclusion of researchers who studied the effects of high school physics preparation on college physics performance. The study is the first to control for differences in socio-economic background, along with other variables. The study, which contradicts the conclusions of other, more limited examinations of the topic, was published in the May 1997 The Physics Teacher. It was co-authored by Philip M. Sadler, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and director of the CfA's Science Education Department, and Robert H. Tai, a doctoral candidate at HGSE.

"Our results challenge the wisdom of making high school physics a prerequisite for college physics," says Sadler. "That policy shuts kids out of future careers in medicine, engineering, or the sciences; yet, it rests on some very shaky ground. Students with strong academic performance in high school, or with a previous calculus course, perform equally well in college physics without having taken the subject in high school."

Nationally, almost 700,000 students take physics in high school each year, about 25% of all students. About 360,000 students take introductory physics in college, often as a requirement for engineering, science, or pre-med majors. Most high school teachers believe their physics courses are preparing students for college physics, perhaps, as Sadler discovered, because all previous studies showed that college students who studied physics in high school outperformed their classmates who did not. However, according to Sadler, these studies failed to control for demographic variables and all were undertaken at a single college or university.

In their study, Sadler and Tai included students from a wide variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds at 19 colleges and universities, including public and private institutions, and one national military academy. They surveyed the students about their preparation with a questionnaire administered during class time and student grades were later reported by the professor. Student success, measured by their college grades, was then used to measure the relationship between background and performance. Because professors graded their students using a variety of schemes, Sadler and Tai translated all grades to a comparable 100-point scale. When the researchers controlled for demographic variables (for example, wealthy suburbs offer more physics courses) and others, including overall academic achievement, high school physics contributed little more than one point. Other studies, using a similar measure but without controlling for variables, had found a six-point difference, or about half a letter grade.

The two researchers found that a student's high school grades in other courses and the level of mathematics taken in high school are much better predictors of college physics success. The problem for many students, they say, is a jam-packed high school curriculum.

"The strategy of a quick tour in high school through all the major areas covered by college physics courses bears little relation to future success," Sadler noted. "Our analysis of the teaching methods and curriculum suggests that a reduction in the number of topics covered and a corresponding increase in the depth of study of a few concepts leads to much higher grades in college physics courses."

HOW MANY COLLEGE GRADUATES DOES IT TAKE TO LIGHT A LIGHTBULB?

A new PBS series, developed at the CfA, looks at why children with A's and B's can't apply what they know to real problems and tracks those teachers who are trying alternative approaches to science education. Learning won't take root, even in the most committed students, the series shows, unless students can replace erroneous long-held beliefs with new concepts.

"Minds of Our Own," a new series for parents and teachers airing on PBS stations in late summer, demonstrates how fragile learning can be and why traditional teaching strategies can fail even talented and conscientious students. With surprising elementary and secondary school examples, "Minds of Our Own" demonstrates how new approaches to learning and teaching can help students master and use the concepts they are taught. The series was produced for the Annenberg/CPB Math and Science Project by the Science Media Group of the CfA's Science Education Department.

"Many of the things we assume about how children learn are simply not true," says Matthew Schneps, project director, "And, because our schools operate largely on these myths, they cannot achieve what we expect of them." Based on new research, as well as the pioneering work of Piaget and other development theorists, "Minds of Our Own" follows real teachers and students to prove Schneps' point.

The first program in the "Minds of Our Own" series, for example, challenges several university baccalaureate students on their graduation day. Handed a battery, a lightbulb, and a wire, a succession of new grads are asked if they can light the bulb. Despite intellectual confidence and fine schooling, the fruit of America's education system can't demonstrate how to complete a simple circuit. With similar real-life examples, "Minds of Our Own" shows parents and teachers that learning is more than accumulated information and that effective teaching takes more than commitment and skilled presentation.

  • "Can We Believe Our Eyes," Program One in the series, uncovers many of the assumptions that we hold about learning by following an experienced teacher and his eager students. Through their interactions, the program takes a hard look at the myths about learning and why they can cause even the best of today's teachers to miss their goal .

  • "Lessons From Thin Air," Program Two, explores why something taught in school can go unlearned. In this show, Harvard grads miss the underlying principle of photosynthesis.

  • "Under Construction," Program Three and the forward-looking conclusion of the series, shows how four teachers from across the country try to revamp their teaching and their schools, struggling against a variety of obstacles.

