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Jesus Maiz-Apellaniz

Jesús Maíz Apellániz

(Institution of Astrophysics of Andalucía, Spain)

Anybody who knew Jesús Maíz Apellániz as a kid would probably have predicted that he would go on to become an astronomer. After all, how many 6-year-olds memorize the names of the only eight stars colder than the sun from a book (and tell them to basically every one who come to their house, whether they are interested or not)? Jesús, who was born in beautiful San Sebastián in the Basque Country near the Spanish-French border and grew up in Madrid, finally ended up traveling thousands of miles to fulfill his professional wish. He studied at the California Institute of Technology ( Caltech ) and later acquired his Master of Arts in Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley . After that, he went back to Spain, where he taught for a couple of years at university, before recently obtaining his Ph.D. in Astrophysics at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid .

Although he likes all fields in astronomy, he is most fascinated by mysteries about stellar evolution, so he focuses on star formation in nearby galaxies. Sometimes when he is trying to solve these mysteries using today's complicated instruments, huge telescopes and sophisticated computers, he wonders how the ancient Greeks like Hipparchos, Ptolemy or Aristarchus were able to calculate, as correctly as they did, the size of the Earth or the distance to the Moon without any aid other than simple measurements and mathematics.

When Jesús is not working at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía in Granada, Spain, he likes watching movies, cooking, and writing in his blog. And he is still an avid reader, although he does not insist any more on telling everything he learned to everybody who happens to come his way.......

Nolan Walborn

Nolan Walborn


Although he was born just 200 km north of Baltimore, astronomer Nolan Walborn traveled widely before returning to this area of the world. When he was 8 years old his family moved to Argentina, where he attended local schools and became fluent in Spanish. Returning to the U.S., he did undergraduate studies at Gettysburg College, back home in Pennsylvania, and then moved on to the University of Chicago and Yerkes Observatory to obtain his PhD in astronomy in 1970. His thesis advisor was one of the giants of 20th-century astronomy, W. W. Morgan.

After a postdoctoral fellowship in Toronto, Nolan returned to Latin America for an 8-year staff appointment at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. He has been on the staff of the Space Telescope Science Institute since 1984, and he is a well-known stellar spectroscopist specializing in the optical and ultraviolet spectra of hot, massive (O- and B-type) stars and the regions of the Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds in which they are formed.

Nolan recalls that his fascination with science in general and astronomy in particular arose because of outstanding teachers in high school (Dr. N. Mittelman) and college (Dr. R. Mara and staff). This fascination was actually enough for him to abandon his original ambition to become a jet fighter pilot!

He writes that his astronomical career has allowed him the great satisfaction "provided by the discovery of new phenomena, which one has the privilege of recognizing for the first time." He has been struck by the "awesome direct views of the Galaxy during perfect, moonless nights on Cerro Tololo," especially when "the Galactic Center is directly overhead, and the brilliant plane of the Milky Way, broken by dark dust lanes and clouds, stretches from Cygnus at the northeastern horizon to Carina at the southwestern."

Waxing lyrical, he continues "When beholding such sights I am impressed by their beauty, but equally by the satisfaction of understanding them at some level, which previous generations were unable to do lacking the benefit of our modern sciences. I'll never forget the images of 30 Doradus and the globular clusters Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae through an eyepiece at the prime focus of the CTIO 4-meter reflector. Unfortunately, most modern astronomers no longer have such opportunities, seeing their targets only on colorless, fuzzy TV monitors--or not at all with HST!"

When away from STScI, Nolan spends time with his wife, Laura, from Argentina, who also has an astronomy degree, and their children Andrew and Katherine. He enjoys listening to baroque and symphonic music (Bach and Vaughan Williams being his respective favorites), and he wishes he had more opportunities to snorkel in tropical waters.

Ed Nelan

Ed Nelan


Grade school friends of Ed Nelan noticed he was a little bit different than most kids. In seventh grade he was a subscriber to Scientific American and was one of the few kids that actually enjoyed math. Although he loved to look at the sky (what little of it could be seen from his native town in northeastern New Jersey), Ed's main interest turned to physics, which he studied at Steven's Institute of Technology in Hoboken New Jersey. From there Ed moved on to study computer science at the University of Vermont, a place where the night sky, especially in winter, can be a beautiful thing to behold.

After completing the Master's degree program, Ed moved down the road to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire to pursue a PhD in Astronomy. There he worked with Gary Wegner to develop model atmosphere code to study atmospheres of white dwarf stars. Then it was on to STScI as an Operations Astronomer to help develop the HST ground system. While at STScI Ed was attracted to the astrometric potential of HST and so became a member of the Space Telescope Astrometry Team, during which time he became an expert at the use of HST's Fine Guidance Sensor as a science instrument. Today, Ed is the FGS Instrument Scientist for both HST and JWST. He still studies white dwarf stars, along with every other kind of star, with the high mass stars being a particular favorite. While in northern New England, Ed developed a love of down hill skiing, which, having been exposed to the Chesapeake Bay, is now complemented by an interest in sailing.

Nidia Morrell

Nidia Morrell

(Carnegie Institution of Washington/Las Campanas Observatory)

Nidia Morrell did her astronomy studies at La Plata University (1984); her Ph.D. advisor was Hugo Levato. She then had a postdoctoral fellowship sponsored by CONICET-Argentina to do research at KPNO (1989-90), under Helmut Abt's advice. Back in Argentina she did research and teaching at La Plata University.
Most of her work was in early type stars in star forming regions and massive binaries. At La Plata, she was a member of the Massive Stars research group leaded by Virpi Niemela.

In late 2002 Nidia joined the scientific staff of Las Campanas Observatory, and later, the Carnegie Supernova Project (as part time researcher) while she continues to collaborate in massive stars studies. Las Campanas Observatory is located in La Serena, Chile. The observatory is operated by the Carnegie Institute of Washington.
Virpi Niemela

Virpi Niemela

(1936-2006; National University of La Plata)

"Virpi holds a special place in many astronomers hearts." -J. Maiz Apellaniz

Virpi Niemela  was born in Finland but moved to Argentina when she was 17. She s tudied astronomy at the La Plata University Observatory in Argentina, obtaining her Ph.D in 1974. She spent much of her scientific life researching Wolf-Rayet and other massive stars. Throughout her career, she was a visiting professor/astronomer in Brazil, Chile, France and at ESO  but spent much of her academic years at the  National University of La Plata in Argentina. In December 2006, she was honored with an international scientific meeting on massive stars that was held in La Plata. The conference, held in her name, was also in honor of her upcoming 70th birthday. She passed within days of the closing of the conference, grateful to have been recently surrounded by so many friends and colleagues.

Image taken from the poster for the meeting on Massive Stars in her honor.