April 17, 1997
Vol. 16, No. 15

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    Probing space from your porch

    Parker to give Ryerson lecture on May 1 Eugene Parker, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Physics and Astronomy & Astrophysics, will present the 24th Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture, "Probing Space Through Measurements and Meditations on Your Porch," at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 1, in Max Palevsky Cinema. The lecture is free and open to the public.

    Parker will explain how simple observations, experiments and deductions made from Earth have shaped our knowledge of the solar system and the Universe around us.

    "I really want to convey to people that we are not isolated from the rest of the universe," Parker said. "We live in a magnetic field, for example, and we're buffeted by weather from the sun, whether we're aware of it or not."

    He will explore such questions as why the tails of comets always point away from the sun, how the violent weather in space affects the surface of Earth, and how streams of charged particles coming from the sun light up the skies at night in the brilliant displays of Earth's auroras, or "Northern Lights."

    Parker, who is best known for his prediction and naming of the solar wind -- the stream of electrically charged particles emitted by the sun's corona -- has studied cosmic magnetic fields for more than 40 years as a University faculty member. His interests range from Earth's auroras to the magnetic fields of entire galaxies.

    Parker received his B.S. from Michigan State University in 1948 and his Ph.D. from Caltech in 1951. He joined the Chicago faculty as a Research Associate in 1955 and became emeritus in 1995.

    He is the author of three books and well over 300 scientific articles, and the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1989 National Medal of Science and the 1992 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and from 1983 to 1986 was chairman of the academy's Astronomy Section.

    The Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture was established in 1972 by the Board of Trustees to give distinguished members of the faculty an opportunity to speak to the larger community about their life and work. The Ryerson lecturer is nominated by a faculty committee appointed by the president.