Interview with Gart Westerhout on 27 July 1993

Description

Gart Westerhout, interviewed by Steven J. Dick at the U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington D.C. on 27 July 1993.

Creator

Papers of Gart Westerhout

Rights

Contact Archivist for rights information.

Type

Oral History

Interviewee

Gart Westerhout

Location

Original Format of Digital Item

Audio cassette tape

Interview Date

1993-07-27

Notes

This transcript is PART 6 of a series of seven interviews of Gart Westerhout by Steven J. Dick conducted between 19 February and 29 July 1993. The transcript of all interviews was checked and corrected by Dr. Westerhout in October 2000. The original audio tapes were deposited at the U.S. Naval Observatory. Because the interviews were conducted while both Westerhout and Dick were federal employees, there are no copyright restrictions on the interview. The interview is posted here as a supplement to the Papers of Gart Westerhout at the suggestion of Dr. Dick, who provided the transcript, with his permission and that of the Westerhout family.

Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event.

Series

Additional Materials About Westerhout Series

Transcription

Begin Tape 6 Side A

Dick

Last time we talked about organization changes, computerization, some things about mission, and the observatory's role as not only a naval observatory, but a national observatory. You just mentioned something about leverage, as we were finishing. What did you mean by leverage?

Westerhout

What did I mean by leverage?

Dick

It had to do with Flagstaff.

Westerhout

Leverage has to do with the fact that being a prominent observatory...we were discussing the question of why are we not really the national observatory anymore. I said because we're not doing astrophysics. Had we done that, the astrometry would have dropped out. But being preeminent in one particular field and having top scientists in that field and in other fields, you can exert a lot of leverage on other organizations in astronomy.

An example of that is the whole reference frame business. Basically we started the whole reference frame business in the IAU six or even nine years ago, I think. When I say the reference frame business, I mean the organization of a working group to define a reference frame out of which in Buenos Aires came this whole set of resolutions that defined time, that defined reference frames, that made the statement that in the future everything is going to be based on the extragalactic system and no longer on the dynamical solar system, and so on and so forth. That's still a number of years away, but all of those things were basically started by the observatory, by having scientists who have enough clout, by virtue of the fact that they produce the most excellent data that are available, to convince others to go in that same direction. It is then after that, of course, a lot of talking back and forth, a lot of convincing others that such a thing as the non-rotating origin and so on are perhaps not as practical as the systems that we want to use. Non-rotating origin was something that the French were very keen on, and still around, but it's sort of beginning to diminish in importance. A different way of defining a reference frame. It's all the same thing, but you have to start trying to define language that ties the one definition to the other, and that sort of was considered here not to be all that important--all that practical, I mean.

I think the important thing in that reference frame business is that it got a lot of people to realize that this stuff has to be centralized, and just somebody somewhere must collaborate in getting these things together and getting a reference frame that is internationally accepted.

Dick

So is the dynamical reference frame going to be outmoded or dropped?

Westerhout

Eventually it will be outmoded. It will probably still remain for quite a long time, because it is the reference frame upon which the current proper motions are based, and until we can rotate that into the extragalactic frame, for which we do not only need the positions, but also the proper motions in that frame, we need quite a bit of overlap. Also we want to go back and redefine the positions of the planets in some new system, which is the extragalactic system. Therefore, the connection between those two systems will take quite a while to accomplish. I think that's the main task.

You mustn't forget, for example, that the whole proper motion system depends on the precession constant. If you change the precession constant, you rotate your proper motion system, and therefore all these things are tied together. Which precession constants should you use? Should you use the one that you derive from the catalogs, the transit circle catalogs? Should you use the one that you derive from the VLBI? It's beginning to become more and more clear that of course it is the one that you derive using the VLBI data, which is far more accurate.

Dick

Of course, the extragalactic system is based on quasars, but there will come a point in time when you may even have proper motions of quasars, right, down at the microarc second level?

Westerhout

That's possible, but for the moment, that is not a consideration. But the quasars--and that is again where leverage comes, because now people will look at the quasars not only because they're so interesting structurally, but also from the point of view of this thing is a milliarc second across, or two milliarc seconds across, but sometimes something flares up here, so the thing internally moves over periods of a year or so, or a few years, and that then moves, changes the position of that quasar.

So the study of internal structure changes in quasars is not only of interest for the astrophysicist's sake; it's of interest for the astrometrist's sake for the reference frame, as well. So it's tying two things together, and that's the leverage. We would never have the time to study all these quasars, but by having others alert to those sort of things, we eventually get the input.

Dick

But you're saying that's more of an immediate problem to the extragalactic reference frame, the internal structure, than any proper motion -

Westerhout

You can see that happening. There is the so-called super light motions, you know - things in the quasars that move at ten times the speed of light and so on, which, of course, means that you see the quasar change. A blob comes out. Of course, it doesn't move at ten times the speed of light. It's a perspective effect. It has something to do with relativity, because some of these things go close to the speed of light.

Dick

Milliarc second accuracies for quasars are fairly routine now, I guess.

Westerhout

They're fairly routine, but we are, in collaboration with NRL, working on the VLBI reference frame, consisting of 400 sources, one every 10 square degrees, and observing those particularly in the southern hemisphere, analyzing them and getting the data together from different surveys - Cal Tech, JPL, Goddard, and ourselves and NRL - and getting the best reference frame, reducing all those data from the start. Instead of taking somebody's catalog and integrating that, we use all the original data. That's a big effort, and a number of people are working on that. Jane Russell is basically in charge, but Alan Fey and Brent Archinal are among the top guys, and several people like Dave Hall working on it from AD, also.

Dick

So you're not going to be able to talk about microarc second accuracies until some further developments in space - interferometry? That's where the microarc second possibility comes in.

Westerhout

People are sort of talking about 100 microarc seconds or even 50 microarc seconds for positions, with the space interferometers that are currently being proposed. Of course, several competing projects there. But that's -

Dick

That's down the line a ways.

Westerhout

Way down the line.

Dick

So the extragalactic reference frame is going to be the reference frame for the foreseeable future. In fact, it's hard to imagine what better reference frame you could come up with, even if you had proper motions for quasars.

Westerhout

That's quite right. That's quite right, because the proper motion for the quasars are very small, if they're there at all.

Dick

Is there anything else you wanted to say about leveraging?

Westerhout

Well, that's one area of leveraging where you use the expertise of your people in the field to get others to work in the same general direction. The whole business of constants, as Seidelmann is always after - I mean, the astronomical constants. Basically the astronomical constants reside here, although Fukushima is now working on it as part of the efforts of the Naval Observatory with these working groups. Fukushima has been put in charge of a working group that's working on constants, so they will come up with proposals, but we're heavily involved in that working group, of course. Seidelmann was responsible for the previous series of astronomical constants, which means you have a number of people working to get you the best possible data, which is stuff that we need for our mission, in general.

Then the third area of leverage is the leverage in Time Service where, of course, the prestige alone of testing your equipment directly with the master clock gets a lot of people coming in and saying, "What do you really need?" The whole new development of the much more stable cesiums that have recently appeared on the market from HP, a good part of that is due to the strong collaboration with the Naval Observatory, us accepting those things in their initial stages for long-term tests against the master clock, showing that there is still this or that in it, so it would go back to the factory and they would work on it. Now it's become a product.

