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SIRTF Profiles: Ned Wright

SIRTF Science Working Group

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Ned Wright 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.

In his spare time Ned Wright likes to play around with HTML, Javascript, Java and the World Wide Web. He has a cosmology 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.

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