From the Board of Visitors Executive Committee


News from around the BoV
and the Texas Astronomy Program for February 2013

• Sally Dodson-Robinson Wins the 2012 Annie Jump Cannon Award: At the January meeting of the American Astronomical Society (its 221st) in Long Beach, California, University of Texas at Austin Assistant Professor of Astronomy Sally Dodson-Robinson was named winner of its Annie Jump Cannon Award for outstanding research and the promise for future research by a woman.

Dr. Sally Dodson-Robinson

According to the AAS press release about the award, Dodson-Robinson was cited for her contributions to the study of the formation of planetary systems, and for her "insights into giant planet formation in our own solar system and in exoplanetary systems" which "arise from combining theoretical modeling with observations of stars and circumstellar disks."

Dodson-Robinson's work with the Texas Advance Computing Center was profiled in the November 2012 issue of the Board of Visitors e-News. See:

Sally Dodson-Robinson and TACC Create 2-D and 3-D Simulations of Planet Formation (with some surprise results)

Otto Struve Telescope
(David Doss)

• Beautiful Snow, Wild Dust at McDonald Observatory David Doss, the Observing Support Assistant Manager at McDonald Observatory, routinely chronicles the wild weather in the Davis Mountains. At the links below, you can find two of his photographs of the 82-inch Otto Struve Telescope blanketed in snow just after dawn on January 11, 2013. Even more dramatic is a short movie, which shows the sky over the Observatory filling up with dust as high winds moved in from Northern Mexico on the evening of February 24, 2013. The sky goes from clear to nearly dark between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. local time, captured in a time-lapse movie of only 22 seconds.

David Doss: Entry of the Otto Struve Telescope, Jan. 11, 2013 (High Resolution)

David Doss: Top of Mount Locke, Jan. 11, 2013 (High Resolution)

David Doss: Time lapse shows dust storm covering McDonald Observatory

Frank Kell Cahoon, 1934-2013

• In Memoriam: Frank Kell Cahoon of Midland: Long time Board of Visitors Member at Large Frank Kell Cahoon of Midland, a former oilman, state representative, philanthropist, and friend to many associated with the Texas Astronomy Program, died at his home on January 30, 2013.

More information can be found at:

Frank Cahoon Death Notice from the Midland Reporter-Telegram

• BoV member's company's product appears on "Big Bang Theory": Doug Renfro of Fort Worth, an Associate Member of the Board of Visitors since 2010 and one of five family members active in the operation of family-owned Renfro Foods, emailed on February 11 to say, "See attached – I almost fell off the couch when I saw it – networking with set decorators can pay off! - Doug."

A bottle of Mrs. Renfro's sauce showed up on the popular television series "The Big Bang Theory." It's just to the right of the CBS logo in this screen image provided by Doug Renfro.

As shown in the screen image that Doug sent, above, a bottle of Mrs. Renfro's salsa stands on the counter of one of the character's kitchens — it's just to the right of the CBS logo.

You can learn more about Mrs. Renfro's products at the company web site, at:


• BoV members invited to “Neal Fest” BoV members are invited to any or all of the events of an upcoming celebration organized by the colleagues and students of Neal Evans II, which will be held in Austin April 24-26, 2013. Evans, the Edward Randall, Jr., M.D., Centennial Professor in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin Department of Astronomy (and a former Chair of the Astronomy Department), joined the UT faculty in 1975. He will be recognized as “a pioneer in the study of how stars form within this Galaxy and others,” with presentations focused on “the numerous advances he has made, placing them in context with our current understanding of star formation in the Universe.”

Neal Evans II

The symposium will be held in the Avaya Auditorium of the ACES Building on the UT Austin campus on Thursday, April 25, and Friday, April 26, from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Social events associated with the symposium will include a welcome reception at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, and a conference banquet, also at the Driskill Hotel, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday April 25.

