SIRTF Profiles: Ned Wright
SIRTF Science Working Group
has been working on SIRTF since the days of the Focal Plane
Instrumentation Requirements and Science Team, which met at NASA Ames
Research Center during the 1970's. He remembers first hearing about
SIRTF in 1974, when both SIRTF and LIRTS (the Large Infrared Telescope
in Space) were missions that planned to fly in the shuttle payload bay
for 1- or 2-week-long missions with frequent reflights.
Ned Wright got into infrared astronomy as a graduate student at Harvard by
helping to build, fly, and analyze the data from Giovanni Fazio's 102-cm
balloon-borne far-infrared telescope. He also went on many observing runs
at Kitt Peak, Mt. Hopkins, Cerro Tololo, Las Campanas and South Africa
with single-channel bolometers, indium antimonide, and even lead sulfide
detectors. Many apparently beautiful nights were ruined by thin cirrus
clouds whose thermal infrared emission would make the pen on the strip
chart literally slam from one stop to the other. One of the big advantages
SIRTF has over ground-based IR astronomy is the absence of weather.
After Harvard, Ned went to the Physics Department at MIT and got involved
in planning and designing the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE, launched
in 1989) and in using the the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO). Seeking
clearer skies he went to UCLA, starting full-time in 1982. When the SIRTF
science working group was selected in 1984, Wright was one of the two
interdisciplinary scientists chosen. The other was his colleague in the
next office at UCLA, Mike Jura. The picture above was taken at a summer
camp for UCLA alumni at Lake Arrowhead, CA. The little girl shown in the
picture was born a year after the SIRTF SWG was selected and is now six
feet tall and off to college.
Java and the World Wide Web. He has a
tutorial website that is usually close to the top of a Google search
on "cosmology." Sometimes the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy probe (WMAP)
edges ahead into first place, but Ned has been involved in this COBE
follow-on project, launched in 2001, since it was just a concept.