    Hundreds of teachers from around the country collaborated with series producers to make "Minds of Our Own" very different from other documentaries. In nine interactive teleconferences, teachers evaluated video footage and educational ideas and contributed feedback to help shape the final programs.

    The Annenberg/CPB Math and Science Project, funder of "Minds Of Our Own, is a project of The Annenberg Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Project funds media and communications to improve K-12 math and science education. As part of the grant, hundreds of free copies of the tapes have been distributed to schools across the United States identified as "needy."

    The programs have also already received critical acclaim, winning "gold" and "silver" awards for "television documentary production" at the Worldfest Houston 1997 International Film and Video Festival in April.

    "Minds of Our Own" will air at various times on PBS stations beginning late August and September. Parents and other interested viewers should call their local PBS stations for airdates and times.

    IN MEMORIAM

    Noel Lanham, 67, Electronics Engineer

    Noel Lanham, a member of SAO's Central Engineering Department, died unexpectedly of heart failure May 22 while on a trip to his native England. He was 67.

    An electronics specialist who spent his entire career in aerospace research, Lanham had been associated with the Smithsonian for nearly a quarter century, first joining SAO in 1973, where, as a senior electronics engineer, he was responsible for design improvements to SAO's laser satellite-tracking system. He also supervised upgrades of electronic equipment at SAO's domestic and overseas tracking stations. After the termination of the satellite-tracking program, he designed electronic systems supporting of SAO's Gravitational Redshift Experiment.

    He was the recipient of several Smithsonian performance awards, as well as NASA Group Achievement Awards for his contributions to the Apollo and Skylab programs.

    Lanham left the Smithsonian in 1983 to work for several Boston-area technical firms, either as a staff engineer or consultant. He returned to SAO in the fall of 1994 to work on the design of electrical systems for one of the major instruments aboard the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF).

    Although diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease and ailing for several months, he had traveled to England for the funeral of his sister, but planned to return to SAO in early June. He is survived by his wife, Lis, a son, two daughters, and two grandchildren.

    Bessie Zaban Jones, 98, author of SAO History

    Bessie Zaban Jones, a former editor in the SAO Publications Department and the author of a history of the observatory, died in April at age 98.

    Jones worked at SAO intermittently from 1961 to 1965, with much of her time spent researching and writing the classic "Lighthouse of the Skies," a detailed examination of the politics and pressures that shaped both the early Institution and its first true "science bureau." While a scholarly and thoughtful chronology of the observatory's fortunes from its conception by Samuel Pierpont Langley in 1890 through its glory days of solar observing at exotic overseas sites to its near death in the post-WW II era, the book, published by Smithsonian Institution Press in 1965, was also a delightful and fascinating read.

    Jones was also remarkably prescient. While her formal history ended in 1955, with the transfer of the observatory to Cambridge, Massachusetts, under the direction of Fred Whipple, she could confidently predict that a great and most promising era of "Harvard-Smithsonian collaboration" lay ahead.

    Jones was the author or editor of several other books, including the "The Harvard College Observatory: The First Four Directorships, 1839-1919" (with Lyle Boyd) and "The Golden Age of Science: Thirty Portraits of the Giants of Nineteenth Century Science," which also drew heavily on Smithsonian sources.

    Preston Clark, 80, Former Logistics Officer for SAO Tracking Program

    Preston (Pres) Clark, the man who made sure that Smithsonian's far-flung satellite tracking stations were supplied with everything from reels of film to rolls of toilet paper, died unexpectedly and peacefully in his sleep July 7. He was 80 years old.

    Clark joined the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in 1960, three years after the launch of Sputnik 1 and at a time that SAO was attempting to bring some administrative and operational order to its world-wide (and often wild and wooly!) tracking network. Originally designated as "Station Coordinator," Clark subsequently became, in his twenty-year career with SAO's tracking program, "Administrative Officer," "Manager of Administrative Support," and, finally, at the time of his retirement in 1980, "Project Logistics Officer." No matter what the title, Pres served the same role for two decades: a rock-solid headquarters connection who guaranteed that camera and laser operators and technicians received the support (both material and moral!) to do their jobs effectively and efficiently in remote outposts stretching from Arizona to Australia.

    While the hectic days of the early Space Age had called for a field staff demonstrating creativity, independence, ingenuity, and an ability to skirt both domestic and foreign bureaucracies, the next, more mature, phase of the Smithsonian's space program demanded professional managers with experience and expertise in long-term, fine-tuned, technical operations. To achieve its new objectives, the observatory tapped an unusual pool of specialists--retired military officers and administrators. Like several of his SAO contemporaries hired at this time, Pres Clark was a former Navy man--a Commander, actually, and a decorated WWII hero--whose ram-rod posture was matched by a no-nonsense, straight-talking approach to network management.

