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Save the Date! 100 Year Anniversary Celebration

On April 22, 2023 we will re-dedicate the Steward Observatory Dome and 36” telescope which started the 100 year journey to today. We thank Mrs. Lavina Steward for her generous $60,000 donation to the University of Arizona to build the dome and the “first All-American made reflecting telescope”, both are still in use today. 

At the dedication in 1923, Dr. Andrew Ellicott Douglass said the following:

“A dedication like this symbolizes the completion of a material part. But a dedication is dual, in being apart material and part spiritual. The material part is the building of brick and steel and glass which you see; the spiritual par is the living human force which enters this Observatory and makes it live. In this ceremony we dedicate ourselves to the perpetuation of this human force, which is nothing less than the soul residing in this physical structure.  I want this Steward Observatory to live, and in living it must grow, and in growing it must produce results. Its use for classes is fine; its use for the public is fine; but it will not live without scientific results. That means we must have scientific men [and women] to keep it busy. From time to time, further equipment should be added in order to enlarge human knowledge and suitable publications must present to the world the knowledge acquired here.”

As we celebrate this 100-year milestone, we will honor the great astronomers who have come before us and congratulate the astronomers of today for they continue the spirit of Steward Observatory and will pass this on to the next-generation.

In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the dedication we have refurbished the first floor of the dome.  It is now a combination museum, and small (but very deluxe) conference/class room.  Initial seed money was provided by Michael Chriss. From there, we added an accessible entrance and completely redecorated the interior. There is a display highlighting E. A. Douglass and the development of the telescope, and we rescued display cabinets originally built for Edwin Carpenter to display artifacts from the history of the observatory. Two large display screens act as programmable displays, and there is a touchscreen kiosk linking to the major observatory activities. 

We hope you will join us for this exciting event!

For more information contact:  Cathi Duncan, or 520-621-1320


Machine learning reveals how black holes grow

Leveraging supercomputing power, University of Arizona researchers created simulations of millions of computer-generated "universes" to test astrophysical predictions that have eluded astronomical observations. Learn more here

The ATOMM and TIMESTEP Undergraduate Programs

The ATOMM and TIMESTEP Undergraduate Programs

Here are introductions to two relatively recent programs for undergraduates, ATOMM and TIMESTEP, offered by the Dept. of Astronomy/Steward Observatory. For more information about TIMESTEP, please contact Professor Gurtina Besla. For more information about ATOMM, please contact Professor Ed Prather.  Permanent links for these programs can be found on the right side of our Undergrad Education page.

The Astronomy Department and The University of Arizona Astronomy Club  (full size photo of Astro Club members) would like to draw your attention to free help sessions offered by the Astronomy Tutoring of Majors and Minors (ATOMM) programATOMM sessions are held at multiple times throughout the week in the Parker Library, on the 3rd floor of Steward Observatory.  Come get help from experienced tutors who are dedicated to assisting you with your homework and course material for: Freshman and Sophomore classes in Astronomy, Physics and Math (including Vector Calculus and Differential Equations), which may not necessarily be offered through other on-campus tutoring services. There may also be students working on upper-division classes in the Parker Library as well. You do not need to be an astronomy major to attend! Parker Library is open as a place to work on homework/study individually or in study groups. Whenever you hit a snag, just come to one of the free ATOMM sessions so we can help.

TIMESTEP is a bi-weekly discussion group about topics of professional development for undergraduates in Astronomy, Planetary Science and Physics at U. Arizona. Topics Include: Discussions about the academic path: how to navigate the undergraduate degree, how to apply for graduate school, how to get a research position, how to present at conferences. Discussions about survival in academia:  what is the imposter syndrome, unconscious bias and stereotype threat; topics about diversity and race in academia. Each meeting will involve a short talk followed by smaller discussions facilitated by faculty, postdocs and graduate students, enabling students to network with peers and leaders in their fields



Congratulations Dennis Zaritsky, Professor of Astronomy, named AAAS Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Zaritsky, a professor of astronomy, is being honored for his contributions to the field of astronomy, including research that made connections between dark and luminous matter.

"Astronomical research serves to inspire and awaken curiosity in the broader commnity that we hope translates to other sciences, and even beyond science," Zaritsky said. "I hope that the enthusiasm generated by the University of Arizona's astronomy research program continues to get passed on to the students we teach and the general public."

Zaritsky earned his doctorate in astronomy from UArizona in 1991. He returned to UArizona as a faculty member in 1999.

Some highlights in Zaritsky's career include the discovery of direct evidence for dark matter based on his research of colliding galaxy clusters, as well as the discovery of a unifying relationship for the structures of all galaxies.

"The philosophy of the astronomy department has consistently been to support whatever passion project each researcher wants to follow as much as possible," Zaritsky said. "There has always been a tendency to hear, 'How can we achieve this?' rather than, 'Why you can't do this.'"

Newly elected AAAS Fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin to commemorate their election. They will be celebrated at a gathering in Washington, D.C., this spring.

Grand opening of new Mission Integration Lab for balloon-borne astronomy

The University of Arizona on Monday celebrated the opening of the Mission Integration Lab, a new research building in the UA Tech Park at The Bridges that will accommodate testing and preparation for balloon-borne astronomy missions.

Balloon-borne astronomy fills an important niche between ground-based observatories and space telescopes, allowing for the deployment of telescopes and other instruments to altitudes where they experience less interference from Earth's atmosphere. Modern balloon-borne observatories offer space-like views of the universe at a fraction of the time and cost of a full space mission.

The Mission Integration Lab provides a tall, hangar-like space, known as a "high bay," which allows researchers to prepare and test balloon payloads and other space payloads before their flights.

The Monday event featured remarks from University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins; Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation; and Carol Stewart, vice president for Tech Parks Arizona.

