Peter Gierasch 1940-2023

Peter Gierasch, a Cornell astronomer whose mathematical models unveiled the turbulent vortices, tempestuous eddies and atmospheric tumult arising on other worlds – long before spacecraft could consistently prove it with images – died Jan. 20 in Ithaca. He was 82. Gierasch, a professor emeritus of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, contributed to a wealth of knowledge on the processes of planetary atmospheres – specifically Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. He served as a team scientist on the Viking, Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo and Cassini missions for NASA.

The above is an excerpt from a longer story describing Peter’s professional contributions and other remembrances by Blaine Friedlander. See below for the full article. 

Here is a listing to his AAS DPS 2014 Kuiper Prize citation: prizes/2014

Robert W. Carlson 1941-2022

Robert “Bob” Carlson died peacefully in his sleep in Reno, Nevada, surrounded by family, after a months-long battle with cancer. Bob was a brilliant scientist, as well as an amazing mentor, friend, husband, father, and grandfather. Those of you who knew him likely recall fond memories of his soft, but detailed approach to any problem – always gracious and insightful. He was born in Waseca, Minnesota, graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1963, and received his PhD in physics from the University of Southern California in 1970. Bob spent most of his career (1978-2016) at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. As Principal Investigator of the Galileo Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS), he was also the greatest skeptic of the results. Among many firsts made by Bob and the NIMS team, the discovery of hydrogen peroxide and a radiolytic sulfur cycle on Europa have transformed our understanding of the potential habitability of that world, and have helped set the stage for future exploration. As an AGU Fellow and Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets, he worked hard to see the best in every manuscript. In the lab, Bob was meticulous and diligent, enjoying every opportunity to solve a new planetary puzzle. He is survived by wife Kathie, sister Jeanne Withroe, his two daughters Jill Carlson and Kristen Conway, and his four beloved grandchildren Noah, Bridget, and Caleb Conway, and Cooper Carlson.

Anny-Chantale Levasseur-Regourd 1945-2022

Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd (ACLR, as she liked to call herself) combined in her work ground-based and space-based observations as well as laboratory and numerical simulations to better understand the physical properties of cometary and interplanetary dust. She was appointed as a professor of astronomy and space physics at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI) in 1985 and became professor emeritus in 2013, combining teaching activities with the research at the Service d’Aéronomie and, since 2009, LATMOS institute. In 1977, she applied to the ESA astronaut selection campaign and was the only woman selected amongst the final participants.

She started her research with studies of the interplanetary medium and derived the first global map in intensity and polarization of the zodiacal light, providing constraints on the local physical properties of the interplanetary dust particles.

ACLR participated in the international campaign of Halley’s comet both with observations from the ground and as the PI of the OPE experiment on-board the European Giotto spacecraft, which observed the linear polarization in the inner coma of the comet. She continued her work on the study of light scattering by irregular particles by developing facilities in the laboratory and in microgravity (such as PROGRA2, CODAG and ICAPS-LSU) to simultaneously study the intensity and polarization of aggregated particles. ACLR participated in the Rosetta mission, and actively participated in the development of the EnVisS camera, a multiwavelength polarimetric imager of the ESA Comet Interceptor spacecraft due to be launched in 2029.

Edited from a longer tribute:

Klaus Keil 1934-2022

Klaus Keil was Emeritus Professor, former Director of the Hawai`i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, and former Interim Dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. Klaus was an outstanding scientist, spectacular mentor, educator, and leader, dedicated family man, and enthusiastic tennis player. His academic and science leadership skills glittered at the University of Hawai`i since 1990 and at the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico from 1968 to 1990.

Klaus was a pioneer in the use of the electron microprobe in meteoritics and in petrology and mineralogy in general. In the early 1960s, he worked with colleagues at NASA Ames Research Center, Ray Fitzgerald and Kurt Heinrich, to make the first energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer for use in microanalysis. This device was the first to focus on terrestrial and extraterrestrial geological materials, and the first to use a solid-state lithium-drifted Si detector. Over his long and illustrious career, Klaus studied practically every type of meteorite and lunar sample, addressing big problems in planetary science, from chondrule formation to pyroclastic eruptions on the Moon and achondritic bodies, from asteroid disruption to the composition of the Martian surface.

His accomplishments were recognized through awards of the Leonard Medal from the Meteoritical Society, the J. Lawrence Smith Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, and election as a Legends Fellow of the Microanalysis Society, in addition to numerous other accolades including the main belt asteroid Keil and the extraterrestrial mineral keilite, (Fe,Mg)S, named in his honor.

Edited for length; longer version here:

Paul Feldman (1939-2022)

Astronomer Paul Feldman, a worldwide leading authority on comets who pioneered the field of ultraviolet spectroscopy of comets, died at home on Jan. 26, 2022. He was 82. In addition to pioneering contributions to cometary science, Feldman—professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Academy Professor—made similar contributions to the fields of planetary and satellite atmospheres and astronomical instrumentation. He was principal investigator of a NASA-supported sounding rocket program and was responsible for more than 50 sounding rocket launches to study the Earth’s upper atmosphere, the aurora and the airglow, the atmospheres of comets and planets, the spectra of hot stars, and cosmic background radiation. He is largely responsible for Johns Hopkins’ reputation as a leader in solar system ultraviolet astrophysics and spectroscopy.