But at the same time, we get, as a result, available all these cesiums--(A) cesiums that we got for free, and (B) the new cesiums are simply a hell of a lot better than the old ones. The old ones are slowly but surely going to be discarded. Certainly not going to be part of the master clock.

Dick

But as a master clock system, do you foresee anything beyond the current cesium beam/hydrogen maser combination?

Westerhout

Well, we're still working on the ion storage devices--at the moment, the mercury ion storage devices. But there are movements afoot in laboratories to try other things as well, and we try and keep our finger in that pie. In a sense, that is again leverage, because why would the people do that? Partly because it's interesting physics? No, entirely because it's interesting physics. But they can defend it better if the Naval Observatory says, "Yeah, we have a need for that stuff."

The pulsar people use the Naval Observatory as an organization that will eventually need the very good timing you get out of pulsars, as the ultimate master clock, an ensemble of pulsars, millisecond pulsars. The big Green Bank telescope may well come into play with that, and we're setting up a small timing center. In Greenbank this ultra high precision time reference station that was canceled, was going to be the center for the pulsar timing work. Now probably with the help of NRAO, we'll be setting up a smaller timing center. But we are going to contribute heavily to that, because for VLBI we need two masers and one or two cesiums and so on, so we're going to put all that in Green Bank, then do our work on ensembles to make sure that that all gets together.

Then the final leverage business is the leverage from the people who do astrophysics, the guys in Flagstaff who use their knowledge of other areas of astrophysics to (A) test out equipment that we built to the absolute limit, and (B) because of their expertise, have lots of contacts with others. I always like to quote Vrba. Maybe I did that already.

Dick

Not on tape.

Westerhout

I always like to quote Vrba, who is an expert in the whole area of polarization of star light and so on, but also more than 50 percent of his time involved in the parallax program, fully up on all the needs for the parallax program. In his many visits to South America to observe stellar polarization, he had a chance to talk about CCDs with all these people. If I'm not mistaken, in two places in South America, the smaller observatories are now installing, or have installed, a CCD and have started a southern hemisphere parallax program. Now, that's leverage. That is the sort of leverage on the basis of which I always defend that our people should be able to do a good amount of astrophysics research - their own research, as we call it - because that helps a lot in getting our prestige up and, as a result, our collaboration.

We are currently in a whole area of new CCDs, our work towards infrared, because of our very good contacts in the astrophysics community. We acquire a lot of that by memorandums of understanding. We have a memorandum of understanding at the moment with Kitt Peak National Observatory, the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, whereby the two of us together are developing a 1024-by-1024 array for 2.2 to 5 microns, the biggest one ever made, and hopefully that will pan out.

Dick

That's the infrared you're talking about.

Westerhout

Infrared. I said 2.2 to 5 microns. That is infrared.

Westerhout

So there we're going halves. In other areas, at the moment several big CCDs, 2000-by-2000 CCDs, are being delivered from a joint project which we have with Lawrence Livermore and UCLA and Cal Tech and so on, and together we got a company to make a large run of these and then distributed among the participants.

So there was a relatively small fiscal input from us, but the leverage of them developing together a set of new pieces of equipment that if you had done it on your own that would have been prohibitively expensive, and that is the leverage that comes again from developing a certain amount of expertise at the observatory, where your people are looked at as among the top experts in the field, and everybody likes us to collaborate, because we can do some testing on these things that other people can't even do.

Dick

I understand the scope of the leverage, what you mean by leverage now. Isn't there another side to the coin when you talk about this leverage and going beyond the mission? In other words, you can't really be a forefront observatory and keep good people if they're doing just routine things like clock-watching or parallax-observing. There has to be some R&D component, not only to keep ahead in the mission, but also to keep good people who have broader interests.

Westerhout

Right. That is always hard at the observatory, because there is so much to do. We, in general, tell people - I never stop telling them that the average scientist should have 20 percent of his time available for his own research. The number of people that do that can be counted on the fingers of two hands. The Flagstaff people make very strong use of that. Here there are some that do it, but very few - in fact, I would say the fingers on one hand. Now, that doesn't mean that the work that they do that is not personal research is not pure research, too, but they do sometimes not broaden themselves enough in that sense by doing something that's much more akin to astrophysics.

Dick

How does the Navy feel about that aspect? Is the Navy policy in agreement with giving people 20 percent?

Westerhout

That's Naval Observatory policy. We have to produce a product for which we require experts, and those experts, in order to remain experts, have to keep their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground at the same time.

Dick

But is this something that you have to argue to the Superintendent or to the people above him?

Westerhout

It's stuff that you have to argue with the Superintendent every now and again, but, in general, that is understood almost immediately. It is never argued with the people above him, particularly because really in other organizations you see the same thing, particularly in laboratories. We're a peculiar organization.

Dick

We've talked about the differences between us and a laboratory, but certainly places like NRL, there's a lot more R&D component.

Westerhout

Yes at NRL everybody does basically research. But here at the USNO there are a lot of people who are very content in doing what you and I call the routine things, and they don't really think they're all that routine. They like what they're doing, and I think we, in general, have a happy staff. Some of that work is routine, but you can't expect some of the people that we have on the staff to be as broad as you would like them to be, because they came here with a bachelor's degree and never got any further. Sometimes they did get a master's degree somewhere, spread out somewhat, but not all that much. That is one of the reasons why you cannot really expect it of everybody. I always encourage people to do it. I mean, Jim DeYoung I always find as a shining example. He struggled for quite a while trying to get an astronomy degree, but the physics courses just got him. Well, when he got to Time Service, he saw the light, and he was going to do computer science, and he did. He graduated this spring with magna cum laude, with 3.96 average.

Dick

In computer science.

Westerhout

In computer science. Of course next year he's probably going to go on for a master's and so on.

Dick

So he's found his niche.

Westerhout

He's found his niche, and he's going to get up. Of course, in addition, he is an enthusiastic astronomer, although still on the amateur level somewhat, but certainly contributing to the variable star people, as an example. There is a problem, we appreciate him very much, butthe guys at Flagstaff still think he's an amateur, and they're very reluctant to assist, but they do. But I had to talk to them about it, and that's because they feel they should only talk to Ph.D.s. Now you get to the ivory tower.

Dick

Elitism, yes. [Laughter]

Westerhout

Exactly. Elitism attitude. That is somewhat rampant in Flagstaff, but not as bad as it was. I always have long discussions with Ables about that.

Dick

There are a couple of things that you mentioned that I wanted to follow up on. One is the infrared. Why is the Naval Observatory interested in the infrared? It's only been very recently that it's been interested in the infrared, right?

Westerhout

Yes it's very recently because up until very recently there was not really any means of doing very accurate position work in the infrared, because infrared detectors were sort of things that worked with 64-by-64 pixel elements for a few years. That's zero field. There's no way you can start doing large-scale surveys of very precise positions, comparing infrared objects to optical objects and stuff like that. That is beginning to change. In the last few years they have developed 256-by-256 arrays. These are not CCDs, by the way, in the infrared. Several observatories have those.

