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Secretary Skorton Visits the CfA
Monday, June 25, 2018
News Feature

A hallmark of great research and educational institutions is their drive for introspection and self-improvement. In keeping with this, the Smithsonian Institution recently began a five-year strategic plan to fulfill their mission statement for "the increase and diffusion of knowledge" more effectively than ever before.

To discuss this new strategic plan, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, David Skorton, visited the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on May 29, 2018. Hosted by CfA Director Charles Alcock, Secretary Skorton toured CfA facilities, including laboratories and the library, and met with several scientists and engineers, before speaking at a CfA-wide gathering of staff.

In his talk, Secretary Skorton shared details of the strategic plan. This plan includes "build[ing] on [the Smithsonian's] unique strengths to engage and to inspire more people, where they are, with greater impact, while catalyzing critical conversations on issues affecting our nation and the world." It also states a goal to reach a billion people through a "digital first" strategy.

During his visit, Wolbach Librarian Maria McEachern showed Secretary Skorton items from the unique daguerreotype collection, now under consideration for inclusion in the Metropolitan Museum's "Lunar Imaging" show to begin in fall 2018. Solar physicist Henry "Trae" Winter showed Secretary Skorton the solar video wall, with movies of the solar corona from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The final stop on the tour was Michael McCarthy's astrochemistry lab. He also learned about the role of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in the Parker Solar Probe, which is set to launch later this summer.

The SAO was established over 125 years ago in 1890. In 1955, it moved its location from Washington, DC to Cambridge, Massachusetts to affiliate with the Harvard College Observatory. In 1973, this relationship was formalized with the creation of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.