    In retirement, Clark maintained close contact with many of his old SAO friends, returning for the going-away parties (and, sadly, funerals) of younger former colleagues, and even continuing as member of the SAO bowling league. His first wife, Phyllis, died shortly before his retirement; he later remarried an old friend from his youth, Lela Moore, and continued his active social life, that included, not surprisingly for an Old Salt, boating as well as bowling.

    In addition to his wife, Lela, of Wenham, MA, he is survived by a son, Preston R. (Rick) Jr. of Scituate, MA; and a daughter, Judith, of Swansea, MA. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Navy Mutual Aid Association, Henderson Hall, 29 Carpenter Road, Arlington, VA 22212.

    SOLAR AND STELLAR EXPERTS GATHER IN CAMBRIDGE FOR WORKSHOP ON COOL STARS AND THE SUN

    Over 300 scientists attended the 10th Cambridge Workshop on Cool Stars, Stellar Systems, and the Sun, July 15-19, at the Marriott Hotel, Kendall Square.

    The long-running, biennial conference, which this year returned to its origins along the Charles, brought together solar and stellar astronomers from around the world to discuss the latest findings from a host of new ground and space instruments.

    With data pouring in from the Solar and Heliosphere Observatory (SOHO), the Hipparcos satellite, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and other instruments in space, the conference was a forum for exciting results about stars throughout the galaxy as well as about our very own, very "cool," star--the Sun.

    Highlights of the four-day meeting included a review of the recent discoveries of extrasolar planets, stunning examples of high-resolution solar (and stellar!) imaging, and announcements of the detection of the first "free-floating" brown dwarfs.

    Hosted by SAO, with support from NASA and NSF, the meeting concluded on Saturday, July 19, with a public lecture at the Boston Museum of Science by Geoffrey Marcy of San Francisco State, who described "The Search for Planets Orbiting Other Stars."

    OVER 10,000 ASTRONOMERS USE ON-LINE ABSTRACTS SERVICE

    Only four years after its inception, the Abstract Service of the Astrophysics Data System (ADS) is being used on a daily basis by the majority of professional astronomers worldwide, creating a vast, virtual library of astronomical and astrophysical literature available, literally, at their fingertips.

    Based at SAO, and supported by funding from NASA, the ADS provides artificial-intelligence- search capability for the world's astronomical literature with access to all but the most recent articles. It also includes links to on-line data services, such as the electronic Astrophysical Journal at the American Astronomical Society and the database of astronomical objects at the Strasbourg (France) Data Center.

    The ADS Abstract Service contains almost 1 million references from astronomy and related disciplines, as well as the text of some 50,000 articles, drawn from major astronomical journals published in the past 20 years. The historical literature is now being scanned and will add another 50 to 100 years of journal coverage. In addition, full journal articles can be read on-line using the ADS, thanks to the generous contribution of permissions, back issues, and expertise from the majority of the publishers and copyright holders of the astronomical literature.

    In a typical month, more than 10,000 different people use the ADS and retrieve more than 4 million references, as well as 25,000 articles--a usage greater than that reported by any conventional astronomical library anywhere in the world.

    "Our statistics show that about half of all research astronomers worldwide use the ADS system every day," says Michael J. Kurtz, SAO astronomer and one of the ADS project principals.

    "I expect the usage of the ADS to increase significantly over the next year because of the rapid completion of the journal articles database, our collaboration with the Science Citation Index, and the duplication of our database in France and Japan to provide faster access to our European and Asian users," says Gunther Eichhorn, project scientist of the ADS and principal developer of the Abstract Service, also at SAO.

    The ADS is a founding member of Urania, a collaboration of journals, data centers, and individual scientists to provide a complete digital library for astronomy. The ADS itself was created in 1989 to provide access to astronomical data through the Internet. The ADS Abstract Service came on-line in early 1993 in collaboration with NASA's Scientific and Technical Information Program.

    Other members of the ADS project team at SAO are Stephen S. Murray (principal investigator), Alberto Accomazzi (computer specialist), and Carolyn S. Grant (computer specialist).