Now it becomes time for the Naval Observatory to say, "Look, at some point somebody's going to need the positions of these things." Really, the observatory is the only place that can do it. So obviously we had better get into that infrared thing. We started saying that in 1991 when we had...or even in 1990 we were talking about it, and then ONR visited Flagstaff and started talking about infrared, and said, "This looks to us so important, we're going to increase your R&D budget by 300K to get into the infrared." So that was a nice big chunk of sudden increase in funding that helped us getting into the IR. We've also, in the meantime, made a lot of propaganda with the oceanographer, and therefore there is now money in the OPN budget to buy infrared equipment and so on.

But you asked the question why, and the only reason I've given you is, of course, that we are again the positional astronomy observatory and somehow or other it behooves us to be available when positions are needed. In the last year, we have discovered there are quite a few DoD organizations that are badly in need of positions of infrared objects, and we're flailing about, having no idea how to do it.

That is why we set Hindsley last December to developing a catalog of 20,000 stars, or thereabouts, which were seen by IRS from 12 microns on, and doing identifications of those stars. In fact, there were 34,000 stars. About 20,000 of those he really could have made good identifications in the sense that the magnitude at 12 microns agrees with the colors in the visual to within a certain limit. In other words, it's not a peculiar object that you see in the infrared that has nothing to do with the optical, even though it's a stellar-looking object, because the IRS positions are minutes of arc in accuracy, so you may be way off in saying that's such and such a star.

So he did a very good set of astrophysics work over the last half-year, and not only came up with about 20,000 stars of which he can be really certain that they are infrared objects and therefore they immediately have two-tenths of an arc second positional accuracy. These are stars of the IRS and so on. Plus he was able to determine through interpolation and through stellar atmosphere calculations the expected magnitude at 2.2 microns--the K magnitude.

So the table that is now available has the positions and the 2.2 microns and then, of course, the IRS magnitudes, as well, for those objects. That's suddenly a big thing, and, boy, was that ever snapped up by people in the DoD who made copies and said to others, "I want it on a magnetic tape, and I want it on a floppy disk." So that was quite clearly in the DoD fulfilling a need. Of course, for the layman, the simplest way to see that is twofold: one, whenever you are, like an SDI guy, looking for objects in space that come from an enemy, the first signature of those objects is the fact that they're hot. Hot objects you can't see very well, but it surely shines in the infrared. Apparently rocket exhausts have their peak at 3.6 microns, so the 2-to-5 micron range is a very important range.

So you see the damn thing, so you lock on it. You lock on it with a radar beam and so on and so forth. The laser beam is what they're doing. But it's much easier to see it and compare it to the infrared stars that you see around it and determine its orbit and its position that way. You can figure it out just as well. In other words, I'm not divulging any specific systems; I'm simply talking the way you can read of what you do with infrared in Sky and Telescope and so on, in those areas. What exactly is done, I do not know, because I do not have access to those sometimes highly classified areas, but it's quite clear that there is a big need for star positions in the infrared. That's one thing.

The other thing is the infrared goes through the atmosphere much more easily than the optical, and in the infrared you can see the stars during the day. Aha! Now you have navigation needs that suddenly say, "My God, I can see the stars during the day. I can do positioning. I don't have to wait for a clear night and so on. I can do it right now with some of the brighter stars on the ground." The third aspect of infrared is the fact that it's increasingly clear that future wars will be fought at night. That came out of Somalia, that certainly came out of the -

Dick

Desert Storm in Kuwait.

Westerhout

Desert Storm. Somalia, you saw that that was immediately used when they stormed the coast and all the klieg lights of all the journalists went on. But never mind. It was a night assault, because that is the way you now do those things. You do them at night, because you have night vision, night goggles. All that stuff needs testing. How accurately can you position something at night, using infrared? All those sort of things. So that is, I am sure, where some of that need comes from.

Dick

So how do you see the Naval Observatory's work developing in infrared?

Westerhout

We already have in the budget the addition of infrared detectors on the optical interferometer, and by putting infrared detectors on the optical interferometer at 2 microns, the optical interferometer will suddenly have its full aperture available. You see, the optical interferometer, you have to go through great lengths to add up the pieces from the atmosphere. The typical size of determining that element in the atmosphere is about 10 cm at good seeing. So you have many of those elements over a 35 cm mirror beam. That size changes about as the wavelength, so when your wavelength is four times longer, suddenly those elements are bigger than the size of your mirror, so instead of trying to collect all the light from those things, which you do in a fancy way in the back end, you have suddenly the whole aperture available.

So there are advantages to doing interferometry in the infrared. In fact, there's an advantage to do positional astronomy in the infrared in general, because the seeing is much, much better than it is in the optical. So that alone is a reason for doing it, but basically the idea is that we eventually will develop a telescope that can do positions of infrared objects in the 2-to-5 micron range with maybe a few tenths of an arc second, three-tenths of an arc second accuracy. Now, that will probably not be until '98 or '99.

We are participating in the 2 MASS - that is 2 micron all sky survey - organized by a consortium of universities under the direction of the University of Massachusetts. Would you believe the acronym - 2 MASS? But you only discover that that acronym obviously has something to do with the university after you hear about it, because it's the 2 Micron All Sky Survey. It's no problem with that as an acronym.

We are putting money into that. They are developing two telescopes and the backends to do the entire sky, about a million objects or maybe even more, down to a relatively deep magnitude. Our influence has made the specs a lot tighter in the sense that they'll get at least an arc second accuracy for that. It's a survey. It's not a positional survey simply getting a new map of what the hell is there in the background in the way of stellar objects. Of course, the current catalogs contain 20,000 objects at the most. This suddenly goes to the millions, doing it in the southern and the northern hemisphere simultaneously, hopefully. Our agreement is that at some point, and later on when the survey is finished, we get at least 30 percent time on those telescopes. We could then equip them with much more precise stuff to do a survey of selected objects for positions.

Dick

So why would we need our own telescope?

Westerhout

I didn't say we'd build our own.

Dick

I thought you said by '98 there would be a -

Westerhout

No, that is '98. '98 or '99 is when the 2 MAS is finished. At that point, we hopefully will have mastered all the technology of infrared positioning. The first step there...there's two steps that we took simultaneously. One is development, as I talked earlier, of a big array, because we are the guys who need the big arrays. You can do it with mosaics, but we like big arrays, because you get a big chunk of sky with many stars on it. And we bought--that should be delivered next summer or next spring--a ready-made off-the-shelf camera for 2 microns, that we can simply stick on the telescope and get experience, develop algorithms, and so on and so forth. We're getting into it in a relatively big way in the next year. But then it will be not until the optical interferometer maybe in '96 or '97. But all sky at deeper magnitudes, probably not until the year 2000. It may be that people will be knocking at our door by then.

Dick

But that's the kind of thing that's important for the observatory to get into or you're just left behind. Right?

