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Heritage team member Anne Kinney invited colleagues to participate in this special component of the Hubble Heritage Project. They were instrumental in selecting the 3 edge-on galaxies which 8000 people voted on between January 6 and February 14, 1999. These guest observers helped aim the telescope at the winning polar-ring galaxy, NGC 4650A, by working out many of the technical details. (Some challenges of aiming the telescope are described by P.C. Mike Asbury.) This science team is currently doing the scientific analysis of these data and their results will be posted as soon as they are available. The Hubble Heritage asked the NGC 4650A science team to introduce themselves to you.

Our polar ring Heritage science team shares common interests in the origins and evolutionary processes in galaxies. Within this general area we have different specialities. For example, Gallagher and Matthews work with images to measure structures of galaxies, Kinney focuses on interpreting the spectra produced by stars and other processes in galaxies, while Sparke is a theorist who seeks to understand the way that gravity acts to produce the observed structures and motions in galaxies. We also share connections to Wisconsin, and our group enjoys gathering on the shores of Lake Mendota in Madison.

by Jay Gallagher, Lynn Matthews, Linda Sparke, and Anne Kinney


A Circle of Scientists

Professor Jay Gallagher mainly grew up in the suburbs of New York City during the peak of the space race, when thoughts about space and astronomy were hard to avoid. Having been interested in the stars by his grandmother and by really seeing the sky during a winter he spent in Manchester, Vermont, he was primed to become seriously involved in astronomy. He finally succumbed as an undergraduate at Princeton University. While a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is now a member of the Astronomy faculty, Prof. Gallagher did a Ph.D. thesis based on observations of an exploding star obtained with the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory A-2, the first robotic ultraviolet space astronomy observatory. He later became interested in galaxies. In addition to his astronomy, he is trying with less success to add to his family's gardening skills, a task made more challenging by Wisconsin's famous "four season" climate.

Most of Prof. Gallagher's astronomical work is based on observations made with telescopes on Earth and in space. His research developed while he held positions at several different places, most notably the Universities of Minnesota and Illinois and at the Lowell Observatory, before coming back to Madison. Currently he is working on a variety of research projects, including studies of the history of star formation in nearby galaxies using the Hubble Space Telescope and the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope on Kitt Peak. He is a member of the science team responsible for the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in the Hubble Space Telescope, that we used to make these Heritage Observations, and is involved in the International Gemini 8-m Telescopes project that is building advanced technology telescopes on Hawaii and in Chile.

(See the notes below about the spherical cow.)

Dr. Anne Kinney grew up in a house designed by Frank Loyd Wright in a small town in southwestern Wisconsin. Her father had been the communications officer on the mine sweeper Inaugural in the Pacific during World War II, where he learned to navigate by the stars. He was always looking up into the dark skies of rural Wisconsin and pointing out the constellations, which stirred her early interest in astronomy. Dr Kinney pursued her interest at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received a degree in physics and astronomy. After several years study at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen she settled in Greenwitch Village, where she earned her Ph.D. in physics at New York University (working in the reverse direction as that taken by Dr. Gallagher).

Dr. Kinney works on many topics surrounding both normal and active galaxies. Currently, she is using a number of different telescopes at a number of different wavebands to understand the accretion disks which supply active galaxies with their source of energy. Although she has recently observed on telescopes in Chile, Hawaii, New Mexico, Arizona, and in space, she is much chagrinned that her father still knows the constellations better than she does.

Dr. Lynn Matthews was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She received her bachelor's degree in astronomy-physics from the University of Wisconsin--Madison in 1991, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1998. Currently Dr. Matthews is a postdoctoral researcher at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, VA, where she studies the structure and evolution of galaxy disks through observations at radio, optical, and near-infrared wavelengths. These studies are performed using telescopes and instruments at facilities throughout the world, including locations in Arizona, West Virginia, France, and Chile, as well as telescopes in space.

Dr. Matthews first became intrigued by astronomy as a child, when her Girl Scout troop developed their own "star-gazer" badge, whose requirements included visiting a local planetarium and learning the layout of the night sky. This interest was rekindled in high school physics class, where her instructor used his avid interest in amateur astronomy to incorporate a great deal of astronomy and its history into his lectures. Before long, Lynn was hooked, and became convinced to pursue astronomy as a career. Having come from Green Bay, she also continues to follow the Packers and maintains her long term interests in reading and languages.

Professor Linda Sparke is a native of London, England. She watched the Apollo moonflights as a teenager, and later the close-up pictures of the giant planets and their satellites, from flyby missions. Amazed by the accuracy with which humans on Earth could calculate the flight paths of spacecraft, steering them safely to an orbit millions of miles away, she decided to study physics and astronomy. After undergraduate training in applied mathematics at Cambridge University, she went into astronomy as a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley. Her interests focus on the many ways that gravity can act to produce the observed patterns of stars in galaxies. While gravity is supposed to be a simple force, matters can get very complicated in a galaxy of more than 100 billion stars, as well as the "dark matter", which is of unknown nature, but has more mass than all the stars put together. This research led her naturally to investigations of "polar ring" galaxies, of which NGC 4650A is a prime example, and she is a leading expert in interpreting the structures of these bizarre galaxies.

Prof. Sparke has held positions at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, and the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in Groningen (Netherlands), before joining the faculty in Madison. Her hobbies include cooking, quibbling, falling over in ballet class, and staring blankly into the middle distance.

The Spherical Cow:

Scientists strive to discover simple rules which underlie complex natural phenomena. For example, when making a model of some complex object a scientist may make some pretty extreme assumptions. For example, when asked to find the force of gravity produced by a complicated object like a galaxy, astronomers will usually start by assuming that it acts like a sphere, which in this and many other cases allows one to make approximate first solutions to complicated problems.

This tendancy to simplify gave rise to the joke of a science professor who begins a lecture, "Consider a spherical cow..." Since Wisconsin is well known to have a large population of dairy cows, it is not too surprising that the University of Wisconsin astronomers and astrophyscists selected this picture of a spherical cow made by Ingrid Kallick as their symbol for a recent national meeting of astronomers in Madison.

Learn more on the web:
University of Wisconsin-Madison Astronomy
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Observatorie de Paris, including the Nancay radio telescope used by Matthews
The Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 Science Team, headquartered at Jet Propulsion Laboratory