Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea Named in Honor of Dr. Frederick C. Gillett
November 13, 2002
Gemini Observatory honored Dr. Fred Gillett, a pioneer in infrared astronomy, by naming the Gemini North Telescope in his honor at ceremonies at the telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i, November 13, 2002.
Gemini Observatory honored Dr. Fred Gillett, a pioneer in infrared
astronomy, by naming the Gemini North Telescope in his honor at
ceremonies at the telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i, November 13, 2002.
Gillett, who died in April 2001, was one of the primary visionaries of
the Gemini telescopes. He was instrumental in assuring that the
ground-breaking design of Gemini's twin 8-meter telescopes would be a
major scientific contribution to astronomy in the 21st Century.
was a true pioneer in infrared astronomy," said Dr. Wayne van Citters,
Director of the Division of Astronomical Sciences at the National
Science Foundation, who spoke at the ceremony. "Naming the Gemini
telescope in honor of Fred is the most fitting tribute we can pay to
him. He was instrumental in the realization of Gemini and multitudes of
other projects throughout his career in the infrared."
twin Gemini telescopes are designed to exploit the infrared portion of
the spectrum, and together are able to cover the entire celestial
sphere. The telescopes are located in the Northern Hemisphere on Mauna
Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i and in the Southern Hemisphere atop
Cerro Pachón in Chile.
Gemini Director Dr. Matt
Mountain, who worked closely with Dr. Gillett for many years on Gemini
said, "If there is one phrase that describes Fred it would be integrity
of purpose, both in his life and in his science. Fred approached the
problem of producing the world's most powerful infrared telescope with
a single purpose. This is a key reason why Gemini performs so well
today, and why the telescope will now be called The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope."
an influential career spanning more than 40 years, Dr. Gillett was
involved in almost every major development in infrared astronomy, from
early infrared detectors to the innovative design and construction of
Gemini Observatory. Dr. Gillett also played a key role in the discovery
of the Vega Phenomenon, which refers to the dusty disk around the
bright star Vega. This discovery, made in 1983, was the first
observational confirmation that planets could exist around stars other
than our Sun.
Although Gemini was his final project,
Dr. Gillett had a long association with the National Optical
Astronomical Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, which he considered home. He
was associated with the success of the Infrared Astronomy Satellite
(IRAS), a milestone in the history of infrared astronomy. In the late
1980's he helped establish an infrared presence at NASA. His support
and influence while at NASA also helped shape the vision of the SIRTF
and SOFIA projects. In 1990, he chaired the Infrared Committee of the
Decadal Survey sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences. The
committee's findings helped influence the more than 300 scientists who
participated in the survey to officially declare the 1990's as the
"Decade of the Infrared."
"Our family is honored to
have Fred recognized by his friends and colleagues this way," said
Marian Gillett, the widow of Dr. Gillett, at the ceremony. "The naming
of the telescope, which always looks up at the stars, just as Fred did
all his life, is a very appropriate way to remember him."
60 friends, associates, family members and others honored Dr. Gillett
with a plaque dedication ceremony at the Gemini North telescope.
Approximately 100 other members of the Gemini "family" participated via
a live videoconference between Hilo, Tucson and Chile. The ceremony was
followed by a reception and dinner in Dr. Gillett's memory at the Hilo
Hawaiian Hotel in Hilo, Hawai'i.
Read more about Dr. Gillett in "Beyond the Visible".