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Eleanor Francis "Glo" Helin (née Francis,[2] 19 November 1932 – 25 January 2009) was an American astronomer. She was principal investigator of the Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.[3][4][5] (Some sources give her name as Eleanor Kay Helin.) She retired in 2002, and then died in 2009, at 76 years old.

Eleanor F. Helin
Born
Eleanor Frances Helin

(1932-11-19)19 November 1932
Died25 January 2009(2009-01-25) (aged 76)
Alma materOccidental College
Known fordiscoverer of minor planets
Scientific career
Fields
InstitutionsCaltech · JPL
Minor planets discovered: 903 [1]
see § List of discovered minor planets

Helin is a prolific discoverer of minor planets (see list) and several comets, including periodic comets 111P/Helin–Roman–Crockett, 117P/Helin–Roman–Alu and 132P/Helin–Roman–Alu. She is credited as the discoverer of the object now known as both asteroid 4015 Wilson–Harrington and comet 107P/Wilson–Harrington. Although Wilson and Harrington preceded her by some decades, their observations did not establish an orbit for the object, while her rediscovery did. Helin discovered or co-discovered 872 asteroids and several comets.[6]

Contents

Professional lifeEdit

Helin was active in planetary science and astronomy at the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for over three decades. In the early 1970s, she initiated the Palomar Planet-Crossing Asteroid Survey (PCAS) from Palomar Observatory. This program is responsible for the discovery of thousands of asteroids of all types including more than 200 in high inclination orbits, other asteroids in rare and unique types of orbits, 20 comets, and approximately 30 percent of the near-Earth asteroids discovered worldwide.

Helin organized and coordinated the International Near-Earth Asteroid Survey (INAS) during the 1980s, encouraging and stimulating worldwide interest in asteroids. In recognition of her accomplishments, she received NASA's Exceptional Service Medal.

After conducting the PCAS photographic search program from Palomar for nearly 25 years, Helin concentrated on the new, upgraded Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) search program using electronic sensors on a large aperture telescope. She was the principal investigator for this program operating from JPL, for which she received the 1997 JPL Award for Excellence. She also received NASA's Group Achievement Award for the NEAT Team.

In operation since December 1995, NEAT is the first autonomous observing program; no JPL personnel are on-site, only the JPL Sunspark computer which runs the observing system through the night and transmits the data back to JPL each morning for team member review and confirmation. NEAT has detected over 26,000 objects, including 31 near-Earth asteroids, two long period comets and the unique object, 1996 PW, the most eccentric asteroid known (e = 0.99012940), which moves in a long-period (4110.50 a), comet-like orbit (semi-major axis 256.601 AU).

Caltech Optical Observatories hosted a Helin Commemorative Workshop on 28 September 2010 to honour the contributions of Eleanor and Ronald Helin.[7] Palomar Observatory opened an exhibit dedicated to her and her work with the 18-inch Schmidt telescope in September 2013.[5]

Awards and honorsEdit

The Mars-crossing asteroid 3267 Glo, discovered by Edward Bowell in 1981, was named after her nickname.[8] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 13 February 1987 (M.P.C. 11641).[9]

In 1991, the USS Helin debuted on the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The ship was named after her for “having discovered an unprecedented number of asteroids and comets.” [10]

In 1992, Helin received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Occidental College.[10]

List of discovered minor planetsEdit

Helin is credited by the Minor Planet Center with the discovery or co-discovered of more than 900 numbered minor planets, including the first two Aten asteroids: 2062 Aten and 2100 Ra-Shalom, which gave rise to this new orbital group of near-Earth objects.[1][8]

She also discovered:

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Minor Planet Discoverers (by number)". Minor Planet Center. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  2. ^ Angelo, Joseph A. (2009). Encyclopedia of Space and Astronomy. Infobase Publishing. pp. 56, 65. ISBN 9781438110189. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Eleanor Francis Helin". WITI Hall of Fame. Women in Technology International. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  4. ^ Malerbo, Dan (4 March 2010). "Let's Learn About: Dr. Eleanor F. Helin". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  5. ^ a b "The Helin Commemorative Exhibit: Searching the Sky for Dangerous Neighbors". Palomar Observatory. California Institute of Technology. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Eleanor Helin". www.planetary.org. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Helin Commemorative Workshop: Near Earth Asteroids". Caltech Optical Observatories. California Institute of Technology. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). "(3267) Glo". Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (3267) Glo. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 272. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_3268. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3.
  9. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Eleanor Helin Exhibit". www.astro.caltech.edu. Retrieved 16 March 2019.

External linksEdit