Press Release

Giovanni Fazio Receives Prestigious NASA Award

By SpaceRef Editor
June 20, 2005
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Cambridge, MA–Giovanni Fazio, a senior physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and lecturer in the Astronomy Department, Harvard University, has been awarded NASA’s prestigious Public Service Medal. The award recognizes Fazio’s exceptional efforts as principal investigator on the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC). Fazio’s skilled leadership was key to the successful development of IRAC, one of three instruments on board NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

“We faced 20 years of challenges in developing IRAC,” said Fazio. “Now that effort is paying off. We’re producing spectacular images and new discoveries regularly.”

IRAC takes images of celestial objects at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths with over 10 to 100 times the sensitivity, and with better clarity, than any previous infrared space mission. IRAC has revealed wondrous sights from seething realms of star formation to dramatic dust rings within nearby spiral galaxies. Its images rival those of the Hubble Space Telescope for beauty while also providing a bounty of scientific information.

“The greatest joy for an experimentalist is seeing something they created work. IRAC is functioning even better than I thought it would,” said Fazio.

Astronomers expect Spitzer and its instruments to function for at least five years, until its supply of liquid helium coolant is exhausted. Researchers will spend many more years analyzing the flood of data from Spitzer.

“I think there will be more surprises to come from IRAC,” said Fazio. “I predict that the most exciting things we’ll see are the unpredicted – things we never would have expected.”

Fazio received a B.Sc. in Physics and B.A. in Chemistry from St. Mary’s University, Texas, in 1954, and a Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959. In 1962 he joined the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory, where he initiated a program in gamma-ray astronomy using balloon-borne and ground-based detectors. He also initiated the construction of the 10-meter optical reflector at the F. L. Whipple Observatory in Arizona to search for ultrahigh-energy cosmic gamma-rays.

In the early 1970s, Fazio pioneered the development of large balloon-borne telescopes for far-infrared astronomical observations above the atmosphere, and for twenty years was principal investigator for the 1-meter Balloon-Borne Far-Infrared Telescope. He also was the principal investigator for the first infrared astronomical telescope to fly on the Space Shuttle, and a co-investigator on the Submillimeter Wave Astronomical Satellite.

In 1984, Fazio was selected as principal investigator for the Infrared Array Camera on the Spitzer Space Telescope, one of NASA’s Great Observatories. Spitzer was launched in August 2003.

On June 22, Fazio will receive the award at a ceremony at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. NASA’s Public Service Medal recognizes exceptional contributions to the mission of NASA.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. JPL is a division of Caltech. Spitzer’s Infrared Array Camera was built by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

For more information, contact:

David Aguilar, Director of Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7462 Fax: 617-495-7468

Christine Pulliam
Public Affairs Specialist
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7463, Fax: 617-495-7016

SpaceRef staff editor.