Feldman’s program also developed the UVX experiment that flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in January 1986. He was principal investigator for a program of comet studies, including Comet Halley in 1985-1986, using the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite observatory. He was a co-investigator on the team that developed the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope for FUV astronomy as part of the Astro payload that flew on the space shuttle in December 1990 and again in March 1995, and was a general observer with the Hubble Space Telescope and served on the Space Telescope Users Committee from 1992 to 1995. He was also a member of the FUSE science team and a co-investigator on the HST Advanced Camera for Surveys, and a member of the NASA science teams for the Rosetta and LRO ultraviolet spectrometers team and the Europa Clipper UVS team.

“Feldman’s work was notable for its great breadth and depth,” said Harold (Hal) Weaver, research professor in the department, principal professional staff at Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, and a former student of Feldman.

This is abbreviated from a much longer tribute found at this link:

Walter F. Huebner (1928-2021) 

Walter F. Huebner, world-renowned astrophysicist and planetary scientist (specializing in comets), passed away peacefully at his home in Norman, Oklahoma, on June 1, 2021. Walter worked as a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and later at the Southwest Research Institute, and he also held many professional leadership and service positions, such as President of IAU Commission 15 (Small Bodies of the Solar System), President of the Permanent Monitoring Panel for Cosmic Objects (at international seminars on Nuclear War and Planetary Emergencies), a Program Manager at NASA Headquarters, and a visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Sao Paulo, and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysicist. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and was a participant in Operation Dominic at Christmas Island. Walter was known not only for his invaluable scientific work and insights, but also for his kind, gentle, and generous nature. He had a wonderful sense of humor, a lifelong passion for travel, and was loved by all who knew him.

Adapted from Boice, D. 2021, DPS, 102.01 presentation.

17 Oct 2021

Gordon Pettengill (1926-2021)

Dr. Gordon Pettengill died on May 8, 2021 at his home in Concord, Massachusetts at the age of 95. Dr. Pettengill was one of the very early pioneers in the use of radar to explore solar system bodies while working at the Millstone Hill facility of Lincoln Laboratories. Having assisted Bill Gordon during the construction of the Arecibo telescope via many trips to Arecibo in the early 1960s, Dr. Pettengill joined the staff of the observatory as Associate Director in 1963.  Between then and when he resigned in late 1965, he worked with Rolf Dyce, Tommy Thompson, Andy Sanchez (U. of Puerto Rico) and, after January,1965, myself on observations of the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars. He returned in late 1968 to be the observatory’s director, a position he held until December 1970 when he took up a position as Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT. Dr. Pettengill continued his involvement with the radar program at Arecibo, especially observations in the 1970s of the Galilean Satellites and Rings of Saturn working with Steve Ostro, who was a graduate student at MIT, and myself. Gordon was the PI on the radar altimeter instrument on the 1978 Pioneer Venus mission to Venus and he was also the PI on the later Magellan mission to that planet.

From Don Campbell, more at Arecibo Observatory website:

3 Oct 2021

Terrence Rettig (1946-2021)

Terrence Rettig, retired professor of astrophysics in the Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame, died Aug 22, 2021. In addition to teaching, Rettig served as a program director with the National Science Foundation and helped to establish the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program at Notre Dame — the longest-running REU program for physics in the country. “I view him as the founder of astronomy at Notre Dame,” said Peter Garnavich, professor of physics and chair of the Department of Physics. “Terry started as a teaching professor and his work was so impressive he was put on the tenure track. That shows how excellent he was at both teaching and research.” Rettig was instrumental in coordinating Notre Dame’s partnership with the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory. His research primarily focused on understanding the collapse of proto-planetary disks and the conditions and constraints under which planets form. Rettig’s work to understand comets and planet formation gained unique recognition in 2000 when the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid after Rettig.

More found at this website:

3 Oct 2021

Carolyn Shoemaker (1929-2021)

American astronomer and co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, Carolyn Shoemaker, passed away on August 13, 2021, at the age of 92.

‘Carolyn was quite extraordinary,’ noted Lisa Gaddis, Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute. ‘Although her scientific career began after she and her husband Gene raised their family, she became one of the world’s foremost discoverers of comets and asteroids. She was smart, witty, and just so practical; she was an example to younger women and budding scientists everywhere as someone who made a difference in her own way.’

She discovered 32 comets and more than 500 asteroids. She was a research professor at Northern Arizona University, and the recipient of the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, the National Academies of Science Watson Medal, and the Rittenhouse Medal. Minor Planet 4445 Carolyn is named in her honor.

From: Mary Chapman and Lisa Gaddis via and Mark Sykes via Planetary Exploration Newsletter.

23 Aug 2021

John W. (Jack) Salisbury (1934-2020)

Jack graduated from Amherst College near the top of his class (Phi Beta Kappa) where he met and married his first wife, Lynne (Trowbridge). They had two sons, John in 1960 and Matt in 1965. Following completion of his PhD and a stint in the US Air Force, he began work with the Air Force Civilian Research Laboratory at Hanscom AFB. There he was part of a small team that helped divine the surface characteristics of the moon by developing new near and mid-infrared remote sensing technologies. This work was integral in the design of the lunar lander for the Apollo 11 mission. He appeared alongside Walter Cronkite on television during the coverage of the lunar landing in 1969 to help explain things.

In 1975, Jack started work with the Energy Research and Development Administration and subsequently the US Department of Energy. After many years there, he went on to teach geologic remote sensing at Johns Hopkins University. He retired and moved to Palm Coast, Florida in 1997 with his wife Lynne, who passed away in 2008. His passion for science kept him consulting in remote sensing and spectral interpretation until earlier this year, when at the age of 87 he decided to retire completely.

A longer tribute is provided here: