Charles "Chuck" See, a long-time member of the LPL family, passed away on January 8. Chuck was a native Tucsonan who earned a B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering as well as an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Arizona. He spent ten years working as an aerospace engineer at firms like Sperry Space Systems (Phoenix), Allied Signal (Tucson), Westinghouse (Pittsburgh), Honeywell (Phoenix) & Westinghouse (Baltimore). In 1995, Chuck returned to the UA as a staff engineer working with Professor Martin Tomasko on the Cassini Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) and the Huygens probe.
Chuck was a consummate aerospace engineer, possessing multiple skills that covered a variety of sub-disciplines: mechanical, thermal, electronic, systems, testing and flight operations. Never one to sit back and relax, he also developed his considerable analytical skills and became a talented scientific data analyst. Chuck was famously extroverted and a natural leader, usually tasked with being the U.S.-based DISR team’s instrument engineer during the Huygens probe’s Europe-based testing. Very popular with the other (largely European) instrument team members, he gracefully acted as the public face of an American DISR camera suite. He retired in 2006 but was retained part-time in order to curate and analyze the rich DISR data set.
Staff Engineer, Senior
Krzysztof M. Serkowski
Krzysztof M. Serkowski, Research Professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and Astronomer at the Steward Observatory, both of the University of Arizona, died after a long illness on 7 October 1981.
Serkowski was born in Warsaw, Poland, on December 8, 1930. He lived in Warsaw during the war of 1939-1945. It was a hard place to be during the war and afterwards. Serkowski studied physics and astronomy during the years 1949-1954, first at Warsaw University and then at Wroclaw University where he received a Master’s degree in 1954. Originally he wanted to become a biologist, studying cells, but genetics had its problems under Stalin. “Biology without genetics was like a day in Poland without a potato,” Krzysztof used to recall. His natural second choice was astronomy.
Serkowski had been at the University of Arizona in Tucson since April 1970, first as an Associate Professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and, since 1979, as a Research Professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and Astronomer at the Steward Observatory.
Krzysztof M. Serkowski papers, 1970-1982Permalink
Krzysztof M. Serkowski
Adam P. Showman passed away unexpectedly on March 16, 2020, at his home in Tucson, AZ. His untimely passing has been felt widely in the international planetary science community which has lost an outstanding theorist, dedicated teacher of many graduate students, and a sought-after collaborator to a world-wide network of exoplanet astronomers.
Adam Showman was born on October 9, 1968 in Palo Alto, CA. He studied physics at Stanford University, where he earned a B.S. in 1991. He earned a Ph.D. at Caltech in 1999, with a dissertation on the atmosphere of Jupiter as well as the geophysics of its largest moon Ganymede. After two short postdoc stints at the University of Louisville and NASA Ames, Dr. Showman joined the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor in 2001; he was named full Professor in 2012. He was recently named a Galileo Circle Fellow of the University of Arizona (2018) and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (2019).
During his career, Dr. Showman directly advised eleven graduate students and mentored many more across the disciplines of planetary science, atmospheric sciences and geosciences. He was a renowned teacher who enjoyed explaining to his students the complicated details of planetary physics and hammering out ideas to solve research problems. He developed eight different courses in the planetary sciences, including two completely new graduate courses, with course notes that are treasured by his students. His early pioneering research on the atmospheric dynamics of exoplanets (Showman & Guillot, 2002, Astron. & Astrophys. 385:166-180) has been the paradigm of hot gas giant atmospheric circulation models ever since. This work showed that the difference between the day and night side on hot Jupiters would drive strong eastward equatorial winds, comparable to or greater than the speed of sound in the medium. Showman and his collaborators worked out in detail the theoretical predictions that were spectacularly verified in subsequent observations, profoundly shaping the field. Showman extended his innovative theoretical models beyond hot gas giant planets, to tidally-locked and fast-rotating planets of smaller sizes and cooler temperatures as well as to the larger and warmer brown dwarfs. He was deeply involved in the exoplanet science community, collaborating with many observers to interpret their observations of exoplanet atmospheres and working with theorists to advance modeling techniques. He served the planetary science community in many professional roles, including as Editor of the international planetary science journal, Icarus.
LPL Memorial page for Adam ShowmanPermalink
SILL, Godfrey T., age 76 died peacefully at home December 18, 2007. Teacher, planetary scientist, winegrower, husband, uncle, amateur astronomer, private pilot, vintner, builder of fun things. Born in Cleveland, he grew up in Leonia, New Jersey. With B.A. from St. Bonaventure and M.S. from Norte Dame he taught high school for ten years in Illinois. In 1965 he moved to Tucson, completed a Ph.D. at University of Arizona and conducted research on the atmospheres of planets at the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory from 1965 to 1988. Discovered that the high clouds on planet Venus are made of sulfuric acid. In 1984 he started an experimental wine grape vineyard in Elgin, Arizona, which became his retirement project for 20 years. Always a teacher, he introduced hundreds of students, nephews and nieces, friends and neighbors, and even strangers to the wonders of the heavens: constellations, planets, star clusters, galaxies, sun spots, meteors, comets and satellites. He is survived by his wife, Laurel Wilkening, sisters Marjorie de Giovanni and Virginia Douglas, brothers Richard, Don, Bill and Hank Sill and numerous nieces and nephews.Permalink
Melvin J. Simmons passed away on January 16, 2010. He was 87. Mr. Simmons was the Assistant Director at LPL for 20+ years; he retired in 1987. He was primarily responsible for the fiscal management of all departmental resources, including state and federal monies. After his retirement, he continued to prepare income taxes for many past and present LPL employees. He was married to Emily (Tompkinson) for 65 years. His children include Kent, Gary, Todd, and Carl Simmons, Rena Hoefferle, Julie Givens, and Jackie June Graber. He had 27 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.Permalink
Bradford A. Smith, planetary astronomer best known as the lead imaging scientist on the Voyager mission who guided the world during the 1980s on a visual odyssey across the outer solar system, passed away peacefully at his home in Santa Fe, NM on July 3, 2018 from complications from myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder. He was 86.
Brad was born in 1931 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and grew up in nearby Winchester, MA. He graduated in 1954 from Northeastern University with a BSc degree in Chemical Engineering and received a PhD in Astronomy from New Mexico State University in 1973. During the course of his career, he held the academic appointments of Associate Professor of Astronomy at New Mexico State University, Professor in both the Department of Planetary Sciences and the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, and finally Research Astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Despite his early training as a chemical engineer, Brad's first love was astronomy. After college, he spent two years as a private in the army, working as an astronomer in the US Army Map Service at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, where he began a long and productive association with Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto. His first astronomical project was a search (with negative results) for possible natural satellites of the Moon at Lowell Observatory, with Tombaugh, during the lunar eclipse of November 17-18, 1956.
Soon thereafter, he followed Tombaugh to New Mexico State University and in 1958 established there a program of systematic, ground-based telescopic imaging of the planets in support of the robotic planetary missions on which the newly formed NASA would soon be embarking. This was the dawn of the space age, a time when planetary science as a disciplined study of the planets was only just taking shape. Brad’s cutting-edge knowledge and experience in imaging the planets earned him membership in that first generation of explorers chosen to execute humankind’s initial reconnaissance of the solar system.
Throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, he was involved in many US and international space missions: the Mariner 6, Mariner 7, Viking, and Soviet Phobos missions to Mars; the Soviet Vega mission to Halley’s Comet; and the Wide Field/Planetary Camera team for the Hubble Space Telescope. He rose to deputy team leader for the imaging investigation on Mariner 9, the first spacecraft to orbit another planet in 1971, and from 1972 through 1989, served as the imaging lead on the Voyager mission to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. For his contributions to space science, he was four times awarded the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Asteroid 8553 (bradsmith) is named for him.
While still deeply involved in spaceflight, Brad continued to push the limits in Earth-based astronomical imaging. In early 1976 Brad and his colleagues were the first to use a CCD detector on an astronomical telescope, yielding the first high-resolution infrared images of Uranus and Neptune. Later, in 1984, he would be the first to use a coronagraph on the star β Pictoris, an observational breakthrough that led to his discovery of the star's circumstellar debris disk. This was the first direct evidence of a planetary system beyond our own and a finding that initiated the observational study of extrasolar planetary systems, today the most productive field in astronomy.
Obituary, PSI - Dr. Bradford SmithPermalink
Charles P. Sonett
In 1973, Gerard P. Kuiper (1903-1973), widely considered to be the father of modern planetary astronomy, invited Charles P. Sonett to be his successor as director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and to head the new interdisciplinary Department of Planetary Sciences, chartered that year by the Arizona Board of Regents. As a space exploration pioneer, Sonett was involved in numerous spacecraft programs, including the Pioneer Program, the Explorer Program and the Apollo Program–missions that dramatically advanced our understanding of the solar system, its planets and moons and beyond.
During his term as the second LPL director and first planetary sciences department head (1973-77), Sonett presided over a dramatic expansion. He built research and education programs in solar system science that became internationally recognized. In 1992, Sonett was named a Regents' Professor, the highest academic rank at the UA. Sonett retired in 2003 as a Regents' Professor Emeritus.
Read more about Professor Sonett: Charles P. Sonett: the Legacy of a Pioneering Space ScientistPermalink
Charles P. Sonett
Director, Department Head
Planetary Sciences graduate coordinator Pam Streett passed away suddenly on September 30 after a brief illness. Pam had been with LPL since 1989; her first position was as a part-time secretary working for Professor William Boynton. In 1993, she transferred to the Academic Office as a full-time Administrative Assistant, before transitioning to her most recent role as graduate academic advisor (Program Coordinator) in 2005.
Pam was dedicated to her family and to the success of her LPL family—the many graduate students she helped to guide toward degree completion. She was a close colleague to her peers across the UA campus and a fan of UA Wildcat basketball. Outside of the office, Pam enjoyed craft projects and scrapbooking. She was active with the local Girl Scouts program and fostered animals through local rescue groups. Pam touched many lives with her kind heart, bright smile, and big laugh. Several generations of LPL faculty, staff, and students mourn her passing; we will miss her always.
Karen's life was characterized by a generosity of spirit, an uncommon warmth of personality, and a light-hearted sense of humor. A woman of many passions, Karen had a great love for nature and she pursued many outdoor adventures, particularly hiking. The breadth of Karen's life experiences also cemented in her a deep commitment to service to others both in Arizona and abroad. Her spirit, passion and philanthropy truly knew no borders. In Arizona, Karen worked for 17 years at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. She was also a highly regarded graphic artist. Karen's loss will be felt deeply not just in Arizona and her home-state Nevada, as her life transcended cultures and geographies. She spent many of her latest years traveling and living abroad, in both Canada and Peru in support of her husband's work, and her years living in Peru were marked by her work to create positive social change. In the Peruvian and Canadian communities where she worked and was well known, Karen's loss will also continue to be deeply felt. Karen, born in Las Vegas, Nevada, passed away on June 28, 2011. She is survived by her husband, Andy; her parents, multiple siblings, nieces and nephews. Those who wish to honor Karen's memory and her immense contributions to the lives of so many can do so through donations in her name to Doctors without Borders.
Former longtime LPL staff member Tom Teska passed away on March 15, 2013. Tom was the Manager for Mike Drake's Microprobe Lab from the early 1970s until 1998, when he retired.
Thomas M. Teska 79, passed away March 15, 2013. He was born in Chicago in 1933 to Emma and Thomas Teska. Surviving are his wife, Shelley Esterquest; son, John Teska; daughter, Jennifer Teska; grandson, Andrew and five stepchildren. Tom will be remembered by the many people with whom he shared his life in loving marriages, service to the Unitarian Church, and work at the University of Arizona. Through his hobbies, his gifts of charity, his good humor and his love, Tom gave so much to the people around him. He will be dearly missed.
A Memorial Service and Celebration of his life was held on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4831 E. 22nd St., Tucson. Memorial gifts in Tom's honor may be made to the charity of your choice.
Research Specialist, Senior
Randy Tufts, the co-discoverer of Kartchner Caverns who helped keep the underground wonder a secret for 14 years to guarantee its preservation, died Monday. He was 53. Tufts died at University Medical Center after a long battle with the rare blood disease known as myelodysplastic disorder syndrome, according to a statement issued by friends and family members.
Tufts was born in Tucson and graduated from Palo Verde High School. He went on to graduate in 1972 from the University of Arizona, majoring in geology and serving as student association president. While at the university, Tufts helped create and lead the Arizona Student Services Corp., which founded several student businesses to provide income for student services.
Tufts embarked on a 12-year career in public policy after leaving the UA. He helped lead the grass-roots organization Citizens Take the Initiative and helped found and direct Tucson Public Power, which challenged proposed rate increases of former utility Tucson Gas and Electric Co.
During the late 1990s, Tufts turned his attention to conducting research as a UA planetary scientist studying Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. He is credited with discovering the 600-mile San Andreas-like fault "Astypalaea" on Europa. Tufts earned a Ph.D. in geosciences at the UA at age 50.
He was diagnosed with MDS two years ago, and in November 2000 he received a bone-marrow transplant from his only sibling, Judy Rodin. The transplant took, and Tufts began to recover. Then in late January of this year, his body unexpectedly rejected the transplant and he fell ill.
Besides his wife and sister, Tufts is survived by his mother, Carol Tufts, of Tucson. Memorial donations may be made to the Tucson Light the Night Walk of the Desert Mountain States Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Suite E-100, 2990 E. Northern Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85028.
Randy Tufts, Spelunker Who Kept a Secret, Is Dead at 53
Randy Tufts, 53; Discovered Kartchner Cave Complex
Dr. Bruce Randall "Randy" Tufts
Remembering Randy Tufts
Robert E. Watson Jr., known to friends and family as "Bob," passed away on August 2nd, 2018, at the age of 72 years, in Tucson, AZ. Bob loved Tucson and spent many years there until his passing. He did move about the United States during his military years and settled in Minnesota working for Sperry Univac and other companies where he traveled around the world before moving back to Tucson. He loved his furry friends and had many pets over the years. As an advocate for the Humane Society he enjoyed supporting them with donations as well as a few adoptions. He also loved to take his dog Sadie everywhere he went, including to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. He enjoyed reading, using the internet, and watching movies on the subjects of Science Fiction and Fantasy, but loved all kinds. You can tell this by the hundreds (literally) of movies he had in his collection.
He served as a Captain and Missile Launch Officer in the Air Force, after which he obtained a Master’s Degree in computer science from the University of AZ. He spent most of his career developing computer programs and his last employer (before retiring) was the University of AZ where he worked at the Lunar Planetary Lab as Staff Engineer, specifically working on the Cassini project. Bob will be forever remembered by his family, daughters, Barbara (Shawn) Knoth and Sheron (Tim) Prinsen, brother, Edward (Cynthia) Watson. Bob will also be forever remembered by his numerous nephews and extended family and dear friends. He was preceded in death by his wife Sandra Watson (Clark), his parents, Robert Watson Sr. and Margarita Watson, Wayne L. Clark Jr and Elsa Clark and Grandparents.
Ewen A. Whitaker came to Tucson in 1960 with Gerard P. Kuiper to conduct a lunar mapping project. Whitaker soon found that his work was just what NASA needed, and played a pivotal role in the first lunar missions: Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Orbiter. The mapping project produced the first compositional maps of lava flows on the moon—maps made possible by Whitaker's pioneering use of groundbased differential UV/Infrared lunar photography. These maps were instrumental in the selection of landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo missions. Along the way, Whitaker worked with Kuiper to build and grow the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) into a leader in the field of planetary science. Ewen retired from LPL in 1987, but never gave up his research in lunar selenography and nomenclature (the subject of Whitaker's Mapping and Naming the Moon is the history of lunar maps and nomenclature).
