Note: Seven Lowell Observatory astronomers will participate in the 2017 Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience in Madras, Oregon on August 20-21. We will profile each in separate blogs. Today, we introduce Dr. Gerard van Belle.
Gerard van Belle received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Whitman College in 1990, a master’s in physics from The Johns Hopkins University in 1993, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wyoming in 1996.
Dr. van Belle has been on the Lowell Observatory faculty since August of 2011. He builds and uses the highest-resolution optical telescopes available on the planet to learn about the sizes, shapes, and surfaces of stars. These parameters tell us about the internal structure and evolution of stars, information which is essential to understanding new planets being discovered around nearby stars. Dr. van Belle has also applied high-resolution, high-precision astronomical techniques to detect such planets and map the surfaces of stars.
He was recently named the director of the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI), a project operated in partnership by Lowell, the Naval Research Lab (NRL), and the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO). Before working at Lowell, he served as an instrument scientist for the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) facility in Chile and an instrument architect for NASA’s Keck Interferometer in Hawaii.
In the August 12, 2014 issue of Esquire magazine, Dr. van Belle was featured as one of 22 men who are redefining style across America.
Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience Presentations
Date: Sunday, August 20, 8 p.m.
Title: An Explosion of Exoplanets: How Microscopic Eclipses have led to Detections of Nearby Worlds
Description: Twenty years of detecting planets orbiting other stars will be discussed, with the
vast majority of them being found to date via shadows in the light.
Date: Monday, August 21, 2 p.m.
Title: The Pluto Vote: One Astronomer’s Personal Story.
Description: While Dr. van Belle does not study Pluto, he was on hand at the International Astronomical Union’s 2006 meeting during which Pluto was kicked out of the Sun’s family of planets. His accidental involvement makes for an amusing story.
By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Historian