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Ian J.E. Jordan

Ian J. E. Jordan

(Space Telescope Science Institute)

My mom was an avid astronomer, even substitute-lecturing at Butler planetarium (in addition to many wild adventures in her life), so astronomy is in my blood. The space program is even more of an obsession with me. Following two handfuls of primary and secondary schools in Missouri, Arizona, and Nevada, I settled into the University of Nevada and received a bachelors in physics.

After traveling the US, the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. hired me as an astrometric observer and data analyst on the 6” transit circle in 1988. Two years later, a transfer to Blenheim, New Zealand allowed me to work with the 7” automated transit-circle detachment, building observing schedules, maintaining software, performing telescope maintenance, and providing administrative support. New Zealand was too beautiful to leave so soon, so I resigned in 1995 to spend more time there, and eventually met my wife-to-be. Returning to the US the following year, I worked briefly for the University of Maryland’s Astronomy Dept. under a Planetary Data Systems data archival contract.

For the last 7 years I’ve had the privilege of being a ‘long range planner’ (integrated science planning) on the HST project with Computer Sciences Corporation at the Space Telescope Science Institute. There is one more course remaining before I finish up a MSc. of Engineering in Applied Physics from Johns Hopkins! Additionally, over the last 6 years, I’ve been part of a team investigating design and feasibility of external occulters for use with space telescopes: UMBRAS. External occulters (or on-axis light baffles) are a relatively simple way to augment direct extrasolar planet detection techniques, but to find them occulters must be deployed in space because the system scaling is so vast.

Work, research, school, and a family—my wife and two preschool boys—are certainly keeping me busy! If I stopped to think about it, I would probably look forward to the day when I can return to exploring more of the planet, read for pleasure, write stories, play chess, and hike and camp with my family.

The power and utility of HST is demonstrated clearly in Heritage’s image of the Arp-Madore ring galaxy AM0644-741. A colleague introduced me to this example of universal majesty years ago and it has been a persistent undercurrent in my dreamtime ever since. The best I could achieve with a few hours on a 24” Perkin-Elmer B&C in admittedly not-so-great seeing pales in comparison. But the pedigree of this ring’s nucleus is much different than that of the Cartwheel’s (cf., the Heritage image with HST/WFPC2’s famous Ring galaxy), and the differences cannot be distinguished in ground-based images from even the best telescopes. This type of ring galaxy is probably a kind of galactic-scale “splash”. Tremaine’s simulations show that the ring itself is likely a clumping of expanding (or contracting) material sheparded together by a near-head-on collision between this galaxy and another. The blueness of the ring clearly shows that star formation is enhanced in the ring compared to the nucleus. The source of the slight warp in the ring’s uniformity has not been identified, however it is likely a remnant of the galaxy’s previous history or interaction with one of the two spheroidal companions—one of which was the likely impactor.

HST isn’t just one more in a long series of NASA astronomy and space enterprises, it has a special place in people’s hearts and minds all over the world because it has refined the optical view of the universe like no other telescope in our lifetimes. To me, HST represents the best of America and humanity, and is a shining symbol of benevolent exploration, triumph over tragedy, and an unparalleled example of what teamwork and determination can do. Heritage offers this image of the universe’s very own engagement ring to bring you closer to your cosmos through the eye of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Jay Anders