Wednesday, 30 January 2013

All Kinds of Astronomy

The Outlist of lgbt astronomers which I mentioned in the introduction to the Ology of the Month on 8th January contains just a handful of the living out lgbt space scientists around the world. Many other, such as Frank Kameny and Sally Ride are no longer with us.

Even using the word “astronomer” hides the wide range of areas and specialisations within the subject, each with their own qualifications and skills. Its like grouping footballers, darts players and boxers together as sportspeople.

So here’s a sample group of experts in various different aspects of astronomy.

Lisa Harvey-Smith (b.1979) – radio astronomy.
English-born Lisa is a research astronomer at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world, in Sydney, Australia. Lisa specialises in radio astronomy and is one of the leading advocates for the Square Kilometre Array, a radio telescope comprised of many separate radio telescopes linked together to form a total collecting area of, as the name suggests, about a square kilometre.

Todd B. Hawley (1961-1995) – space education and international collaboration.
When humanity finally decides to get round to space travel again, perhaps back to the Moon, some people will have been influenced by the International Space University, co-founded in 1985 by Todd Hawley. The university’s aim it to promote international co-operation in developing human space exploration. Perhaps the best way I can do justice to Todd is to direct you to this video.

Laura Kay – research into active galactic nuclei (AGN), and an “umbraphile”.
Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College, Columbia University, USA. Her first research after graduating was studying auroras and cosmic rays at the Amundsen Scott station at the South Pole. Laura’s main research interest now is in AGN, galaxies with huuuge black holes in their centre, and their relationship to seyfert galaxies, galaxies with huuuuuuuuuuge black holes at their centre. She is also an out and proud umbraphile – an eclipse lover.

Martin Lo – space navigation.
Every probe launched into space needs to have its complete journey planned in advance – it needs a map. This is the responsibility of the Navigation Manager. Martin Lo has worked on many space missions plotting and calculating the best routes. Usually this is done using the gravitational pull of the sun, planets and moon. Perhaps Martin’s great achievement is his discovery of the Interplanetary Superhighway – a network of “tunnels” between the planets created by the combined gravitational forces of several planets. This superhighway is the most efficient and quickest way to navigate through the solar system.

James B. Pollack (1938-1994) – planetary atmospherics.
James, a colleague of the great Carl Sagan, studied atmospheres on other planets in our solar system, especially Mars and Venus, which is why a Martian crater is named after him. He was involved in all the interplanetary missions that NASA undertook after the Apollo missions ended. Using his studies of the evolution of the atmospheres on Venus and Mars James and Sagan came up with theories on the extinction of the dinosaurs and a nuclear winter on Earth. The theories on the nuclear winter helped campaigners to urge governments to reduce nuclear weapons and led to disarmament treaties.

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