Westerhout

Exactly right. Exactly right. Somebody else will do it. Somebody else doesn't quite know how to do it, but somebody else will do it, so we had better get into that in a hurry, which is what we're trying to do. I pushed that catalog that Hindsley was making, and that's already accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal to be the first one to have an infrared positional catalog. This is the positional catalog they should look at - the Naval Observatory IR positions. "Huh?" That kind of -

Dick

Is this the kind of thing that you find, in general, that you really have to fight to not only - well, to not only expand your turf, but to keep the turf that you have among other institutions in the U.S.? I guess NIST comes to mind here, for example, with regard to time.

Westerhout

We always have to fight. In the case of astrometry, it's not so much fighting; it is more making sure that the other people realize that at some point they're going to need positions, so we'd better be in the field. And, of course, again I mention Vrba, but there are several others, too, who have already done work in the infrared for astrophysical purposes, or they already know how to handle some of that equipment.

Dick

How about our relations with NIST?

Westerhout

[Laughter] Now that I think of it - right?

Dick

Is there any story to be told there?

Westerhout

Well, the story to be told is that NIST is an organization that has a very good propaganda machine, and, of course, they are established to provide services to the public. NIST goes out of its way to tell the farmers what fertilizers to use on their grounds, and they forever organize farmers' meetings on chemistry or ground chemistry in all sorts of weird little towns - Wheeling, West Virginia. Stuff like that. So they are saying, "You should come to us, because we can tell industry what to do for you guys." So on and so forth. So they're in that business, and that's why they have been established - Institute for Science in that Bureau of Standards, as it was called before, but they changed the name, because it's more than just standards.

The Time and Frequency Division there was, of course, indeed a standards division. They were charged with setting the standard of frequency. While setting the standard of frequency, how do people read the frequency? Well, you have your radio transmitter geared directly to that frequency standard, and that is what WWV does. It provides the exact 25 megahertz. You tune your gadget to that, and you can be absolutely sure that the frequency of that channel is 25 megahertz to the accuracy with which this produces it, which is far better than anybody else.

Dick

But most people use that for the time, not the frequency.

Westerhout

While you have that, and while you have these atomic clocks that do that, of course you also have time, so you put time ticks on it, and that's where WWV comes for time. But it is a frequency station. So NIST has never been charged with time. There is a whole file in here on that, I think, and if I don't have it, Winkler has it, showing that when the Navy lawyers or historians or whatever went through it, saying that basically the Naval Observatory has been the organization, by default, of providing time of day right from the start, therefore still today the Naval Observatory is the organization that provides the time of day, the NIST people in Boulder came after World War II, basically. Well, no, they were there before World War II. WWV already existed before World War II.

Dick

I think they had their 75th anniversary some time ago.

Westerhout

I see.

Dick

So it was probably -

Westerhout

Somewhere in the thirties. After World War I. Those two world wars were so close together, in another while we won't be able to separate them anymore.

So what does NIST do now? NIST develops these frequency standards, right? And NIST then, with this great big new super cesium standard that they've just developed, they had press releases, and the press release said, "This is the best clock ever built." Well, as a single clock, it was, but it's a hell of a lot less accuracy for precise time as the master clock at the observatory. It says, you know, this clock is stable to 1 part in 1013. Ours is stable to 1 part in 1015. There is a whole factor of 100 difference, and indeed our first tests with it showed that the thing was off. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, they turned it off again after the press release But it is that sort of thing. Of course, the public has no idea what's going on.

Dick

And the press latches onto a press release like that and plays it up.

Westerhout

Of course. I was inclined to get - I suggested very strongly that in the press release on the leap second we would say something strongly about that. We said something about it at my insistence, but not enough. So that was a good occasion to make a statement. You don't put a press release saying, "This is completely wet. We're a lot better," but you could attach statements to other press releases. I think that's important, because you should get the press to know that really time of day comes from here. We have the best clock. The good cesiums, the good Hewlett Packard cesiums, are about as good as the machine - well, a little bit less good than brand-new big frequency standard at NIST, but the big new frequency standard at NIST is supposed to hang on to that frequency for a very long time. It can never be off by more than 1 part in 1013. You see, that is instantaneous. We get our time accuracy by averaging sometimes over days or months, whereas if you want to test the frequency of your equipment, you have to immediately go in there and say, "This is the frequency." You can't do that over days. That's where the difference comes.

Dick

Have there been times during your period as Scientific Director when there has been direct contentious contact between USNO and NIST?

Westerhout

No, there has never been contentious contact as such, but there have occasionally been somewhat unpleasant exchanges. In general, Winkler and Klepczynski together are usually able to sort of fade those out again.

The other thing that NIST does is, of course, they sell themselves. They sell their time and their expertise to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that wants it, including the Air Force. And we have to repeatedly tell the Air Force, "That is not DoD time. This is DoD time - Naval Observatory." And we're getting more and more successful with that, but in the past there were big air force contracts where basically NIST was developing things for them, and things were going to be connected to the NIST clock. We slowly but surely are in the process of getting that across to the air force, that's not the rule. And we mention, and we can show them, of course, a graph that the NIST clock sort of keeps around the Naval Observatory clock, but at any one time it may be 100 nanosecond or a few hundred nanoseconds off. That's not what you want. GPS requires 15 nanoseconds. So you can't tie it to NIST, because then you automatically have to tie NIST to the Naval Observatory, which you could do, too. It's an extra time distributor - fine. But don't say it's NIST time that we're going to put on our satellite, because that's forbidden. That's a no-no. It must be observatory time.

Dick

The public knows about NIST from WWV, mainly.

Westerhout

That's right.

Dick

Why does the Naval Observatory not have a radio time signal like WWV to compete with NIST?

Westerhout

Ask Winkler that. We gave up the radio signals basically when WWV started.

Dick

We were the first to do radio time signals in 1904, but we seem to have given up a bit of turf there.

Westerhout

I think that was probably bad. I suspect we did that when WWV started. There was no need to have two of those time signals. At that time, I'm sure WWV was just as good as the Naval Observatory. We all used pendulum clocks and so on.

Dick

We've got about a minute left on this side.

Westerhout

Okay. I wanted to say one more thing - GPS. As you know, the GPS has selected availability. In other words, civilians cannot access GPS with the accuracy with which they sometimes want. It's degraded. The FAA has decided they're going to rely very heavily on satellite navigation for all their airplanes, and they have been talking for the last several years, with us involved, to the GPS community, so far without much success.

Maybe we should stop that and continue on the next tape.

Dick

Okay.

End Tape 6 Side A

Begin Tape 6 Side B

Dick

We're talking about FAA and GPS.

Westerhout

For example, there is at the moment, in collaboration with the FAA, but maybe in the DoD, a program that is called GPS Integrity, whereby it will be known that the observatory plays a major role in that, which satellite at any which time is out or is not quite correct and so on. If you're flying a commercial airplane, you have to know that. If you're flying any airplane, you have to know that. Unfortunately, FAA, with all this resistance from the DoD, is now organizing, together with other organizations, to equip INMARSAT, which are the satellite communication systems for the commercial marine, with semi-GPS signals. In other words, they have the same structure as GPS, but they will not be selected availability; they will always be there.

