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Nino Panagia
Nino Panagia

Nino Panagia

Astronomer Nino Panagia (pronounced Pahn-ah-gee-ah) was born and grew up in Rome, Italy. He earned his doctorate in Physics at Rome University in 1966, with a thesis on theoretical models of massive stars. Soon afterwards he turned his interest to the study of nebulae and stellar winds.

In the late '60s and early '70s he held positions at the Institute for Space Astrophysics in Frascati, near Rome, and in Bologna, at the Institute of Radioastronomy. During this time, he broadened his interests from studies at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths to include also work on the radio and infrared properties of nebulae. He spent a year at Cornell University, collaborating with Yervant Terzian and others, where he started a series of model calculations of the far-infrared emission from nebulae.

In 1979 he assumed leadership of a European team that carried out observations of supernovae with the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite. This was the beginning of Panagia's long-term involvement with supernova studies (and made him an observational astronomer, in addition to his theoretical credentials). His team's approach involved using observations at many different wavelengths (spanning from radio to gamma rays) to understand the nature of stellar explosions.

In 1984 Nino came to the Space Telescope Science Institute. From 1986 to 1995, however, he also tried to be in two places at once, since he was appointed Professor of Astronomy and taught part-time at the University of Catania (Sicily). Since 1995 he has worked full time at STScI. His current Institute work is involved with the Next Generation Space Telescope project.

His research activity on supernovae led to the first thorough study of the radio emission from a supernova (SN 1979C, which is still being followed with the Very Large Array radio telescope), and the first detailed study of the new class of Type Ib supernovae. Since the launch of HST, Panagia has been involved in a detailed study of the supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, SN 1987A, and its vicinity. This work led to determination of a very precise distance to the LMC, which is a fundamental step in the cosmological distance-scale ladder.

When he is not doing astronomy, Nino listens to Baroque music, spends time in the kitchen (where he is a master of southern Italian cooking), gardens, and ice skates at a nearby rink. During vacations he can be found snorkeling in the Caribbean.