Jonathan McDowell


Jonathan Christopher McDowell (born 1960) is an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He is a staff member at the Chandra X-ray Observatory. McDowell is the author and editor of Jonathan's Space Report, an e-mail-distributed newsletter documenting satellite launches.[1]

Jonathan McDowell

Education and career edit

McDowell has a BA in Mathematics (1981) from Churchill College and a PhD in Astrophysics (1986) from the Institute of Astronomy, both at the University of Cambridge, England. After high school, McDowell worked for six months at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich and held a summer job at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh before he began his PhD studies. His first post-doctoral position was at Jodrell Bank Observatory followed by another at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian in Cambridge, Massachusetts. McDowell then moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where he spent a year at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. In 1992, McDowell returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and currently works there as a staff member at the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Research interests edit

McDowell's main research interests include:[citation needed]

In software, McDowell helped design the CIAO[2] data analysis package and the software infrastructure for the Chandra X-ray Observatory data processing pipelines. More recently, McDowell led the creation of an exhibit of astronomical images at the Smithsonian.[3] He is co-director of an undergraduate summer research program whose alumni include Alicia M. Soderberg and Planet Hunters scientist Megan Schwamb.[4]

Jonathan's Space Report edit

In his free time, McDowell conducts research into the history of spaceflight, and since 1989 has written and edited Jonathan's Space Report, a free internet newsletter documenting technical details on satellite launches. This information, obtained from original sources including declassified Department of Defense documents and Russian-language publications, can also be found on McDowell's web site.[5]

In 1994, McDowell published a history of the North American X-15 spaceplane, in which he suggested that 80 kilometres (50 mi) should be adopted as the boundary of space.[6] In the mesosphere, 80 km is nearly equal to 50 mi, the altitude used by the United States to confer astronaut status on pilots, as in the X-15 program itself. It also differs from the internationally accepted Kármán line altitude of 100 km, used by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale for the same purpose. In 2018, McDowell published a refereed journal paper in Acta Astronautica[7] making detailed physical arguments for the 80 km value.

Media edit

In 2017, McDowell weighed in on footage released by the Department of Defense showing a UFO on the website Inverse,[8] though stating he had not reviewed the case in question:

Typically, the explanation is that the thing they are looking at is much closer or much farther than they thought, or is a reflection of some kind,

From 1993 to 2010, McDowell wrote a monthly column for Sky & Telescope. In addition, McDowell has been interviewed on numerous television and radio programs[9] with regard to rocket launches or other celestial phenomena that generated interest amongst the general public.

Honours edit

He was elected a Legacy Fellow of the American Astronomical Society in 2020.[10]

The main-belt asteroid 4589 McDowell was named after him in 1993.[1]

Activism edit

In addition to his astronomical activities, McDowell has been engaged in progressive activism, for example Planned Parenthood, and other social endeavors such as promoting skepticism and atheism.[11][12][13]

References edit

  1. ^ a b Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). "(4589) McDowell". Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 395. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_4518. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3.
  2. ^ "Chandra Interactive Analysis of Observations". Chandra X-ray Observatory. Archived from the original on 13 February 2024. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  3. ^ "Past Exhibits | Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History". Archived from the original on 10 January 2024. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  4. ^ "SAO REU Summer Intern Program". Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Jonathan's Space Report". Archived from the original on 23 November 2017. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  6. ^ McDowell, Jonathan (Spring 1994). "The X-15 Spaceplane, (with) X-15 Flight Log". Quest: The History of Spaceflight. 3 (1): 4–12.
  7. ^ McDowell, Jonathan C. (2018). "The edge of space: Revisiting the Karman Line". Acta Astronautica. 151: 668–677. arXiv:1807.07894. Bibcode:2018AcAau.151..668M. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2018.07.003.
  8. ^ Paoletta, Rae (19 December 2017). "Astronomer Says "UFO" That Navy Airmen Saw Was Probably This Instead". Inverse. Bustle Digital Group. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  9. ^ "Jonathan's Media Appearances". Archived from the original on 8 January 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  10. ^ "AAS Fellows". AAS. Archived from the original on 18 March 2021. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Boston Atheists". Archived from the original on 18 May 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Harvard Humanists". Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Boston Skeptics". Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.

External links edit

  • Official website  
  • Jonathan McDowell on Twitter