So somewhere along the line in this country, the government is now starting a second GPS system, because the DoD feels that the GPS system should be secret. That is your taxpayers' money. However, in the initial advertisements about the start of that program, the time of INMARSAT is connected to the NIST clock. So now you will suddenly get GPS distributed Naval Observatory time, INMARSAT distributing NIST time, which is, of course, ridiculous, to say the least. NIST got themselves into there real quickly, because they, of course, are forever looking for work and looking for things that they can do.

It's now the 27th of July 1993. That is right in the middle at the moment. We got to know about this only a month ago, and we're beginning to look into that. So that's something that I'm sure is going to break in another while--the whole business of whether GPS should remain selected availability or whether the DoD should say, "Forget it. GPS is fine without selected availability. GLONASS does not have selected availability. It can turn it on, but it doesn't.

Dick

This is the Russian equivalent to GPS.

Westerhout

That is the Russian equivalent to GPS. It can, but it doesn't. The question is how long GLONASS will be up there, because GLONASS is much less stable equipment. Usually they have to replace the satellites every six months. The time that GLONASS carries, of course, is Moscow time, but eventually we will be able to provide corrections for that. There again, for quite a while the DoD was not allowed to even listen to GLONASS. If the Naval Observatory had made a statement that if we know what time it is on GLONASS, we would have been rapped over the knuckles, because that's not in the interest of DoD. That has sort of disappeared. Now we just bought a GLONASS receiver - in fact, a receiver that can be switched, because that's now available. There's a switch that says GPS this way, GLONASS that way.

Now the third thing comes in - this plan, this proposal, I think it is more for the FAA, to put additional stuff - INMARSAT. INMARSAT will then also continuously be broadcasting the integrity status of the GPS, which satellites in GPS are okay at the moment to use. But the main struggle is to eventually get that selected availability out.

Dick

You feel that it should be out for the DoD, for the GPS?

Westerhout

Eventually, because the amount of taxpayers' money that went into that is so enormous, and it is so unbelievably useful for the entire civilian community, whether they are oil people, whether they're power companies, whether they are surveyors, whatever. And, of course, any navigator. Taxi companies, everybody's going to use GPS.

Dick

But isn't it the problem that foreign governments who are considered enemies of the U.S. can also make use of that?

Westerhout

That then is indeed the problem, and the question that one has is, how do you combat that? And you can't. You can combat it for the strategic uses, but differential GPS, which is another one of these things that the DoD still doesn't want to go into, where you get the GPS signal at a local station and you transmit that, the difference between that local - start again. You have a station on the ground, of which you know the exact position. Right? GPS gives you the satellite configuration that you have there, gives you that position in degraded accuracy. Degraded accuracy means it can be anywhere in that area, but you know where your station is, so you transmit the correction to those GPS signals to all the other locals, and therefore differentially, with respect to you, they know within a few meters where they are. And this is used everywhere in harbors, for example. It is used on local air fields. But the DoD is not allowed to use it. Thou shalt not use differential GPS.

The FAA sort of also likes to get out of that. They like to have the system much more global. If Iraq wants to use GPS in their local desert, the only thing they have to do is set up a simple GPS differential GPS system. They won't be able to hit the U.S. with a rocket, but they certainly will be able to hit everybody in their area with a rocket. So the system defeats itself.

Of course, in addition, as you probably are aware, during the Gulf War we immediately turned off the selected availability. We made the GPS available to everybody. The reason was that we went into that war with a system that was working, although still experimental, and not enough receivers. There were zillions of receivers on the commercial market which were not classified, so they simply bought thousands, tens of thousands, of the commercial receivers, and it meant they had to turn off the selected availability. Everybody had a GPS receiver in that truck, but it came from Magnavox or whoever. You buy those things in the stores nowadays.

Dick

But the Iraqis didn't have them, did they?

Westerhout

I don't know why not. They didn't, apparently, but they could have.

Dick

They probably will now.

Westerhout

Absolutely. At the centennial here, there was a guy who had a little handheld GPS receiver. It was the first time I actually saw a handheld GPS. It was this small, the size of a handheld computer, not any bigger than a cellular phone - in fact, smaller than a cellular phone. You walk with that thing, and it would immediately tell you what direction you were walking in and how fast you were walking, in centimeters per second or something like that. Of course, it gives you your coordinates continuously. My God! This small! Two-thousand dollars, I think it costs. Anybody will have GPS before long. To now degrade it seems ridiculous. Taxi companies, of course, have been long playing with the idea of always, through GPS, knowing exactly where their taxi cab is, because every taxi cab will have a GPS receiver which will particularly do differential GPS, tell you within 2 meters or so where that taxi cab is. The GPS receiver is equipped with a little transmitter that sends the position of that taxi cab to the taxi company, and that automatically lights a spot on the map so they can see exactly where all the taxi cabs are going in a town.

Dick

The guy won't even be able to stop for a doughnut. [Laughter]

Westerhout

Exactly right. But it's that sort of thing, and I think the experiments have been done with that, but none of that has been developed to the point that a company is actually using it, as far as I know. So GPS is really a thing that is so useful for the entire community, and we've put so many billions of dollars into it, that it is really foolish at this time, when there are no more Russians, to say, "But we're not going to make it available to the civilian community." I think we suffer. So that's that whole thing. For a while, Klepczynski was very heavily involved in the civilian GPS organization, and he was told by much higher-up people than us that he should get out of that - you don't do that as DoD.

Now that has changed again. We're back in there. Of course, we are using GPS. There is now an international GPS organization which, among other things, uses GPS to get polar motion and Earth rotation. We are using that, and it is so good that we're using it in our Earth orientation database. We don't know how long that will last; it's an experiment that's lasting for years to see how well they can do. But we get all the GPS data. The reason you can do GPS, of course, it is a pretty well-determined orbit. But it needs interpolation points. In other words, if you just let it hang there, there are all sorts of other effects that make it drift off. But to interpolate daily among weekly VLBI measurements, it's a very nice system. It gives yet another system. We do that with lunar laser ranging, too. We use that as an interpolator.

Dick

But you do still need the VLBI observations.

Westerhout

The VLBI observations are what eventually ties these systems solidly to the Earth. The terrestrial and the celestial reference frame are tied together thereby. So that's what the VLBI - the ultimate need is for that. But it may be that we can do with less VLBI measurements eventually by interpolating.

Dick

While we're talking about cooperation or contentiousness among government agencies inside the U.S., are there other agencies that we cooperate with, that come to mind, in the U.S.?

Westerhout

NOAA in the VLBI area. NOAA at the moment is having a crisis. NOAA has been doing VLBI for twelve years. It was never in their budget; it always came out of discretionary funds.

Dick

This is National Geodetic Survey.

Westerhout

Right. Lately we have several times had to write to NOAA headquarters, saying, "Look, guys. You owe us money for the correlator operations, and so on, and that still hasn't been released. Do something about it," at the request of the NGS people. So it has been harder and harder. This year there was no money at all.

Dick

There must be a memorandum of understanding.

