Astro News Briefs: July 11–17

2005 Astronomy Day Award Winners

July 12, 2005 | The Cradle of Aviation Museum was chosen by the Astronomical League as the top winner for this year's Sky & Telescope Astronomy Day Award. The annual prize consists of a commemorative plaque and a $250 gift certificate from Sky Publishing.

Based in Garden City, New York, the Cradle of Aviation Museum involved many other organizations and hosted special activities on Astronomy Day last April, attracting 2,412 attendees plus an additional 3,272 during Astronomy/Space Week. In addition to the top prize, the museum also won the award for "Best New Idea" by inviting firefighters from Nassau County to demonstrate spinoff technologies that were derived from the US space program.

Other Astronomy Day Award winners include the AstroDay Institute (Hilo, Hawaii) for excellence in teaching and the Cumberland Astronomical Society (Gallatin, Tennessee) and the Tri-County Astronomers (Freeport, Illinois) for having the most activities for their size.

Next year's Astronomy Day will be celebrated May 6th.


James G. Baker (1914–2005)

July 11, 2005 | Harvard-educated astronomer James G. Baker, one of the true giants among 20th-century optical designers, died suddenly on June 30th at his home in Bedford, New Hampshire. He was 91.

Although his foremost interest was astronomy, his genius for optical
innovation emerged while he was a graduate student in the early 1940s,
and it dominated his professional career. His contributions to the field
of photographic reconnaissance are legendary. They began with lens
designs used during World War II and extended through the Cold War years
with the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes and eventually satellite
reconnaissance programs. He also contributed to many civilian projects,
including the exotic mirror system of Polaroid’s revolutionary SX-70
consumer camera in the early 1970s.

In the world of astronomy he is remembered for his development of the
super-Schmidt meteor camera and the Baker-Nunn satellite-tracking
system. The book that he coauthored in 1945 with George Dimitroff,
Telescopes and Accessories, became a classic that remains a valuable
reference today. He was also a skilled "glass pusher" and machinist. Numerous telescope projects were under way in his
basement and garage workshops at
the time of his death.