    NEH GRANT TO PRESERVE HISTORIC BOOKS IN WOLBACH LIBRARY

    The Harvard University Libraries have been awarded a $1 million grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to microfilm brittle books documenting the history of science in America. The project will include the preservation of some 1,300 volumes in the Astronomical Institutes (AI) Collection held in the John G. Wolbach Library at the CfA.

    The grant runs from July 1997 through June 1999. Materials from the CfA Library collections began being microfilmed in July. The collection is being microfilmed because this format is presently the only accepted preservation standard.

    The next step will be to digitize the material, and Donna Coletti is collaborating with staff from the Preservation Center to locate funds to make the information accessible through the Astrophysics Data System (ADS).

    [A survey of the distribution of NEH funds puts Harvard's good fortune in context. Of the 47 grants awarded by the Division of Preservation and Access, 12 were for library and archives preservation projects. (The Division has a broad mandate.) Only 4 "brittle books projects" were funded (and these were complemented by newspaper and archives microfilming projects); and, the New York Public Library was the only other single institution to receive a million-dollar award for the preservation of its collections.]

    URSULA MARVIN HONORED BY 'WISE' AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN SCIENCE

    When the Harvard Geology Club wanted to resume its all-male tradition after World War II, Ursula Bailey and her friends had a better idea. Already an accomplished researcher in the Geology Department, she thought The Club should be open to women. After some haggling, a compromise was reached. The first meeting of the year for The Geology Club would be "Ladies Night." When new business was called for, the Treasurer encouraged anyone who had not yet paid his or her dues to do so. Ursula was the first in line with her $2.00--and the club has accepted women ever since.

    Although over-used, the word "pioneer" fits quite well when describing Dr. Ursula Marvin (nee Bailey). The Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) recognized this by giving her their Lifetime Achievement Award on May 12, in Rosslyn, VA. WISE awards specifically acknowledge those who in addition to their scientific achievements, actively encourage young women to enter science or help advance the careers of women already in scientific fields.

    As a child in rural Vermont, Ursula found the land around her, especially the mountains and their rocks, a natural interest. And, although she took few science courses in high school, she often helped her father in his job as an entomologist for the state of Vermont. However, she never really considered science as a career until her second year of required science at Tufts College--the first being an unfruitful one in biology--and discovered a love for geology.

    "I was amazed at how hours in a biology lab seemed endless, but, once in the geology lab, time went by so quickly," she said. "Unfortunately, when I asked my geology professor if I could switch majors to geology he told me I should be learning to cook. Geology was no field for women."

    Even though she could not change her major, Ursula continued taking as many geology courses as possible, graduating in 1943 with a degree in history. Another Tufts professor encouraged her to apply to Radcliffe for graduate study in geology. While she lacked many of the background courses, Ursula had excellent grades in geology and was accepted into the program. She received her Master's degree in geology from Harvard-Radcliffe in 1946.

    After spending some time as a Research Assistant at the University of Chicago, she returned to Harvard to begin work toward a doctorate. There she met fellow graduate student, Tom Marvin, who later became her husband. Before either could finish their degrees, however, they were lured away by the Union Carbide Ore Company and sent to Brazil to look for manganese oxide deposits, a necessary ingredient for Union Carbide's Eveready batteries. After a year, the company sent them to the highlands of Angola to look for more manganese oxide, as well as copper and other minerals. Later, they went back to Brazil, remaining there until 1958.

    When the Marvins returned to Cambridge from South America, her former advisor at Harvard asked her to join him studying meteorites. Soon, she also was collaborating with Dr. Edward L. Fireman at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, then a growing force on Observatory Hill. In 1961, Marvin was offered a civil service position at SAO--an appointment she still holds.

    At SAO, Marvin would be part of a small group of scientists chosen by NASA to study the lunar rocks brought back by the Apollo missions. One of her most exciting discoveries, reported in a cover story in Science, was of an Apollo 15 rock containing the minerals cordierite, spinel, and forsterite, an assemblage indicative of an origin somewhere near the base of the lunar crust--one of the most deep-seated samples from the Moon.

    While continuing to study lunar samples, Marvin became involved in the study of extraterrestrial materials a little closer to home. In 1969, after a Japanese team discovered several meteorites in Antarctica, the scientific community realized that, in this frozen land, meteorites sometimes were concentrated on patches of bare ice by a combination of ice and wind motions. Marvin spent the 1978-79 and 1981-82 field seasons in Antarctica, collecting meteorites, including some varieties new to science.