Westerhout

There's a memorandum of understanding. Exactly. Fortunately, they got the Congress-assigned money to replace the antenna in Florida. As you know, the antenna in Florida was a NOAA antenna. Well, NOAA went back to Congress and said, "Well, there are other things in Florida that need more replacing than that. Can we use it for that money to replace the antennas on the roof of a building in Miami?" or something like that. And Congress said, "Yeah, you can do that."

So whereas there was $2.5 million available originally, that dwindled down to $500,000, to fix up the NOAA interests in Florida, as far as VLBI was concerned, which was, of course, nothing. So what did they do with that money? They paid this year's correlator budget $350,000 from it, and they said, "Thank God we still have 150 left. We can continue our work in Massachusetts, using the Westford antenna for daily operations against Germany." That was all the VLBI money. Then they have a staff. They have about six or seven people working on it, and they are on permanent salary, so they stay. They collaborate with a group in Brazil. But the group in Brazil doesn't have any money, and NGS doesn't have any money to put into it.

What is happening now is that NASA and we have been talking to the top people at NOAA, the Department of Commerce, and some letters between NASA and them have been exchanged, and there is planned a meeting perhaps sometime next month or so on, between the workers in the field and the top administrators, in which the head of NOAA and important head of NASA and under Secretary of Commerce and probably our admiral and so on will be involved. They will get a briefing as to where it stands, and that briefing will basically emphasize the fact that VLBI has traditionally been a collaborative program between these agencies. There are many in the area of geodesy.

There are many agreements. You pack some of those up there where DMA is involved, for example. Many agreements between agencies. The agencies are always NASA, NOAA, the DoD, sometimes USGS, sometimes the NSF. These evolved as well. But it's always been a plan that had many agencies involved, and it looks like NOAA is dropping out.

Dick

Why is that? Is the problem higher up in NOAA, or is it in NGS? Do they not consider this a priority?

Westerhout

The problem is in NGS. In my opinion, the problem is that it has never been defended as a standard program. It was always a nice R&D program that could be funded out of discretionary funds. Of course, the discretionary funds have dried up, so now it can't be funded anymore, whereas it should, of course, have been established early on as an important geodetic program for NOAA, too, National Geodetic Service to undertake, and it wasn't.

Dick

Because somebody doesn't see the importance of it.

Westerhout

Right. And the question is now, at this late stage, are they going to give up or are they going to put money in it to make it a genuine program? We don't know that. But it is for that reason NASA is a bit the same. NASA money going to VLBI is staying put, but it's about two times less than it was in its heyday. Early on, when we really got into VLBI, we made the point very strongly that most of these organizations that were collaborating with us and provided Earth rotation data were unstable, because they're both research organizations that did not have a mission to provide that on a daily basis. If they give up, and, of course, we made hay with the admiral, keeping him informed about the fact that NOAA is about to give up and NASA is also having problems, and how good is it, how good it is that indeed we do have all that VLBI money that runs the NAVNET VLBI system, it's very important, because we are the people that are counted on for DoD purposes.

Dick

But can we do it alone if this coalition falls apart?

Westerhout

Yes, we can. That's why we built the NAVNET system. We will have a little bit of trouble initially digging up the necessary money to cover for the fact that NOAA drops out of the correlator payments. So there's a typical example of collaboration with another agency that did not go very well.

Dick

Any others during your time here?

Westerhout

No, I can't think of any. Of course, when you talk to Seidelmann, you'll hear the whole story about our involvement in the last few years in navigation - no, I don't mean navigation. I mean in orbital mechanics, the air force and the Navy together, with the army occasionally playing a role. That's a whole other -

Dick

That's internal DoD.

Westerhout

It's internal DoD. Well, the Coast Guard is sort of half DoD, and, of course, we've been receiving quite a bit of money from the Coast Guard. For some crazy reason, some congressman got a law passed about four years ago, when GPS was just on its way up, that Loran-C - and people in Loran-C were sort of told the DoD won't fund it anymore after 1997 because GPS is taking over. Some congressman had a bill passed that said Loran-C shall provide precise time to better than 100 nanoseconds. It was always sort of 500. There were a few stations that did it as good as that. So that caused a massive effort on the part of the Coast Guard to improve the timing in their stations, and we were heavily involved. We got quite a few hundreds of thousands of dollars out of that - satellite time transfer to some Coast Guard stations and so on, and now we're basically helping the Coast Guard to equip all their stations with CPS receivers so that they can satisfy that congressional mandate.

Dick

But the Loran-C system will be phased out, surely, eventually.

Westerhout

Well, that's the question. Will it or will it not? Because it is, of course, in extremely heavy use by the civilian community. It's absolutely everywhere, along all the coastal waters. Everybody uses Loran. Airplanes use Loran. Everybody uses Loran.

Dick

But they could use GPS.

Westerhout

And the question is, with all this investment in equipment and with the fact that Loran is guaranteed to stay, whereas GPS is selected availability, and if you're a civilian, you're not that good, what do you do? Again this whole thing comes in there. So at the moment, I don't think Loran-C will be turned off, but eventually something is going to happen. So that's the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is sort of a semi-military organization. So is NOAA, of course, a semi-military organization.

Dick

It's part of the Department of Commerce.

Westerhout

Yes, but NOAA is a semi-military organization. There are admirals there and captains.

Dick

Other than liaison people?

Westerhout

No, no. There are admirals in NOAA--NOAA Corps. You see, there's always at least one among the staff here, and you can recognize him because he will be a commander or a lieutenant commander who has a blue thing with a little triangle on it, instead of a - the stripes are the same.

Dick

Wasn't Captain Anawalt liason for a while?

Westerhout

He was liaison. He was Navy liaison.

Dick

That's what I always thought, that these were liaison people.

Westerhout

No, they are NOAA Corps officers, too. In fact, you saw their thing, a file which I pointed your attention to, saying Bossler v. Naval Observatory. Bossler was Captain Bossler. He also had a Ph.D. Later on he was Admiral Bossler. Bossler would appear for an official thing, like the dedication of the radio telescope in Florida where he and I jointly cut a ribbon. He and I and Congressman Dante [B.] Fascell, the three of us together held the scissors to cut the ribbon. That was a typical NOAA publicity stunt. It was okay, no problem with it, but we wouldn't have thought of getting a local congressman involved. He was in beautiful whites, Navy whites, with NOAA emblem, but regular captain stripes. He was still a captain--captain stripes--and several captains.

Dick

So they're Navy people?

Westerhout

No, they're NOAA people.

Dick

They're NOAA people, with their own corps?

Westerhout

Yes.

Dick

But they're not military, then.

Westerhout

No, but they can be military on the spot when the war breaks out. What do you think the surgeon general is?

Dick

Sort of like the Corps of Professor of Mathematics that we used to have, I guess.

Westerhout

The surgeon, this lady that is currently being queried, she'll be an admiral. You didn't know that, but she will be. She will have admiral stars on her when she appears in official uniform, and all the people in the National Health Service have military ranks - the managers.

Dick

I've seen those uniforms. I've never thought much about it.

Westerhout

What is interesting is that they're all admirals and not generals. The Navy was there first.

