Steve Roy
Media Relations Department
(256) 544-0034

ADVISORY: 00-132

NASA astronaut Dr. John Grunsfeld, a physicist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
in Houston, will speak at the 89th meeting of the American Association of Variable
Star Observers at 8:30 p.m., April 15 at the Marriott Hotel in Huntsville, Ala.

Grunsfeld has flown on three Space Shuttle flights, including the 1999 mission to
service NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. He studies objects that emit
high-energy X-rays and gamma rays, working with astrophysicists at NASA’s
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville to analyze data from NASA’s Chandra
X-ray Observatory and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

Media are invited to attend the association’s meetings and lectures, or to
schedule interviews with Grunsfeld and other astronomers by contacting Steve
Roy of the Marshall Center’s Media Relations Department at (256) 544-0034.

The conference activities will kick off Thursday, April 13 with the first High-Energy
Astrophysics Workshop for Amateur Astronomers, sponsored by the Marshall
Center and the Star Observers Association. Speakers are leaders in high-energy
astrophysics, including Marshall Center astrophysicists Dr. Martin Weisskopf,
Chandra chief scientist; and Dr. Gerald Fishman, principal investigator for the
Burst and Transient Source Experiment, the main instrument for detecting
gamma-ray bursts on the Compton Observatory.

“This is the first-ever high-energy astronomy workshop for amateurs who practice
astronomy as a hobby,” said Fishman. “Many amateurs use sophisticated
equipment and have contributed astronomical data used in the forefront of

In early March, a group of astronomers in Buffalo, N.Y., obtained an image of the
afterglow of a gamma-ray burst — a powerful explosion near the edge of the
universe. The hobbyists, members of the Buffalo Astronomical Association, used
a 40-year-old telescope and a homemade camera to capture the afterglow on film.
Professional astronomers have accomplished this feat only a few times.

A special workshop session on coordinating gamma-ray burst afterglow
observations will be held at 8 a.m. Friday, April 14. “Seeing these bursts and other
objects in a variety of energy ranges helps us learn more about what causes these
mysterious explosions,” said Fishman.

Conference sessions on Saturday, April 15, include presentations by association
members and conclude with Grunsfeld’s presentation.

To view a related story on the workshop and meeting, please visit:

More information on the American Association of Variable Star Observers
meeting is available at: