Scientific Reminiscences

Summary of a Life in Observational Ultraviolet/Optical Astronomy

Donald G. York


I reminisce on my early life in Section 1; on my education in Sections 2 and 3; on the years at Princeton as a research astronomer in Section 4; on the years on the faculty at Chicago in Section 5; on research on Diffuse Interstellar Bands (DIBs) in Section 6; on construction of the 3.5 m telescope at Apache Point Observatory (APO) in Section 7; on work on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) in Section 8; on work in public education in Chicago in Section 9; and on my travels in Section 10. My main science research is of an observational nature, concerning Galactic and intergalactic interstellar gas. Highlights for me included my work on the orbiting telescope Copernicus, including the discovery of interstellar deuterium; early observations of absorption associated with five-times ionized oxygen; and discoveries concerning the phases of gas in the local interstellar medium, based on previously unobservable interstellar UV spectral lines. With other instruments and collaborations, I extended interstellar UV studies to the intergalactic cool gas using quasi-stellar object QSO absorption lines redshifted to the optical part of the spectrum; provided a better definition of the emission and morphological character of the source of absorption lines in QSO spectra; and pursued the identification of the unidentified DIBs. For several of these topics, extensive collaborations with many scientists were essential over many years. The conclusions developed slowly, as I moved from being a graduate student at Chicago, to a research scientist position at Princeton and then to a faculty position at Chicago. At each stage of life, I was exposed to new technologies adaptable to my science and to subsequent projects. From high school days, I encountered several management opportunities which were formative. I have been extremely fortunate both in scientific mentors I had and in experimental opportunities I encountered.


Key words: Interstellar Medium (ISM) – Nebulae – (galaxies:) quasars: absorption lines – ultraviolet: stars

Full Text

There are currently no refbacks.