“Summary of a Life in Observational Ultraviolet/Optical Astronomy” by Donald G. York

February 9, 2024

Donald G. York, Horace B. Horton Professor Emeritus

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My main science research is of an observational nature, concerning Galactic and intergalactic interstellar gas. Highlights for me included my work on the orbiting telescope Copernicus, including the discovery of interstellar deuterium; early observations of absorption associated with five-times ionized oxygen; and discoveries concerning the phases of gas in the local interstellar medium, based on previously unobservable interstellar UV spectral lines. With other instruments and collaborations, I extended interstellar UV studies to the intergalactic cool gas using quasi-stellar object QSO absorption lines redshifted to the optical part of the spectrum; provided a better definition of the emission and morphological character of the source of absorption lines in QSO spectra; and pursued the identification of the unidentified DIBs. For several of these topics, extensive collaborations with many scientists were essential over many years. The conclusions developed slowly, as I moved from being a graduate student at Chicago, to a research scientist position at Princeton and then to a faculty position at Chicago. At each stage of life, I was exposed to new technologies adaptable to my science and to subsequent projects. From high school days, I encountered several management opportunities which were formative. I have been extremely fortunate both in scientific mentors I had and in experimental opportunities I encountered.

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