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Paper: Fred Gillett's Role in the Discovery of Planetary Disks: A Commemorative History
Volume: 324, Debris Disks and the Formation of Planets: A Symposium in Memory of Fred Gillett
Page: 3
Authors: Low, F.J.; Aumann, H.H.
Abstract: In mid 1975 a representative group of IR astronomers met, at NASA's request, to recommend a strategy for Infrared Astronomy in space. Wisely, the mission that would be known as SIRTF (Spitzer) was delayed until a small satellite (ultimately to be known as IRAS) could be launched to survey the infrared sky, and simultaneously, to develop and prove out the enabling technologies that would be needed to make truly significant scientific progress. Fred Gillett and colleagues set to work on the project only to find that the Netherlands was a bit ahead of NASA. The two countries formed a joint project that they called the Infrared Space Observatory, or IRAS. Fred made many contributions to the design of the pioneering IRAS hardware. As a result, Fred was instrumental in fixing hardware problems that stood in the way of the launch. Finally, in early 1983, IRAS was launched with great success, and Fred, along with George Aumann, volunteered to guide the real-time orbit-by-orbit calibration of the all-sky survey in each of the four wavelength bands. When Fred and George found that one of their primary standard stars, Vega, was far too bright at 25, 60, and 100 microns, it was clear that something was seriously amiss, either with the hardware, the software, or perhaps with Vega itself (Aumann, et al., 1984). Before the Vega discovery was made public, Fred devised observations that proved that Vega alone produced the observed far IR excess, not invisible companions or more distant objects. They also proved that the other calibration stars are free of excess IR emission and are not extended. Thus, it became clear that this most profound discovery of IRAS would soon be followed by many more examples.

As the 20th anniversary of the launch of IRAS approaches, the astronomy world eagerly anticipates the launch of SIRTF (Spitzer) into its orbit around the Sun. Detailed plans are now in place to explore many young stars with SIRTF and to follow up in great detail the various planetary debris systems that are now known, suspected or yet to be found. Fred understood clearly that SIRTF would be needed to solve many of the mysteries associated with the formation of planetary systems and the debris systems within which they form. A time line of significant events is presented to chronicle Fred's contributions to his own science, to IRAS and to SIRTF.
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