James Van Allen The first 8 Billion Miles
Astrophysicist James Van Allen barely had time to savor the launch of America's first satellite, Explorer I, in 1958 when colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory told him his cosmic ray detector onboard wasn't working. The instrument kept blanking out. Van Allen discovered in the blanks evidence for the earth's radiation belts, which had saturated his detector. Van Allen helped remap the solar system as he tracked cosmic rays, high-energy particles hurled across the galaxies by nature's own accelerators. At today's colloquium, hear how the Iowa astrophysicist helped pioneer the U.S. space program on a shoe-string budget and later took space exploration eight billion miles beyond the earth with instruments on Pioneer 10. Author Abigail Foerstner will talk about the life and times of this ingenious American hero in a presentation full of photographs and anecdotes drawn from her award-winning biography, "James Van Allen: The First Eight Billion Miles." Foerstner teaches health, science and environmental journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications. She coordinates science coverage for Medill's Chicago newsroom where graduate students produce multimedia stories for widespread media clients of the Medill News Service. The colloquium begins at 4:15 p.m. in Panofsky Auditorium. It is free and open to all.