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Gerard Peter Kuiper: KAO's Namesake

(By Jan Wee, based on an article by Dale Cruikshank)

Who is the man for whom the KAO has been named? The Kuiper Airborne Observatory was dedicated in May of 1975 in honor of a man who many today regard as the father of modern planetary science. Born in the Netherlands ninety years ago (12/7/05) and educa ted at Leiden University as an astronomer, Kuiper came to the US in 1933. During his lifetime he worked at Lick Observatory, Harvard, Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago, and the University of Arizona.

Kuiper played an influential role in the development of infrared airborne astronomy in the 1960's and 1970's. In 1967 the NASA four engine jet Convair 990 aircraft with a telescope aboard became available for infrared studies at an altitude of 40,000 fee t. Kuiper used it extensively for spectroscopy of the Sun, stars, and planets, discovering things about them that could not be found from ground-based observatories.

The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, a research and educational unit in which many planetary scientists have been trained, was established under his guidance at the University of Arizona.

Among his accomplishments are:

Pioneered the use of infrared detectors in astronomical spectroscopy

Developed a theory of the origin of the Solar System, including insight on the origin of Pluto and short-period comets

Theorized the existence of icy planetesimals just beyond the orbit of Pluto. Discoveries made since 1991 appear to confirm this area now called the Kuiper Belt

Produced atlases of the moon for NASA and the Air Force, providing the basis for early planning for the Apollo manned landings

His 1950's and 1960's research on the Moon provided strong support for the impact theory of crater formation, when most thought the craters were volcanic in origin

Forged a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the Solar System, now broadly known as planetary science

Served as a leader in finding superlative sites for ground-based astronomical observatories, including Mt. Lemmon near Tucson, and Mauna Kea in Hawaii

Influenced NASA's program of lunar and planetary exploration by spacecraft through his service as an advisor and his participation in many 1960's and 1970's missions as a scientist

Kuiper was a demanding individual whose routine included hard work and long hours for not only himself, but his students and co-workers. Was he worthy of having this national research facility, the KAO, named after him? If you are not sure of your answer , read more about this world famous astronomer:

Cruikshank, D. P. "20th-Century Astonomer," Sky and Telescope 47, 259-264, 1974.

Cruikshank, D. P. "Gerard Peter Kuiper." In Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, 62, 259-295, 1993.

DeVorkin, D. H. Science With a Vengeance, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1992.

Doel, R. E. "Evaluating Soviet Lunar Science in Cold War America." Osiris 7 (1980):44-70.

Kuiper, G. P. (editor) Atmospheres of the Earth and Planets, Univ. of Chicago Press. First edition 1949, second edition 1952.

Kuiper, G. P. (editor) Four volumes in the series The Solar System: Vol. 1 The Sun, 1953; Vol. 2 The Earth As a Planet, 1954; Vol. 3 Planets and Satellites, 1961 (with B. M. Middlehurst); and Vol. 4 The Moon, Meteorites, and Comets, 1963 (with B. M. Middlehurst). University of Chicago Press

Kuiper, G. P. (general editor) Nine volumes in the series Stars and Stellar Systems, University of Chicago Press, beginning in 1960.

Kuiper, G. P., D. W. G. Arthur, E. Moore, J. W. Tapscott, and E. A. Whitaker. Photographic Atlas of the Moon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959.

Kuiper, G. P., D. W. G. Arthur, and E. A. Whitaker. Orthographic Atlas of the Moon. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1961.

Kuiper, G. P., E. A. Whitaker, W. K. Hartmann, and L. H. Spradley. Rectified Lunar Atlas. Supplement No. 2 to Photographic Lunar Atlas. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1963.

Kuiper, G. P., E. A. Whitaker, R. G. Strom, J. W. Fountain, and S. M. Larson. Consolidated Lunar Atlas. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1967.

Tatarewicz, J. N. Space Technology and Planetary Astronomy, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.



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