Public Event

5 December 2008

The NV400 Conference opened with a Public Event at the Great Hall of the People on Sunday morning, October 12, featuring three distinguished scientists on the topic of creativity and technology in astronomical discovery.

Dr. R. Giacconi
Image Credit:
Professor Riccardo Giacconi

Riccardo Giacconi is University Professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in the USA. He was born in Genoa, Italy, October 6, 1931. He grew up in Milano, except for a period during World War II. He received his PhD from the University of Milano in 1956 for a thesis on cosmic ray astronomy, confirming one of Enrico Fermi´s model of nuclear interactions. He held postdocs in high energy physics at Indiana University (on a Fulbright Fellowship) and at Princeton University before joining American Science and Engineering in 1959. He started a group to do space science, eventually designed the first X-Ray telescopes and flew a rocket payload in 1962 that discovered the first X-ray star, Sco X-1. That discovery was the beginning of X-ray astronomy, leading to the X-ray satellites UHURU, Einstein and Chandra. Over the years, he discovered the cosmic X-ray background, many binary stars that are now thought to harbor black holes and the massive X-ray halos of clusters of galaxies. For the initial work in X-ray astronomy, he received 1/2 of the 2002 Nobel Prize, along with Ray Davis and Masatoshi Koshiba (for the detection of astrophysical neutrinos).

He was appointed as a professor at Harvard University in 1973. There, Giacconi and his team developed sophisticated data management techniques to allow X-ray observatories to produce standard data products for astronomers world-wide. In 1982, he became the first Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, applying the techniques developed for Einstein to create the operations planning and data reduction and archiving system for the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1990, he became the Director General of ESO and led the successful development of the four, 8-meter optical telescopes that make up the Very Large Telescope. In 1999, he returned to the USA as President of the Associated Universities, Inc., the consortium responsible for developing the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, due to be finished in 2010.

Riccardo Giacconi thus had a leading role in developing the largest telescopes in four areas of astronomy: X-ray, Ultraviolet, Optical and Radio. He has played an unparalleled role in the development of observational capabilities in the modern era.

Dr.T.D. Lee
Image Credit:
Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory
Professor Tsung-Dao Lee

Prof. Tsung-Dao Lee is a University professor at Columbia University and a world renowned physicist. He was born in Shanghai on November 24th, 1926. From 1943 to 1945 he studied at Zhejiang University and then at Southwest Associated University in Kunming, which consisted of Peking and Tsinghua Universities from Beijing and Nankai University from Tianjing. From 1946 to 1950, he was Enrico Fermi’s PhD student at the University of Chicago, and received his PhD degree on his doctoral thesis “Hydrogen Content of White Dwarf Stars.” Between 1950-1953, he worked as a research associate at the Yerkes Astronomical Observatory in Wisconsin, at the University of California at Berkeley, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. In 1953, he joined Columbia University. Three years later, at age 29, he became the youngest full professor in Columbia University’s faculty history. In 1957, when he shared the Nobel Prize in physics with C. N. Yang for parity nonconservation, he was the second youngest scientist in Nobel history.
Professor Lee continues to work actively at the frontiers of physics. He has published over 300 scientific papers and received various prestigious awards. From the time of his PhD thesis, Prof. Lee has had a long lasting interest in astrophysics. His recent publications are on the possible link between the physics of heavy ion collisions and the physics of dark energy in the universe. Today, these are the most challenging areas of research in both high energy physics and astrophysics.

Prof. Lee has been a driving force in promoting educational and research opportunities for young scholars in China. He is a founding member of the successful US-China collaboration on high energy physics. He was instrumental in the establishment of many scientific and academic organizations in China, including the CUSPEA and Postdoctoral programs, the Beijing Electron Positron Collider (BEPC), the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation and the China Center of Advanced Science and Technology (CCAST).
Prof. Lee remarks “The invention of the telescope enabled humankind to probe how heavenly bodies communicate with each other. In turn, this remarkable invention has led to our comprehension of basic laws of physics”. Reflecting on this theme, Prof. Lee’s presentation is titled “From the Language of Heaven to the Rationale of Matter”.

Geoff marcy
Image Credit:
Laurie Hatch
Professor Geoff Marcy

Geoff Marcy attended public schools in Los Angeles from 1959 to 1972. His favorite classes were chemistry and physics in high school, where he played cello in the orchestra and competed on the tennis and track teams.  Attending UCLA, he was inspired by many professors including Ray Orbach, George Abell, and Mike Jura. He attended graduate school at the University of California at Santa Cruz where his primary advisor was Dr. George Herbig for five years. Herbig took Geoff to the Lick Observatory "120-inch" telescope every month where he learned observational techniques, especially stellar spectroscopy.  Meanwhile, a young professor, Steven Vogt, built new, high resolution spectrometers and detectors that ultimately would make planet detection possible.  Geoff's Ph.D. dissertation involved measuring the Zeeman effect in Sun-like stars.  He then accepted a Carnegie Fellowship at the "Mt. Wilson and Las Campanas Observatories" in Pasadena.  While there, he decided to hunt for planets around other stars.  Geoff took a faculty position at San Francisco State University where he met a sharp student, Paul Butler.  They developed a new technique, based on iodine gas, to measure Doppler shifts of stars to a precision3 meters/sec.

In 1995, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the first extrasolar planet. Marcy and Butler confirmed it within a week, and then used their iodine technique to discover planets orbiting 70 Virginis and 47 Ursae Majoris within two months.  Within two years, Marcy and Butler found 10 more planets.  By 2007 they had found another 140 planets, providing the first statistically robust information about the masses, orbital distances, and orbital eccentricities of other planets. In 1999, Marcy and Butler, working with Debra Fischer, discovered the first multiple-planet system (upsilon Andromedae) which had the clear architecture of a planetary system.  They also co-discovered a transiting planet crossing in front of HD 209458. They later found the first Saturn-mass and Neptune-mass planets. These extrasolar planets have sparked a new search for habitable worlds, using spaceborne telescopes, notably "Kepler", the "Space Interferometry Mission", and the "Terrestrial Planet Finder", each designed to detect Earth-like planets in different domains of parameter space.

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