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Mike Meakes



This is actually my second job at the Space Telescope Science Institute. I now work in the Catalogs and Surveys Branch here at STScI. Our job was to build a catalog of stars that the HST would use to navigate the sky and track the stars and galaxies that the astronomers want to look at. This catalog is kinda like a giant phone book with the names and address' of about 25 million objects, most of which are stars. It tells us were to find the stars and how bright they are. Since all of the stars move in different directions from each other a little bit all the time, we also have to make sure we keep all of the positions (address') up to date so that the HST can continue to find them. We made this catalog from about 1,500 pictures of the whole sky that we made into computer pictures.

After the catalog was made we still had all of those computer pictures of the sky. A funny thing happened! It seemed like every astronomer in the world wanted to use our computer pictures in one way or another and we had a hard time helping them all do that. Our biggest problem was that the computer pictures took up 600,000 megabytes of storage space. Thats like having 400,000 to 600,000 floppy disks of pictures. Almost no one had the space or money for that. So we decided that my job would be to take all of those pictures and compress, or squeeze, them into a smaller space, so they could be stored on CD's for computers. I had to look at every picture very carefully and decide if it was good enough to put on CD's. This is one of my favorite things because I get to see millions of stars, galaxies and nebula everyday. And they are all beautiful to look at and very interesting to think about. Once I had them all squeezed down in size, I arranged for them to be put on 102 CD's. Now all of the astronomers can now have all of our pictures of the sky on their desk, or in their libraries, ready to use anytime they want.

When I was 3 or 4 years old my dad took me outside one night and pointed to bright moving light in the night sky and told me it was "Echo I", one of the very first telecomunications satellites ever. I remember that I didn't really understand why that was special, but I knew it was. Then two years later my dad again took me outside and showed me an eclipse of the moon and explained how the Earth was in between the moon and the sun, and the shadow of the whole Earth was covering the whole moon! **WOW!!** THIS is what got me excited about Astronomy! I now knew that the Earth, Moon and Sun all moved, and sometimes that would make an eclipse. And I SAW one happen!! I knew from that moment on, I wanted to be an astronomer. I wanted to know how the whole world worked.

Within two years I had saved enough money from a paper route, mowing lawns and washing cars to buy my first telescope, which I still have after 30 years. All through Elementary school, Junior high and high school I read every book and magazine on space and rockets I could find. I got up at 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM on my own to look at the stars with my telescope. I watched all of the rocket launchs on TV. Since I lived in California they all seemed to happen before the sun came up in the morning. All of my friends would sometimes come to my house at night so I could show them the moon, Jupiter and Saturn through my telescope and tell them all about what they were seeing. By the time I finished High school I had taken every science and math class my school offered. I was interested in everything.

I spent four years in the United States Marine Corps after I graduated from High School. I remember one night I was in boot camp in the mountains and I got to tell my drill instructor all about the stars and planets. After that night he treated me in a different way - like he liked me, which he wasn't supposed to let us know. After the Marine Corps I went to college at the University of Washington in Seattle. Here I took as many classes in mathmatics, physics and astronomy as I could. I also took classes in chemestry, computer programing, anthropology, genetics, viking history and much more. When I graduated I had a Bachelors degree in Physics and another Bachelors degree in Astronomy. I had worked for several professors doing research, grading papers for other classes and holding question and answer sessions for other students. Nine months later I was working at the STScI. While I am not in school anymore, I still read everything I can about all kind of science, I also take classes about things that interest me.

My first job at STScI was as a data analyst. I helped astronomers from all over the world work on the pictures and spectra they had gotten from HST. I also worked with another astronomer, who also work at HST, with observations made with another telescope in space called the International Ultraviolet Explorer as well as several observatories on the ground.

There are two people who helped me get interested in science. The first one is my dad who explained what was happening in the sky those two nights. The other person I never knew. My grandfather lived and died before I was born. He was a farmer in Saskatchewan, Canada. When my dad was a boy on his farm, he would take all of his children outside at night to watch the Northern lights. They would make notes and drawings about what they saw, felt and heard. He also collected flowers and plants from around his farm. All of that got my father interested in science and medicine. And many years later he got me interested as well.

I have a wife named Linda who is a Marine Biologist, a 16 year old daughter named Charity who wants to be a veterinarian. I also have four cats who love to play. One of their favorite games is "Lets see how much of the house we can travel through WITHOUT touching the floor". I love all kinds of music, from Mozart to Metallica. I love hiking, camping, riding my bike and four wheeling. I also volunteer alot of time teaching mechanical advantage, navigation, cycles of life and and cycles of nature to children on boats and a farm here in Maryland. I also sometimes work as a deck hand on a big two masted sailing ship here on the Chesapeake Bay. I love being high up on the mast where I it feels like I can see everything better.


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