    She currently chairs the NSF-NASA-SI committee that allocates research samples of Antarctic meteorites to laboratories around the world. And, in recognition of her important scientific contributions to Antarctic science, a 'nunatak,' or small mountain poking up through the ice sheet, in the Beacon Valley Quadrangle of Antarctica was named in her honor in 1992. [In addition to Nunatak Marvin, there is also an Asteroid Marvin, renamed in her honor June 27, 1991, for "contributions to research on meteorites, lunar samples, Ganymede, and the history of meteoritics."]

    Over the course of her career, Marvin has written or co-authored more than 160 research papers-- over half published since 1983--and she continues to produce major papers every year. In addition to her research on meteorites and lunar rocks, she has participated in the geological mapping of Ganymede, Jupiter's largest satellite and returned to Antarctica in 1985 to search for evidence at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary of the impact that may have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. She also has become increasingly interested in the history of science, as shown by a book she wrote on continental drift and a number of recent articles on the history of ideas about meteorites and impact processes.

    True to the charge of the WISE Award, Marvin has also done much to advance the cause of women in science. In 1974, she was appointed as the first Coordinator for the Federal Women's Program at SAO, which eventually became today's Women's Program Committee. Also in the 1970's, she served on the American Geological Institute's Committee of Women in the Geosciences for which she compiled and edited the annual Roster of Women in the Geosciences Professions. For the Journal of Geological Education, she wrote about the issue of men and women in the geosciences. During the 1980's, she encouraged young women to pursue scientific careers through Harvard's Undergraduate Tutorial Committee in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. And, she has served on a host of other committees and councils devoted to the advancement of science--not only for women, but for all.

    Marvin notes that much has improved for women in science since she began her long and fruitful career. Although most people in Harvard's Geology Department were very helpful, she remembers that women's access to Widener Library was restricted. Also, she was often told to leave the geology building by a watchman who insisted women were not allowed to be there alone at night.

    Still, Marvin said she was mainly unaffected by the discrimination--with the obvious exception of the Harvard Geology Club. Even the professor who would not let her switch majors at Tufts eventually came around. "Years later, he invited me to teach at Tufts, and often told others how proud he was of me," said Marvin. It is amazing how far intelligence, tenacity, and two dollars can get a person.

    CfA HOSTS SUMMER SCIENCE INTERNS FOR FOURTH YEAR

    Nine students from across the country, chosen from over 250 applicants, are spending their summer at the CfA as participants in the 1997 Summer Intern Program. They are: James Chisholm (Northwestern University), with advisor Rick Harnden and mentor Hank Donnelly; Rebecca Danos (Wellesley College), with advisor Ue-Li Pen and mentor Natasha Lepore; Michael Dorris (Vanderbilt University), with advisor Brian McNamara and mentor Alexey Vikhlinin; Erik Rosolowsky (Swathmore College), with advisor Alyssa Goodman and mentor David Wilner; Lynne Raschke (Haverford College), with advisor Sallie Baliunas and mentors Bob Donahue and Willie Soon; Brian Rebel (Grinnell College), with advisor Nancy Evans and mentor Martin Krockenberger; Alicia Soderberg (Bates College), with advisor Bob Kirshner and mentors Peter Challis and Peter Garnavich; Jesse Southwick (Princeton University), with advisor Suzanne Romaine and mentors Ric Bruni and John Everett; and, Jason Wright (Boston University), with advisor Pat Slane and mentor Paul Plucinsky.

    The intern program, now in its fourth year, is supported by the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program of the National Science Foundation. The students receive a stipend, housing and travel allowances, as well as the possibility of attending a professional meeting. As in previous years, the interns are working with staff on a variety of research projects and will present the results of their labors at the final summer colloquium on August 14. In addition, the interns participated in the Cool Stars Workshop, spent a day at Haystack Observatory, and will also go to the AAS meeting in January. For more details on the interns' projects, visit the web site.

    FIRST UV IMAGES AND SPECTRA OF SEPARATE STARS IN THE MIRA BINARY SYSTEM OBTAINED BY HST

    On the 400th anniversary of its discovery, the first ultraviolet (UV) images of the giant star Mira and its hot companion have been obtained by scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope's (HST) Fine Object Camera (FOC). Margarita Karovska and John Raymond of the CfA and their colleagues Warren Hack of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Edward Guinan of Villanova University obtained images and objective prism spectra of the two separate stars in the Mira system in UV as well as in optical wavelengths.