Dick

So we've talked about some of the national cooperation. Another thing I wanted to ask you about was international cooperation--specific projects during your time that the Naval Observatory has collaborated with, cooperated with, among other observatories internationally.

Westerhout

I already, just half an hour ago, went extensively into the reference frame business. That was very strongly an international project. During my tenure, the SRS project came to fruition. That was a collaboration between 17 observatories, and the data were reduced separately in Leningrad and here. Interestingly enough, that remained a good collaboration, even through all those dark years.

Dick

During the period of the Cold War, it must have been quite interesting.

Westerhout

And plenty of work. There was nobody - basically it was sort of kept at a low level, but when it finally came to publishing and so on, it's published with the names of everybody on it. Clayton Smith traveled to Leningrad once, twice, to work out some of the details together. They sat and pored over the tapes and so on and so forth.

Dick

Weren't there problems in passing data tapes back and forth?

Westerhout

In the beginning there were lots of problems. Jim Hughes once went to the Soviet Embassy and handed over a tape there. Later on, we always thought, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy, how many people of the FBI will be on his neck? But would he ever, because the FBI sits and photographs everybody who walks into the embassy. I once went to the embassy personally to get a visa in a hurry, and I never heard from anybody either. Maybe Jim Hughes had a cape over his head. We were laughing about that.

So in the Russian diplomatic mail, of all things. We have occasionally tried to get it in the U.S. diplomatic mail, but the easiest way was to send a tape to Heidelberg. Heidelberg would send it on. That's the way it worked, because the Germans had no particular problem in that communication. They could exchange data without any trouble, so Fricke basically acted as the middle man. So that, in general, worked well.

Dick

So the SRS, the Southern Reference Star system, was certainly one of the big international cooperations, which was centered here.

Westerhout

Here. And was basically invented by F.P. Scott.

Dick

And culminated by Clay Smith.

Westerhout

Scott and Zverev together.

Dick

And Clay Smith brought it to its end.

Westerhout

Right. And, of course, the Leoncito expedition was part of that.

Dick

Right.

Westerhout

So that's the SRS. The reference frames is another example. Of course, it's in the same general area. I'm trying to think what international collaboration there is in VLBI. Of course there is, because the minute Florida dropped out because the telescope blew over in Hurricane Andrew, we used both Italian and German stations as an addition to the NAVNET, at their expense. In other words, you don't pay them; they simply volunteered. That, of course, is good--in my opinion, good international collaboration, but, of course, not something, if you don't pay for it, that you can count on forever. But they were very glad to be contributing their share, but you don't know how long that will last.

There is, of course, a lot of international collaboration in the VLBI reference frame business, where telescopes in Australia, on the South Pole, in Japan, in Europe, South Africa, are all used to get more data on the precise positions of quasars.

In the area of the almanacs, of course, the international collaboration with Herstmonceux, as well as Paris and Leningrad, the Institute for Theoretical Physics, has continued. We have several times during my period here been trying to face the possibility of what happens if RGO drops out completely for the almanacs. It's never happened. In fact, at one point we were granted five additional billets to take over from RGO, and one of those billets was going to be used to hire on a temporary basis somebody from RGO here to help with that. Of course, we then used those billets for something else when Seidelmann always hoped he was going to get them, but he didn't.

Dick

But the RGO Nautical Almanac Office now consists of two or three people.

Westerhout

I think it's about five, but they're still contributing more or less the same, and they are making their own money. They are now considered very valuable by RGO, because apparently they are what you call in this country an industrially funded organization, i.e., the sale of the almanacs all flows into the RGO. That's apparently a considerable source of money.

Dick

That certainly isn't the case here, right? That doesn't increase our budget.

Westerhout

Not at all. Not at all. In fact, we pay for the production of the almanacs for the DoD. We spend about $150,000 a year printing almanacs, and then they're free to the DoD. Then the Government Printing Office sells about 30,000 copies, and that goes into their coffers. So that's an international collaboration that continues going, and there's always a lot of contact between the two offices in what do to, sharing of resources, sharing of "You do this, we do that," and that has sort of become a standard.

As I say, during my 16 years, there have been ups and downs in that. The explanatory supplement is an example. You find articles in there from those groups and even one or two articles by the French. Now, the French, of course, produce the satellite data. Or is it the other way around? No, the French produce satellite data, and the Russians produce the asteroid data that gets published in the almanacs on a regular basis. I've pointed that out once, I think to Captain Hagen, who was very much against collaborating with all these guys in Russia.

Dick

He'd been chasing them for thirty years in submarines. [Laughter]

Westerhout

Look at the front page. I showed him on the front page of the Astronomical Almanac, the front page is signed by Hagen. One page is signed by Hagen and by Boksenberg, and somewhere in that introduction it says that a lot of thanks are due to the Institute for Theoretical Astronomy in Leningrad for providing the blah, blah, blah. I said, "Did you know that you're accepting data from the Russians?" "Oh! And I signed this thing!" [Laughter]

But then I got Hagen to go to the celebration in -

Dick

That's right, at Pulkovo.

Westerhout

That was nice. He brought his uniform. "No way,” he said, “I cannot bring my uniform." So he called a few people. I said, "Call about it." And they said, "Yep, if you're representing the Navy, you should bring your uniform." And he found himself sort of embarrassed, standing in front of the hotel in his Navy uniform, Navy whites, waiting for a bus, and American tourists coming over and saying, "What's happened? You're a [U. S.] Navy captain! What's the Navy doing in St. Petersburg?" [Laughter]

Dick

But I hear he went over quite well at the celebration.

Westerhout

He went over tremendously, tremendously. I got an almost immediate report from Wielen (Heidelberg). Oh, yeah, because I arrived then the week thereafter for the symposia, and quite a few of them were - you were there, too.

Dick

Yes.

Westerhout

You were not at the -

Dick

Not the earlier part.

Westerhout

Why didn't you go to that?

Dick

I wasn't invited. [Laughter]

Westerhout

You weren't invited?

Dick

To the earlier part, no.

Westerhout

Why didn't we send you?

Dick

I don't know.

Westerhout

You obviously didn't make enough noise. That's where you should have been, of course, in a sense.

Dick

We still had a history part of that to begin the program.

Westerhout

Anyway, that was good. So there's that collaboration. I already mentioned VLBI.

Dick

You mentioned Heidelberg.

Westerhout

I mentioned Heidelberg. The Heidelberg collaboration was very good in the beginning, basically until sometime after Fricke died. The collaboration of the FK5, as you well know, the FK5 supplement has Corbin's name on it. It's Corbin and Schwann or Schwann and Corbin. I remember well a visit, because Corbin was to provide the stars for that, the star positions for that, and Schwann showed me the title page, which was printed Corbin and Schwann. He says, "Where's the data?" He said, "Could you bring this copy to Tom Corbin and say we've already printed the title page? Now we need the data." [Laughter] That was a way of putting Corbin under pressure. Corbin is not to be put under pressure. He took his good old time providing the data, but eventually it appeared.

Did you know that, that Corbin appears on that FK5? If you open that cabinet there, just have a look at it - part two.

