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  Astronomers of the Month
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Communtity Astronomer: Tom Whittemore

Communtity Astronomer: Tom Wittemore

Tom first became interested in astronomy when he was seven after seeing the night sky through a borrowed, homemade six-inch telescope. He bought his first telescope while in high school and began experimenting with astrophotography, developing black-and-white photos of mainly the Moon and planets.

After completing his Ph.D. in physics, he moved to the Bay Area, where he worked at the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Labs for many years, several of which were with the Solar and Astrophysics Group. After leaving Lockheed, he became a full-time faculty member at Ohlone College and Evergreen Valley College. At Evergreen, he was a member of the group that designed the Montgomery Hill Observatory.

In 1997 Tom got involved in making mirrors and building telescopes when he developed and taught two mirror-making workshops for the San Jose Astronomical Association. When Tom and his wife moved to Santa Barbara, he brought his passion for mirror-making and telescope-building to the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit and Museum of Natural History. The first workshop - given a home in the Broder Building - began in 2003. The workshops continue to this day, every Wednesday evening at the Museum.

Tom is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Physics Department at Westmont College where he teaches physics and astrophysics. He also continues to enjoy being the editor of the Astronomical Unit’s newsletter.

She is an Astronomer

Promoting gender equality and empowering women is one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The IYA2009 Cornerstone project, She is an Astronomer povides information to female professional and amateur astronomers, students, and those interested in the gender equality problem in science. Approximately one quarter of all professional astronomers are women. In some countries there are no female astronomers, whilst in others more than half the professional astronomers are female. The drop in numbers towards more senior levels suggests that scientific careers are heavily affected by social and cultural factors, and are not determined solely by ability.

Sally Ride

Sally Kristen Ride was born on May 26, 1951 in Encino, California. At 27, with Bachelor degrees English and Physics, and a Masters degree in Physics, she was a Ph.D. candidate looking for postdoctoral work in astrophysics when she read about NASA's call for astronauts in the Stanford University paper. More than 8,000 men and women applied to the space program that year. 35 were accepted, six of whom were women. One was Sally Ride.

After joining NASA in 1977 Sally Ride went through extensive training that included parachute jumping, water survival, gravity and weightlessness training, radio communications and navigation. During the second and third flights of the space shuttle Columbia (November 1981 and March 1982), Ride served as communications officer, dispatching radio messages from mission control to the shuttle crews. Dr. Ride was also assigned to the team that designed the remote mechanical arm, which was used by shuttle crews to deploy and retrieve satellites.

In 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on the shuttle Challenger (STS-7). Her next flight was an eight-day mission in 1984, again on Challenger (STS 41-G). Her collective hours of space flight are more than 343.

Dr. Ride retired from NASA in 1987 to become a Science Fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. After two years, she was named Director of the California Space Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of California San Diego where she pursued one of her heartfelt campaign’s: encouraging young women to study science and math.

An advocate for improved science education, Ride has written and worked in partnership on five children's books, To Space and Back, Voyager: An Adventure to the Edge of the Solar System, The Third Planet : Exploring the Earth from Space, The Mystery of Mars, and Exploring Our Solar System.





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