Press Release

Don Campbell named director of Cornell’s National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, operator of the Arecibo Observatory

By SpaceRef Editor
May 5, 2008
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Don Campbell named director of Cornell’s National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, operator of the Arecibo Observatory

ITHACA, N.Y. — Donald B. Campbell, Cornell professor of astronomy, has been appointed director of Cornell University’s National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), which manages the Arecibo Observatory, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on behalf of the National Science Foundation. He assumes the position June 1, 2008.

Campbell replaces the retiring Robert Brown, who has served as director for the past five years and will remain on the NAIC staff as director emeritus and special adviser to the director this summer.

“Don’s long affiliation with the NAIC and the Arecibo Observatory, and his familiarity with its scientific mission and its community, staff, users and supporters, make him uniquely positioned to assume the directorship at this critical time in the observatory’s future,” said Robert Buhrman, Cornell’s senior vice provost for research, who made the appointment.

A member of Cornell’s astronomy faculty, Campbell has used the Arecibo Observatory since he was a graduate student at Cornell in 1971, and today he conducts research into planetary studies, concentrating on the radio-wavelength-scattering properties of planets, planetary satellites and small bodies. He makes extensive use of the high-powered radar systems on the Arecibo telescope. Recently, working with current and former Cornell graduate students, he examined the moon’s polar regions looking for evidence of ice deposits. He has used the polarization properties of the reflected radar signals to investigate deposits on the surface of Venus and to look for regoliths on near-Earth asteroids.

Campbell is largely responsible for Arecibo’s continuing development as the world’s most powerful facility for radar exploration of solar system bodies, from the moon to planets and their satellites and rings, to the small bodies-asteroids and comets. He was on the NAIC research staff at Arecibo for more than 15 years before joining the Cornell faculty in 1988. He has previously served as director of the Arecibo Observatory (1981-87), interim director of NAIC (1992-93) and as associate NAIC director (1993-2004). He is also a former vice president of the American Astronomical Society. He earned his B.Sc. (physics) and his M.Sc. (physics – radio astronomy) from the University of Sydney, and he earned his doctorate in astronomy from Cornell.

In making the appointment, Buhrman said: “There is no one more familiar with Arecibo, its staff, users and its multidisciplinary science mission, and no one more committed to insuring the future of the observatory, than Don. He and Bob Kerr, the Arecibo Observatory director, make a very strong team to secure funding for the observatory’s future.”

Buhrman explained that Campbell is well suited to present the NAIC’s vision for the future to the 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, to be convened later this year.

Last November, Campbell testified before Congress on the importance of the telescope’s radar system for the identification and tracking of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

Said Campbell: “The more we know about [near-Earth objects] in general and about specific ones that pose a threat to Earth, the easier it will be to design effective mitigation strategies. [Near-Earth objects] form a very diverse population encompassing a large range of sizes, shapes, rotation states, densities, internal structure and binary nature.”

SpaceRef staff editor.