Press Release

Steward Observatory Astronomers Head Two SIRTF Science Teams

By SpaceRef Editor
November 21, 2000
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News Services
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
 
Contact Information:
 
Robert C. Kennicutt
520-621-4032, robk@as.arizona.edu
 
Michael R. Meyer
520-626-9199, mmeyer@as.arizona.edu
 

By Lori Stiles
 
University of Arizona astronomers will head two of six science teams that have won millions of dollars and thousands of hours observing time on the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) to be launched July 2002, NASA announced today.
 
Steward Observatory Director Peter Strittmatter said, "Given the stiff competition, it is great to have a winning proposal at Steward Observatory. To have two is absolutely magnificent."
 
Astronomy Professor Robert C. Kennicutt of Steward Observatory has won at least $3 million and 512 hours observing time to study 75 nearby galaxies, conducting comprehensive imaging to pierce the dust that hides star formation. The research will yield new insights into the physical processes connecting star formation to the interstellar medium of dust and gas that permeates the galaxies. His proposal, titled "SINGS: The SIRTF Nearby Galaxies Survey – Physics of the Star-Forming ISM and Galaxy Evolution," involves 14 co-investigators at 17 institutions.
 
Michael R. Meyer of Steward Observatory, assistant professor of astronomy, has won $2.4 million and 350 hours of SIRTF observing time for his proposal, "The Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems: Placing Our Solar System in Context."
 
"This was a real team effort, and we were very fortunate to have been selected," Meyer said. "SIRTF will be a powerful instrument with which to study circumstellar dust surrounding stars from the earliest stages of planet formation, and as they evolve toward mature planetary systems similar to our own. We look forward to participating in the exciting discoveries that will be made through the SIRTF Legacy Science Program."
 
Meyer’s science team includes 18 co-investigators at 10 institutions who will study time scales involved in the planet-building process. The team will study the evolution of planetary systems for a sample of hundreds of stars up to 100 million years old. While SIRTF will not be able to take pictures of planets around nearby stars, it will easily detect and characterize the dusty disks from which planetary bodies form.
 
The six teams, chosen from 28 proposals submitted by astronomers worldwide, were chosen to take part in the first new mission of NASA’s Origins Program, They make up the SIRTF Legacy Science Program, which will involve American-led teams of scientists from around the world. The six projects comprise more than 3,000 hours of observations, or about half of the SIRTF’s first year of operation.
 
Other science team leaders and their projects are Ed Churchwell (University of Wisconsin) "The SIRTF Galactic Plane Survey," Mark Dickinson (Space Telescope Science Institute) "Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey"; Carol Lonsdale (Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, Caltech) "The SIRTF Wide-area Infrared Extragalactic Survey," and Neal Evans II (University of Texas) "From Molecular Clouds to Planets."
 
SIRTF will fly three science instruments in orbit around the sun for perhaps as long as five years — as long as the liquid helium lasts to keep the imaging systems cooled to absolute zero. One of the instruments, a highly sensitive camera called MIPS that will take images of the coolest objects in space, will use the first true imaging arrays at far-infrared wavelengths. It was built by a team headed by George H. Rieke of the University of Arizona and delivered to NASA last March.
 
Members of Meyer’s team are:
 
* Dean C. Hines, Jonathan I. Lunine, Renu Malhotra, Erick T. Young (University   of Arizona)
* Dana E. Backman (Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa.) * Steven V.W. Beckwith, David R. Soderblom (Space Telescope Science   Institute)
* John M. Carpenter, Lynne A. Hillenbrand, Deborah L. Padgett, John R.   Stauffer (California Institute of Technology)
* Martin Cohen (University of California)
* Thomas K. Henning (Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany) * David J. Hollenbach (NASA Ames Research Center)
* Joan Najita, Stephen E. Strom (National Optical Astronomy Observatories) * Dan M. Watson (University of Rochester)
* Stuart J. Weidenschilling (Planetary Science Institute)
 
Members of Kennicutt’s team are:
 
* Marcia Rieke, George Rieke, Chad Englebracht, Karl Gordon (University of   Arizona)
* Daniela Calzetti, Claus Leitherer, Michael Regan (Space Telescope Science   Institute)
* Bruce Draine (Princeton University)
* George Helou, Danny Dale, Lee Armus (Infrared Processing and Analysis   Center, Catech)
* Dave Hollenbach (NASA Ames Research Center)
* Sangeeta Malhotra (Johns Hopkins University)
* Michelle Thornley (Bucknell University)
 
*** EDITORS: Rob Kennicutt returns tomorrow afternoon from observing on Kitt Peak, Ariz. — possibly earlier, given the overcast skies in southern Arizona.)***

SpaceRef staff editor.