News for the Alumni and Friends of the (former) Space Physics and Astronomy Department

Volume 2, Number 3

March 6, 2001

Hot News - Alumni News - Faculty News - Staff News - Observatory News - Other News

Editor: Patricia Reiff (

Jim Burch is this year's Distinguished Marlar Lecturer:

Jim Burch (outstanding alumnus of the '60's) will give the Marlar Distinguished Lecture at Rice: "The Fury of Space Storms". It will be held March 28, 7:30 pm in the McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall (entrance 16). There will be a reception afterwards. The public is invited; alumni are especially welcome. The talk will be webcast LIVE and also available for net rebroadcast via the Rice webcast server. The Marlar and Gordon awards for 2000-2001 will be announced. Click here for a pdf poster for the talk - feel free to spread it to any interested people.

Burch is the PI of the "IMAGE" spacecraft - the first remote sensing "Space Weather" spacecraft. Rice alumni are involved in all of the IMAGE instrument types - Dave Young with MENA, Sandel with EUV, Mende with FUV, and Reiff with RPI.

(Burch will also give the Physics and Astronomy Dept colloquium at 4 pm in PL210).

Here's an anecdote about Jim sent in by Brian O'Brien (

    Once upon a time, we had Jim's Ph D thesis riding on the satellite Aurora 1. I needed to find a rocket via the Pentagon. I had a chat with my mate in Washington and he said "Brian, I need a convincing argument that I can put up so that we can launch it quickly.'

    I said, "Well the real reason is that Jim is in ROTC and has to go to Vietnam, and if he can get his PhD beforehand etc etc he will be a lot safer there. So I want Aurora ! launched by 29 June. And Jim is expecting a baby."

    So my mate translated all that into Pentagon-speak, and Aurora was launched on time!


Observatory news:

The oncampus observatory committee (Dufour, Hartigan, Reiff, and David Talent) have been working with Rice architect Frank Cortez, putting finishing touches on the observatory plans. The building, to be placed in the intramural fields west of the old SPAC building, has been approved by the Board. The University is paying for "bricks and mortar" - the donations we have collected from alumni and friends will go to pay for the telescope itself. (The 16 inch Meade telescope will cost around $18,000. We have raised so far $12,000). If we don't raise more from alumni, we will use the Marlar foundation funds for the remaining cost of the telescope, plus a computer or two. We were stunned to hear, however, that Frank Cortez was killed in a motorcycle accident on Sunday. The funeral will be Wednesday March 7 at 11 am at Holy Family Catholic Church, Missouri City (a mass will be held March 6 at 7:30 pm). A memorial service in the Rice Chapel will be Friday morning March 9 at 10:30 am. The Rice Space Institute is sending flowers. He was a gracious, thoughtful man, and worked very well with us as we explored options, changed designs, etc. We will miss him very much.


Alumni news (mostly BABIES!!!):


Staff News: Maria Byrne is joining Martel College staff

Maria Byrne( sends this note to tell of her new job - we will certainly miss her, but we're glad she's staying on campus!:

    Dear SPAC friends, Just wanted to let you all know that last Friday I turned in my resignation from the Physics and Astronomy Dept. to Dr. Dunning. I have accepted a new position as the new Martel College Coordinator. I knew this day would come, but I had hoped it would be whenever I decided to retire from Rice. That's why my decision to leave the department was not an easy one to make, but I believe, at this time, it is the right one for me (I miss working directly with students and I will have an opportunity to continue doing that in my new job.)

    I have enjoyed working here, especially during my 17 years in the Space Physics & Astronomy Department. The "SPAC" people have been like a family to me and I will miss everyone greatly. I hope I will see you on campus though, my temporary office will be in the Anderson Labs bldg., (don't know the office number yet). My last day in the department will be March 31st.

    I am looking forward to this new job. I will be working for Dr. and Mrs. Few and of course for all the students at Martel. It's very exciting to be part of the beginning of a new college.

    I will see you around....



Lunar and Planetary Conference:

Come and see us if you are going to be in town for the Lunar and Planetary Conference: the P&A colloquia next week will be:

    Monday March 12, 4 pm: Uwe Oberlack
    Tuesday March 13, 4 pm: Shane Larson (instructor candidate)
    Weds March 14, 4 pm: Astronomy faculty candidate Christopher Johns-Krull

As always, you can check details on the P&A colloquia schedule at
and the Rice Space Institute meetings at

The Rice Space Institute is in HBH 202; the P&A Department office is in Herzstein Hall (the Physics Building)


SPACALUM email list:

    We have set up a "spacalum" email list, for alumni *and friends* of the spac dept. If you want to join, just send email to

    (We don't allow "just anyone" to subscribe - we don't allow strangers to see your email addres or send you material - but we do encourage anyone who has had a tie to space science at Rice to join - former staff, students, and friends)

    The list is *moderated*, so I promise you won't get a bunch of spam. If you want to send something to the entire list, send it to and it will go to me for approval before it goes to the list. Or you can just email it to me and I'll save it for the next newsletter. SPACalum subscribers get their news first!

To unsubscribe, just send email to


Faculty News:

no new reports

Thanks.... and I hope to hear the news from you soon! If I forgot to include your news, I probably just misfiled it - please send it again. Be sure to use "Alumni News" as the subject line, so I'll know you want me to send it out...

...Pat Reiff

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last modified: March 9, 2001