Dick

I'm not sure that I've ever noticed that.

Westerhout

Just open that. It's the two blue books. Part two.

Dick

"Compiled under the supervision of Fricke, Schwann, and Corbin." So Fricke is the first author.

Westerhout

Yes.

Dick

"In collaboration with Bastian, Bien, Cole, Jackson."

Westerhout

More Americans, more USNO observers there. So with Fricke there was very good collaboration. We always talked to Fricke.

Dick

Well, an hour away or so, right?

Westerhout

Well, okay. So that collaboration went very well. Then Wielen was appointed as director, and Wielen was much more interested in galactic dynamics and things like that, and has slowly but surely been turning it away a little bit from the positional astronomy.

However, there are people that were already there under Fricke, like Roser and Bastian and so on, who are very keen guys in making as much propaganda for themselves as they can. So they have been developing catalogs which we don't think all that much of, like the Positions and Proper Motion, the PPM catalog, which there is some controversy about. The thing that we did not like about that was that the Paris symposium on astrometry, which I think was in '87, Corbin announced the ACRS, saying, "We're working on the ACRS."

Dick

Astrographic Catalog Reference System.

Westerhout

Astrographic Catalog Reference Stars. And a year and a half later, Roser and Bastian came out with their first PPM, and we always think that they started that because they thought, "We can beat them." They saw that that was a neat project to do, obviously necessary, and they could do it in a hurry, so they did it in a hurry.

Dick

When did the ACRS come out?

Westerhout

Considerably later - 1990, I think, '91. But the ACRS does not use the AC. The ACRS are the reference stars to be used for the reduction of the astrographic catalog, whereas the PPM uses the AC, so the PPM can never be used for the reduction of the AC, because it used the AC as an early epoch to get good proper motions, trying to reduce it with the help of other catalogs. Also they had the input from the Russians, whose name appeared on the PPM here and there from the southern hemisphere Fokat survey that the Russians did in Bolivia, which we still haven't seen.

Dick

What's the survey?

Westerhout

Fokat. It's probably a translation of the Russian. F-O-K-A-T. Fokat survey done in Bolivia, a Bolivian-Russian collaboration. Those plates have now all been measured and that catalog has come out, and we've talked with the Russians. The people heavily involved in that were very good friends of Clayton Smith, stayed at his house, and so on. So there's a lot of interaction there, but the Germans had first access to that.

So as I say, after Fricke died, things soured a little bit, and I feel partially responsible for that, because I was a member of the board that selected the new director, and I was a very strong proponent of Wielen for the simple reason that I knew of his activities in galactic structure. I knew him well personally. He was a go-getter. He was a guy who was well known. He had already been chairman of Commission 33, and I thought he would be a really good guy to get the Rechen Institute in more than just being Rechen Institute into an...and that was correct. But at the same time, I wasn't quite aware that as a result, its quality as a fundamental astronomy organization went down a little bit. So I feel a little bit responsible for that, because I was rather strong.

There were several candidates. I don't know how confidential that should be, but one candidate was a pulsar man who wasn't even a member of the IAU. The head of the Rechen Institute is also a professor at the University of Heidelberg. The university wanted him very much. I put him way down. Then the third person was Jay Lieske, who very much wanted the job, and I voted him down in favor of Wielen.

Dick

But he ran the Leningrad symposium then in '89.

Westerhout

That's considerably later. Jay Lieske is in JPL. He always was in JPL. He's been in JPL for God knows how long. Lieske's picture is hanging up in the picture gallery at Pulkovo Observatory in Leningrad.

Dick

I think I saw that. [Laughter]

Westerhout

Lieske would have probably continued the tradition of the Rechen Institute more than Wielen, but, of course, still a good number of people, but all the old hands, all Fricke's right-hand men, sort of disappeared--fortunately, like Lederle, who was responsible for the German almanacs.

Dick

Where did he go?

Westerhout

He retired. He was ancient. Gliese retired already 20 years ago, but still comes to the office. Those are the two that were of the Fricke era. Fricke was very good in having attracted a number of bright young people like Schwann, Bien, and Bastian, Roser. So there are a number of good people there who continued the tradition. Then there were others that Wielen has attracted, that are more in the area of galactic structure and clusters and stuff like that, which is all right, too. They still do the Astronomy and Astrophysics Abstracts, I think. That's still a whole big outfit there in the Rechen Institute that does that work.

Dick

Of course, they're not really an observatory as we are. They do no observing. It's a Rechen Institute.

Westerhout

Absolutely. They do no observing. And as a result, sometimes they have problems. Like Hans Walter, who is their VLBI man, has several times been compiling catalogs of VLBI sources where it was clear that he was not quite up to understanding exactly what was happening, and expressing, in print, wonderment as to why the astronomers said that the accuracy was .5 of a milliarc second, "but these catalogs differ systematically by 5 milliarc seconds. How can they say that?" And so on. In other words, not quite understanding the theory behind all these things. Walter, now that he's about to retire, has done well for himself. I mean, he's gotten into that field. I'm talking about ten years ago. So that collaboration with the Rechen Institute, with the exception of a few people, has sort of gone down the drain.

Dick

Another collaboration that comes to mind, while we're talking about the Europeans, of course, is Hipparcos. We had input into the input catalog.

Westerhout

Right. We had input into the input catalog from the parallax side. We simply put all our parallax stars in, all the bright parallax stars. Of course, they were all kept, because they are now used to verify that the Hipparcos is doing the right thing, because the bright parallax stars that we have accuracies that are a little bit better than what the Hipparcos produces. So Hipparcos now plots and shows at meetings graphs of USNO versus Hipparcos with a beautiful 45-degree line going through, where the spread is mostly due to Hipparcos, which is also interesting.

Dick

We're down to the last minute.

Westerhout

Collaboration there was more in the form of us insisting as much as possible the inclusion of as many of the IRS stars as possible - all 40,000. Most of the 40,000 IRS stars are in there. Some had to drop because there were other astrophysically important stars very close to the same place. But the collaboration was more in the form of individual discussions. I had lots of discussions about the input catalog with Catharine Turon and her people. She's the head of that thing. Of course, we have had over the years lots of discussions on how to go at certain things, but it was not a collaborative plan, but more a discussion among colleagues.

Dick

We will get some early access to the data, to some of the data.

Westerhout

That we hope. We're not 100 percent sure, but I think Corbin has put in for that.

Dick

Through DeVegt, some roundabout -

Westerhout

Of course. Because DeVegt is, of course, right up there. Of course, DeVegt is a very good example of international cooperation to the nth degree. He's a consultant. We pay him $25,000 a year. For that he can travel back and forth whenever he wants, basically.

Dick

And we got the red lens from him. [Laughter]

Westerhout

That's another story.

Dick

You've told that story.

Westerhout

I've told that already.

Dick

We're at the end. Thanks.

End Tape 6 Side B

Citation

Papers of Gart Westerhout, “Interview with Gart Westerhout on 27 July 1993,” NRAO/AUI Archives, accessed May 25, 2024, https://www.nrao.edu/archives/items/show/15326.