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Nobel Connection II

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A second link to the 2011 Nobel Prize comes via alumnus Dr. Ron Gilliland (BA: Astronomy, Math, Physics, 1974). Ron, who just retired from the Space Telescope Science Institute to work full time at Penn State on analysis of asteroseismology data from the Kepler Mission, was kind enough to supply some insight into the early evolution of the project and his involvement within STSCI. "From about 1996 through the early 2000s when the work for this year's physics prize was done I was a member of the High-z team (the Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt half). In 1996 I had an approved GO program on HST of an exploratory nature to search for SNe in the Hubble Deep Field. Bob Williams (STScI Director) was approached at this time by Saul Perlmutter for Director's Discretionary Time to pursue the science behind this Nobel. Bob thought this was a great idea, and consulted me, suggesting as well that an equal amount of HST time be given to the competing, High-z team. The latter was done, and the High-z team then recruited me to be their HST expert. I accepted. My HST exploratory program worked out wildly well resulting in detection of SN1997ff, which for more than a decade would remain the highest redshift Type Ia known. I published a lead author paper in the Astrophysical Journal in 1999 on the discovery, and was third author with Adam Riess in the lead applying this to cosmological implications a couple of years later in 2001. This helped confirm the story from 1998 of a mysteriously accelerating expansion. Adam and Brian have invited the full membership of the High-z team as of "the paper" in 1998 to attend the ceremonies with them in Stockholm. So I will be attending the events over Dec 7-12 this year." As proof, we include the photo below - Ron is noted with the arrow!

Professor emeritus Steve Shawl attended the memorial celebration of life for his professional mentor, Dr. Tom Gehrels, at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona. The event began with a fly-over by four F16 jets of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, in honor of Gehrels' contributions during WWII as a paratrooper and a member of the Dutch underground. The event was also attended by Lindley Johnson (BA ASTR 1980), representing NASA, and Dave Tholen (BS ASTR, PHSX 1978) who flew in from Hawaii to join a standing room only crowd. Gehrels was known for his discovery of the wavelength dependence of interstellar polarization, his work as PI of the imaging photopolarimeter on the Pioneer 10/11 flights to Jupiter and Saturn (the first to these planets), his development of the SpaceWatch Project to survey the sky for asteroids and comets that might impact Earth, and his founding of the important Space Science Series of astronomical conferences and resulting books.