Equipment was on display from two balloon-borne missions:

  • The Terahertz Intensity Mapper, a NASA-funded balloon mission designed to create a giant map of galaxies from over 5 billion years of cosmic history. The mission relies on an imaging spectrometer capable of detecting extremely faint galaxies in the "cosmic afternoon," the time when star formation in the universe was slowing down from its peak 10 billion years ago.
  • GUSTO, short for Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory, a NASA-funded mission to carry an infrared telescope to study the lifecycle of stars in the interstellar medium.

The Dr. Elizabeth Roemer Endowed Chair in Steward Observatory

Author: Buell T. Jannuzi

Through the generosity of Richard F. Caris, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Larry and Susan Allen, & Trip and Ann Wolbach, we have been able to establish the first endowed chair in the history of Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona.

The endowed chair is named in honor of Dr. Elizabeth “Pat” Roemer (1929-2016), a highly valued member of the Department of Astronomy, LPL, and Steward Observatory during the 1960s through 1990s. We honor Dr. Roemer because of her notable contributions, not only to the University of Arizona, but to the fields of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences. By identifying her as an exemplar of excellence and a role model for all of us, we also want to encourage greater diversity and equity in science, so necessary to making progress on the grand scientific challenges we will address in the decades to come.

The inaugural holder of the chair is Regents’ Professor of Astronomy Marcia Rieke, a member of the National Academy of Sciences with a distinguished record of scientific and scholarly achievements in astrophysics, instrumentation, education, outreach, and service. 

Marcia Rieke, like the distinguished professor in whose honor the chair is named, has a record of fostering and sustaining the inclusive and welcoming environment required to enable everyone to succeed in our field, independent of their race, gender, or background.  

Our selection of Marcia Rieke as the first holder of the chair, coupled with the legacy of Elizabeth Roemer, establishes the high standards expected of future holders of the Dr. Elizabeth Roemer Endowed Chair in Steward Observatory.  

Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness
The Dr. Elizabeth Roemer Endowed Chair in Steward Observatory is one of many signs of our commitment to improve the institutional climate by raising the visibility and recognizing the contributions of women in astronomy and the physical sciences.  The Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory have a long-standing commitment to providing a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for everyone. We know that having a welcoming and supportive environment helps us attract and retain a diverse and talented community of faculty, staff, and students. We know that one of the sources of strength for our department and one of the reasons for our successes is our ability to attract and retain the best people from all communities. We also know we must always work to improve.



Additional Information about Dr. Elizabeth “Pat” Roemer

Professor Roemer was an expert in astrometry and her research focused on the study of comets and asteroids. She recovered, through her calculations and observations, 79 periodic comets.  She specialized in astrometry, making precise measurements of the positions, motions, and magnitudes of celestial bodies.  She discovered the asteroids “1930 Lucifer” (1964) and “1983 Bok” (1975), and was a co-discoverer of Thermisto, one of Jupiter’s moons. 

Pat was born in Oakland, California on September 4, 1929. She was valedictorian of her 1946 high school class and a winner of that year’s national Westinghouse Science Talent Search. She received a B.A. in Astronomy as a Bertha Dolbeer Scholar in 1950 from the University of California, Berkeley, where she also earned a Ph.D. in 1955. She began to develop her love for teaching while supporting herself through graduate school by teaching classes at local public schools. After completing her degree, she worked as an assistant astronomer at the University of California while also conducting research at the University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory, moving to the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ in 1957. In 1966, she joined the UArizona as an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy and a researcher in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL). She was promoted to full professor in 1969.  In 1972 she lead the committee that recommended the establishment of the Department of Planetary Sciences.  After retiring, Professor Emerita, in 1997, she continued to be an active member of the astronomy community.  

As a female professor in a male-dominated community, Pat Roemer was an early pioneer for women scientists in astronomy.  She held leadership roles in many astronomical commissions and organizations and earned numerous awards for her groundbreaking work. She served as president of the International Astronomical Union Commission 6 (Astronomical Telegrams) and vice president of Commission 20 (Positions and Motions of Minor Planets, Comets, and Satellites). She served as chair of the American Astronomical Society Division on Dynamical Astronomy.  Among her many awards were the B. A. Gould Prize of the National Academy of Sciences, the NASA Special Award, and the Donohoe Lectureship of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. In 1961, Asteroid “1657 Roemera” was named in her honor. 

Additional Information about Dr. Marcia Rieke, First Holder of the Dr. Elizabeth Roemer Endowed Chair in Steward Observatory:  

Marcia Rieke’s research interests include infrared observations of the center of the Milky Way and of other galactic nuclei and observation of the infrared sky at as faint a level as possible to study distant galaxies. These research interests have driven her to characterize and develop large-format, low-noise infrared detector arrays. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She came to the UA in 1976 as a postdoctoral fellow and joined the faculty as an Assistant Astronomer in Steward Observatory. She has served as the Deputy Principal Investigator on NICMOS, (the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer for the Hubble Space Telescope), the Outreach Coordinator for the Spitzer Space Telescope, and now is the Principal Investigator for the near-infrared camera (NIRCam) for the James Webb Space Telescope.  She also has been active in using Arizona’s ground-based telescopes. She served as the Vice Chair for Program Prioritization for Astro2010 and was the Chair of the Astro2020 Panel that reviewed planned OIR space facilities and missions.  She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Sciences. She has been a positive force for the creation of a strong Department/Observatory with a welcoming and safe environment for all, through her recent tenure as the Associate Head of the Department and as past chair of the Department’s Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee.

Make a donation today to support the endowment!


Information in this web page article was contributed by various members of our faculty who knew Elizabeth Roemer and by articles or obituaries, including one by Antoinette Beiser in the Lowell Observer, the Quarterly Newsletter of the Lowell Observatory:


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