JHU Physics professor Henry A. Rowland publishes his invention of a concave grating, which would become a basic tool of observations of space. Rowland came to JHU in 1876 as the Chair of the physics department and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1880. He became the president of the American Physical Society.
Joseph Ames named President of Johns Hopkins University and serves until 1935. A Professor of Physics, he was a founding member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, which later became NASA) and he served on it for 24 years. The NASA Ames Research Center and Ames Hall on the Homewood campus are named for him. Ames earned a B.A. and doctorate degree from Johns Hopkins.
A small group of professors, led by research professor William G. Fastie, form a fledgling astrophysics effort within the Physics department. This effort concentrated on ultraviolet aeronomy and astronomy from space, initially from sub-orbital sounding rocket experiments, but also resulting in the presence of an ultraviolet spectrometer that was carried aboard the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972 to search for a residual lunar atmosphere.
The Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope (HUT) project was accepted for development by NASA. The concept, for a 0.9 m telescope to fly multiple times on the space shuttle as an attached payload, was a direct descendant of the rocket program at JHU. Professor Arthur Davidsen was the principal investigator and Paul Feldman and Dick Henry were co-investigators. Although the telescope did not ultimately fly until 1990, this selection catapulted JHU into a leadership position in space astrophysics. (Note for context: the first space shuttle flight did not occur until April 1981.)
A Johns Hopkins/Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy proposal was selected by NASA to host the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) on the Homewood campus of JHU. Arthur Davidsen and JHU president Steven Muller were key players in the effort. Although the STScI is an independent entity, its location on the JHU campus forever changed the landscape of astrophysics at JHU.
A JHU-led proposal is accepted to host the Maryland Space Grant Consortium in the department. Professor Richard Conn Henry was and is the director. This is part of the National Space Grant program established by congress in 1988, and supports state and national goals in education and creating a diverse and technically literate work force.
In June, the department left its Rowland Hall home and moved into the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy, across San Martin Drive from the STScI. The $35M building more than doubled the space available for labs and offices and included a high bay and clean room facility for handling space payloads. To keep the “Rowland” name associated with the department, the name was officially changed to the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy.
After Astro-1, the HUT telescope and spectrograph were refurbished at JHU and on March 2, space shuttle Endeavour launched on STS-67, the Astro-2 mission, again carrying HUT and payload specialist Samuel Durrance. The 16-day mission was nearly flawless, quite in contrast to Astro-1, and resulted in a treasure trove of data, including an exceptional observation that resulted in a unique measurement of the characteristics of the intergalactic medium, a long-sought prize of PI Arthur Davidsen. (Interestingly, this was also John Grunsfeld’s first flight. John went on the fly several of the subsequent Hubble servicing missions, including SM4; see 2009.)
May saw the official “first light” of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. SDSS has gone on to become a central focus of research throughout the astronomical community over the last decade. JHU’s key contributions included a multi-fiber spectrograph, key elements of the database and software to archive and mine the data, and the calibration telescope (which began life in the observatory on top of Bloomberg).
June 24th saw the launch of the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) mission on a Delta-II rocket from Cape Canaveral. Warren Moos was the PI, and the mission operations were directed from the Bloomberg Center control room on the Homewood campus. For much of this time, research professor William Blair was the Chief of FUSE Operations. FUSE operated for 8 years, with a team of anywhere from 45 to 25 JHU scientists and engineers controlling all aspects of the mission.
STS-109 (Columbia) launched on Hubble Servicing Mission 3B, carrying the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to Hubble. Principal investigator professor Holland Ford led the team that developed the ACS, which increased Hubble’s “discovery space” by a factor of 10. ACS experienced an electrical failure on Jan. 27, 2007, but was ultimately repaired on-orbit during STS-125 (May 2009). At this writing, ACS continues to be a key instrument in Hubble’s arsenal of scientific instruments.
After years of delay and uncertainty, STS-125 (Atlantis) launched on Hubble Servicing Mission 4. Numerous JHU research staff were key players in preparations for the mission, real-time support activities, and post-installation calibration of the instruments, and John Grunsfeld performed three long space walks as part of on-orbit operations. In 2010, Grunsfeld became deputy director of STScI and was appointed a research professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.