    "This is the first time the Mira system has been imaged in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, or that separate spectra of the two stars have been produced," said Karovska.

    Mira (Omicron Ceti), the prototype for an entire class of stars known as "Mira-type variables," is a cool, red-giant star that is highly variable in brightness. Although once like our Sun, Mira is now at the end of its evolutionary life. Contracting and expanding every 332 days, it sheds vast amounts of material through its powerful wind.

    Mira also has a companion, a white dwarf star that is surrounded by material accreted from Mira's wind. Mira is an important system to study because, at a distance of 360 light years, it is the closest wind-accreting binary system to Earth. Knowledge about Mira, and the dynamics of its system, may give astronomers insight into other types of interacting binary systems.

    The ultraviolet image of Mira obtained at a wavelength of 340 nm] shows evidence for possible interaction between Mira and its companion star. The small hook-like appendage extending in the direction of the companion (out of the field of view of this image) may be material from Mira being gravitationally drawn toward the smaller star. Alternately, it could be that material in Mira's upper atmosphere is being heated (or ionized) due to the companion's presence. Additional HST observations in other UV spectral wavelengths may reveal the true nature of this structure.

    At optical wavelengths, Mira has an odd, asymmetrical shape resembling a football, which may be tied to dramatic changes in size and shape during its expansion-contraction cycles, or to the presence of unresolved spots on its surface.

    Separating the spectra of Mira and its companion--something astronomers have previously tried to do unsuccessfully through indirect means--is a crucial step for studies of physical processes associated with wind accretion. Until these HST observations, astronomers had not been able to study the individual spectra of the separate stars in wind-accreting systems.

    LATINO OUTREACH EXPERIMENT AT FLWO THIS SUMMER

    With support from the Smithsonian Institution's Latino Initiative Fund, the Whipple Observatory Visitors Center opened its doors to the public on Saturdays this summer, with bilingual staff on hand to answer questions, and, on certain weekends, special popular lectures and demonstrations. Advertisements in newspapers on both sides of the international border at Nogales were used to announce the program.

    With the help of Forest Service Ranger Candace Allen, Dan Brocious and Jim Cornell recruited Oscar Villasenor and Maritza Marmolejo, a husband-wife team of teachers from the Santa Cruz School District, to provide translation services for Mexican and Mexican-American visitors to the Saturday sessions.

    The experimental program may be continued and expanded in the fall to include bilingual workshops for teachers from both southern Arizona and northern Sonora. Spanish-speaking astronomers who may visit or use the FLWO facility this fall and winter are invited to participate in the program, either as speakers or advisors. Contact Cornell (ext. 5-7462) or Brocious (520- 670-5706), if you'd like to volunteer.

    OTHER FLWO NOTES

    A MicrObservatory telescope installed outside the Visitors Center of the Fred L. Whipple Observatory in Arizona. Eventually, five of these robotic instruments, developed by the CfA's Science Education Department, will be located at various sites around the globe, thus providing access to "24-hour dark skies" for students and teachers everywhere via the Internet. Visitors to the FLWO now can watch the little scope (sitting about 30 meters in front of the outdoor patio) make observations of the Sun, or more popular for many guests, look at the MMT on the top of Mt. Hopkins and spy on the Kitt Peak telescopes some 80 kilometers away on the other side of the Santa Cruz Valley.

    * * *

    In April, the entrance to the Whipple Observatory Basecamp and Visitors Center was converted into a movie set by Warner Brothers for the filming of several scenes in the forthcoming Kevin Costner spectacular, "The Postman." Forest Service and FLWO staff watched with some apprehension as an entire Unocal 76 gas station arose in the Nature Trail parking lot, the access road and entrance driveway were "distressed" and lined with the burned-out hulks of trucks and autos, and the basecamp itself disappeared behind a forest of dead trees. For the better part of a month, both public and professional visitors were greeted by the bizarre sight of scruffy and questional characters (Not our staff!) constructing and systematically destroying the gas station. At the end of the shoot, the gas station, wrecked vehicles, and trees were whisked away; the parking lot signage, striping, and flora were restored; and , the driveway was repaved. [The disruption at FLWO, while considerable, was nothing compared to the chaos--and public uproar!--created when the filmmakers closed I-19 south of Green Valley for the requisite car-chase sequence.] The movie, described by the producers as a "post-apocalyptic western," and by local critics as "Waterworld in the Desert," is scheduled for release late this year or early next. Visions of FLWO and Costner can be found on the Web under www.thepostman.com.

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