News from McDonald Observatory and the Department of Astronomy
Congratulations to the following Department of Astronomy Graduate Students who are the recipients of awards and fellowships for the 2010-11 Academic Year:
Josh Adams was awarded a Harrington Dissertation Fellowship, the highest award that the Graduate School awards to continuing students.
Guillermo Blanc was awarded a Graduate School Continuing Fellowship. These fellowships are granted based on major accomplishments since entering Graduate School, and a well-defined program of research.
Manos Chatzopoulos was awarded the Frank N. Edmonds, Jr., Memorial Fellowship in Astronomy. This fellowship is granted annually to a second or third year student who shows promise in research.
Irina Marinova and Jeremy Murphy were awarded the Fred T. Goetting, Jr., Memorial Endowed Presidential Scholarship for 2010-11. These scholarships are granted to graduate students in recognition of their outstanding service to the department, usually in teaching or outreach.
Athena Stacy was awarded a David Bruton, Jr., Graduate School Fellowship, a competitive award based on major accomplishments since entering Graduate School and a well-defined program of research.
The new Superintendent of McDonald Observatory, Dr. Tom Barnes, reported on recent news from the McDonald Observatory. At the Hobby-Eberly Telescope: renovations of the HET Compressor room have been made to minimize dust and work has begun on a new mirror coating facility inside the main telescope building.
At the Harlan J. Smith 107-inch telescope: the telescope’s seeing has been improved by the replacement of the coudé tube passing through the control room and by work on the temperature controls for the dome. At the Otto Struve 82-inch telescope: a part of the dome structure called the bridge has been repaired and improvements to the software for the telescope control system have been made that will allow for future audio guiding of the telescope.
McDonald Observatory Senior Research Scientist, Dr. Fritz Benedict has been elected as Secretary of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The secretary is an important officer to the AAS. This is an honor for Fritz, and a special honor, too, in that there have been only 11 previous secretaries in the history of AAS, Harlan J. Smith being one of them (Acting 1961-1962).
Two graduates of The University of Texas at Austin Department of Astronomy are included in the 125 Extraordinary Exes, a list compiled to celebrate 125 years of the Texas Exes.
Dr. Beatrice M. Tinsley, Ph.D. '67, was a leading expert on the evolution of galaxies and served as the first female astronomy professor at Yale University. Every year, McDonald Observatory and the Department of Astronomy honor her memory by inviting several outstanding astronomers to present their research, as the Beatrice M. Tinsley Visiting Professor and the Tinsley Scholars, younger scientists of exceptional promise. Dr. Steven Vogt, Ph.D. '78, develops instruments and contributes research to the detection and characterization of planets around nearby stars. He also coined the term “Doppler imaging” in 1987. In 2004, Vogt was recognized as an Outstanding Alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School. He currently is an Astronomer/Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California Observatories/Lick Observatory and the University of California Santa Cruz.
Dr. J. Craig Wheeler, the Samuel T. and Fern Yanagisawa Regents Professor of Astronomy, is the recipient of a University of Texas Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. This award recognizes a faculty member’s commitment to teaching through the delivery of the highest quality undergraduate instruction. Only 20 awards are made to tenured faculty across The University of Texas System.
Congratulations to the following Department of Astronomy Undergraduate Students who are the recipients of awards and scholarships in 2009-10: Aditi Raye Allen, Board of Visitors Scholarship; Jennifer Ellis and George Miller, Henize Award; and Rex Lundgren, the Outstanding Senior Award.
On May 24, 2010, a team of astronomers led by McDonald Observatory Research Scientist, Barbara McArthur announced their discovery of a planetary system “out of whack,” where the orbits of two planets are at a steep angle to each other. McArthur reported these findings at the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami along with her collaborator Fritz Benedict, and team member Rory Barnes of the University of Washington. This discovery has been featured in a variety of publications worldwide.
Dr. Robert Quimby, Ph.D. '06, is the winner of the 2010 Robert J. Trumpler Award for an Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis. This award, given by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, was based on his thesis, “The Texas Supernova Search.” Robert was the student of Craig Wheeler and made a large mark in the Department for hard work, inventiveness, and productivity. He discovered a whole new category of supernovae, the implications of which may reach back to the end of the cosmological dark ages. Robert is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology.