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NEWS | June 1, 2017

NRL Astronomers Inspire Youth to Gaze at Stars

By Jonathan B. Holloway

WASHINGTON – U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) astronomers will point their telescopes toward the stars during the annual Astronomy Night on the National Mall (ANOM) June 2.

The event will take place from 6 to 11 p.m., north of the Washington Monument, across from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is designed to inspire youth to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and increase public knowledge of science.

As in previous years, thousands of participants are expected to gaze at the stars, planets and Moon through telescopes, participate in hands-on demonstrations, learn about astronomy from informative presentations and much more.

Of note, NRL will be unveiling a video highlighting the career of retired Dr. George R. Carruthers, a former rocket astronomy research physicist and head of NRL’s Ultraviolet Measurements Branch whose research significantly contributed to the greater good of the astronomy community.

In 1969, Carruthers invented and successfully patented the “Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiations Espcecially in Short Wave Lengths.” His invention, a 50-pound, gold-pated telescope, was used during Apollo 16, the NASA mission landing the first moon-based space observatory in 1972. The device allowed researchers the ability to examine molecular components in the Earth’s atmosphere from the Moon and other astronomical phenomena thousands of miles away in space for the first time.

Today, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has the gold-plated telescope on display in its “Apollo to the Moon” gallery.

“The awe-inspiring images of the ultraviolet Earth that astronauts captured on Apollo 16 depict dynamical changes in the ionosphere that are an ongoing subject of research for the scientific community,” said Dr. Scott Budzien, of NRL’s Space Science Division.

Examples of Carruthers' influential work can be found in NRL experiments Limb-Imaging Ionospheric and Thermospheric Extreme Ultraviolet (UV) Spectrograph (LITES), and Global Positioning System (GPS) Radio Occultation and Ultraviolet Photometer Co-located (GROUP-C), which successfully launched to the International Space Station.

"A key measurement objective of GROUP-C and LITES is to make tomographic observations of ionospheric structures called plasma bubbles, which were imaged by Carruthers' camera on the Advanced Research and Global Observations Satellite (ARGOS) in 1999," said Budzien. "The ultraviolet detector technology used in LITES can trace its heritage back to ultraviolet imaging detectors developed by Dr. George Carruthers for his lunar camera."

Carruthers' legacy of research and innovation continues today through the revolutionary work at NRL, and and toward the greater astronomy community.

Click here to watch a video highlighting Dr. George Carruthers' work and Apollo 16 mission: Dr. Carruthers Tribute

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