The NealFest Scientific Organizing Committee consists of Ewine van Dishoeck, Jeong-Eun Lee, and UT Austin Astronomy Department Chair Daniel Jaffe. Members of the Local Organizing Committee are James Di Francesco, Jeong-Eun Lee, Yancy Shirley, Joel Green, John Lacy, Daniel Jaffe, and Kelly Quinney.

If you would like to attend any events of Neal Fest, please contact Joel Barna or Daniel Cournoyer (email: bov@astro.as.utexas.edu, phone: 512-471-3303). There is a $50 fee for attending the conference banquet.

You can learn more about attending NealFest, at:

NealFest Symposium home page

• BoV members: Please mark your calendar for these upcoming Board of Visitors meeting dates:


July 26-27


February 21-22

July 18-19

Awards presented at the Feb. 8, 2013 BoV Banquet

• Four Presented with BoV Staff Excellence Awards at February Dinner: The 2012-13 Board of Visitors Staff Excellence Awards were presented to four winners at the February 8, 2013, Board of Visitors Dinner. David Doss, the Observing Support Assistant Manager at McDonald Observatory, was recognized for decades of dedicated service to keeping the facilities of the observatory available for year-round observations; Kelly Guynes, the Technical Trades Crew Leader with McDonald Observatory's Physical Plant department, won the second award given to a member of the observatory's West Texas staff. In Austin, McDonald Observatory Senior Software Engineer Ronnie D. Leck was recognized for his work on the control-system software for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment's new tracker, while Rachel Walker, the Graduate Program Coordinator for the Department of Astronomy, was cited for her dedication to the students in the astronomy program.

Spitzer Space Telescope artist's conception

• Neal Evans II named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Astronomy Professor Neal Evans II was one of seven faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin who have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Fellows as chosen each year by their peers to recognize "to recognize their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications," according to the AAAS press release. Evans, who was honored at the AAAS Fellows Forum in Boston on February 16, 2013, was recognized for leading a team of 60 astronomers in a Spitzer Space Telescope Legacy Science Program focused on star formation, "one of six major Spitzer surveys that have generated a huge amount of open-access data for astronomers and led to more than 50 scientific papers," and for major contributions to knowledge about the formation of stars and planets.

James Diekmann

• American Astronomical Society Names Diekmann Winner of Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award: University of Texas at Austin Astronomy undergraduate James Diekmann won a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award at the January 2013 American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, CA. Chambliss Student awards are given to recognize exemplary research by undergraduate students who present at one of the poster sessions at the AAS. Diekmann's presentation, "The Morphology of Double-peaked Active Galactic Nuclei," analyzed spectra at the core of massive galaxies to distinguish true binary black holes from similar signatures produced by outflows or disk rotation of singular active galactic nuclei.

• California, Pennsylvania astronomers use Otto Struve Telescope to study "Exocomets": Astronomers from the University of California at Berkeley and Clarion University in Pennsylvania made national news in January. They announced that they had used McDonald Observatory's Otto Struve Telescope, during three five-night long observing runs between 2010 and 2012, to discover the signatures of six different likely comets around distant stars, dubbed "exocomets." The researchers say the results suggest that excomets may be as common as exoplanets – which observers have being finding by the hundreds over the last decade.

You can find more about the research at:

Exocomets May be as Common as Exoplanets

and at:

SciNews.com - Astronomers Discover Six New Exocomets

• Just for fun: New York Times photomontages show what skies over cities would look like without light pollution: The New York Times presents a slide show created by Thierry Cohen, a French photographer, who blended scenes from Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and other cities — shot and altered to eliminate lights and other distractions — with the night skies from less populated locations that fall on the same latitudes. It's a vision of what might be if people paid more attention to keeping skies dark.

Starry Starry Night

• Just for fun 2: Minutes Physics – How Big Is The Universe?: A fast-moving artist uses simple white-board drawings to explain that the whole Universe is bigger – much bigger – than the visible Universe, and that it has neither a center nor an edge. The site is called Minute Physics, but this movie lasts a little under 4 minutes.

How Big is the Universe?

[Joel Barna]

February 2013
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin
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