Following his retirement, Ewen was a regular visitor to LPL, taking time away from hobbies like clock repair to participate in outreach events and help to answer questions about the moon or LPL history, fulfill requests for information, and archive lunar maps and glass observing plates. Scientists, reporters, amateur astronomers, and historians sought him out for his expertise. In 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the University of Arizona's College of Science, which recognized his "contributions to the UA, mankind and science." In 2014, he was interviewed extensively in the documentary Desert Moon.
For more information about Ewen Whitaker, visit:
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory: Its Founding and Early Years
Remembering Ewen A. Whitaker, 1922-2016
Ewen Whitaker remembers Gerard Kuiper (audio recording, 1974) (MP3)Permalink
Associate Research Scientist
Laurel L. Wilkening
Cosmochemist Laurel L. Wilkening (1944-2019) began her career at LPL in 1973, joining the faculty as an Associate Professor. Her research focus was comets and meteorites; she was editor of the University of Arizona Press Space Science volume, Comets (1982). Professor Wilkening served as LPL Department Head and Director from 1981-1983 before moving on to other prestigious administrative positions, including service as Dean of the UA Graduate College (1987-1989) and also as Vice President for Research, Vice Provost, and Acting Dean of Sciences. During her scientific career, she served on many national commissions and committees related to the U.S. space program, including terms as Vice Chair of the National Commission on Space, Vice Chair of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Programs, and Chair of the Space Policy Advisory Board.
From the beginning of her faculty career, Professor Wilkening was instrumental in the development of women's studies at the University of Arizona, teaming with Professor Myra Dinnerstein to advocate for creating an academic department; she served on the Women's Studies Advisory Council, which formed to generate financial and political support for the Women's Studies department. Professor Wilkening endowed The Myra Dinnerstein International Travel Fund for Dissertation Research on Women and made the lead monetary gift in support of the Women's Plaza of Honor, where she was honored with a gift by her husband, Godfrey Sill. Today, the Department of Gender and Women's Studies offers a B.A. with optional concentrations in Chicana/Latina Studies and Sexualities and Queer Studies concentrations; J.D./M.A. in conjunction with Rogers College of Law; a graduate certificate program and, since 2008, a Ph.D. program in Gender and Women's Studies that is already within the top six nationally.
Professor Wilkening achieved a number of firsts: at the University of Arizona, a she was the first person to serve as Dean of Sciences and first woman to serve as a Vice President. She was also the first woman to serve as Provost at the University of Washington, the first woman to serve as Chancellor at the University of California, Irvine, and the third woman to serve as a Chancellor of a University of California campus.
In 2001, Professor Wilkening was interviewed for the NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project. News of a bequest made by Dr. Wilkening in support of the LPL field trip program was announced in 2013.Permalink
Laurel L. Wilkening
Director, Department Head
Dr. Benjamin Holmes Zellner III of Culloden passed away December 6, 2021.
Dr. Zellner was the son of the late B. H. Zellner II and Euna Dumas Zellner Pippin. He was born in Forsyth, GA. April 16, 1942. His wife Ida Abercombie Zellner preceded him in death. He was a member of Sharon Primitive Baptist Church.
Survivors include his daughter, Susan Mundy (Jay) of Churchville, VA. and son Andrew Zellner of Bridgeport, AL, and brother Jimmy Zellner of Culloden, GA. along with three grandchildren.
He was senior class president of the Mary Person High School class of 1960. In 1964 he graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelor in physic. He then received a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Arizona. Dr. Zellner then spent a number of years doing research for the University of Arizona. Next he worked for a NASA contractor on the Hubbard Space Telescope out of Baltimore Maryland. He then spent his final working years as a professor of astronomy at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro Georgia.
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