Monday, October 8, 2012

George O. Abell - Astronomer, Educator, Sceptic

G.O. Abell teaching a class in summer 1976
Photo Summer Science Program

Like Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking also the American astronomer George O. Abell was inspired by scientific Astronomy and Cosmology to seriously consider matters of faith and religion.

The Space Theology of these three eminent scholars and ardent educators of the general public is strongly coloured by fundamental lack of faith in claims on paranormal phenomena. Each one of the three has made an effort to educate the public about the importance of critical rational inquiry and unflinching search for truth.

The following text is copied and rearranged for your convenience into a single text from wikipedia and other sources. The cited original articles contain much more information about the subjects so refer to them, as well.

Tour guide
George Ogden Abell (1927 – 1983) was an astronomer at UCLA. He worked as a research astronomer, teacher, administrator, popularizer of science and education, and skeptic. Abell received his B.S. (1951), M.S. (1952) and Ph.D. (1957) from the California Institute of Technology.

Abell began his astronomical career as a tour guide at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

Planetary nebula Abell 39

The Abell Catalogue
Abell's best known work was his catalogue of clusters of galaxies collected during the Palomar Sky Survey. In it he
  • analyzed galaxy cluster formation and evolution
  • demonstrated that second-order clustering existed, disproving the hierarchical model of Carl Charlier
  • discovered how cluster luminosity could be used as a distance scale
  • collated a famous list of 86 planetary nebulae in 1966 which includes Abell 39 
The original catalogue of clusters in the northern hemisphere was published in 1958. The extended catalogue, including clusters in the southern hemisphere, was published posthumously in 1989 in collaboration with Harold G. Corwin and Ronald P. Olowin.

The "Abell Clusters" of galaxies he discovered are the largest known structures in the universe.

Abell was passionate about educating young people, serving for over twenty years as a faculty member at the Summer Science Program for high school students.

He was chairman of the UCLA Astronomy Department from 1968 to 1975 and chairman of the American Astronomical Society Education Committee. At the time of his death, he was to have become editor of the Astronomical Journal effective January 1, 1984.

Abell was also passionate about debunking pseudoscientific claims such as those by Immanuel Velikovsky. He was a co-founder of the Committee on Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and contributed articles to their journal, The Skeptical Inquirer.
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), formerly known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), is a program within the U.S. non-profit organization Center for Inquiry (CFI), whose stated purpose is to "encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public."

CSI was founded in 1976 by Paul Kurtz to counter what he regarded as an uncritical acceptance of, and support for, paranormal claims by both the media and society in general. Its philosophical position is one of scientific skepticism. CSI's fellows have included many notable scientists, Nobel laureates, philosophers, educators, authors, and celebrities. It is headquartered in Amherst, New York.

CSI has been accused of pseudoskepticism and an overly dogmatic and arrogant approach based on a priori convictions. It has been suggested that their aggressive style of skepticism could discourage scientific research into the paranormal.

International respect!
Asteroid 3449 Abell is a main belt asteroid discovered on November 7, 1978 by Helin, E. F. and Bus, S. J. at Palomar. It is named in his honor, as he taught for many years at the Summer Science Program, which teaches astronomy to high school students using an asteroid observation program (wikipedia).

The George Abell Observatory at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England, houses a Meade GX200 16-inch telescope used to train postgraduate students in observing techniques.

Abell served as president of the Cosmology Commission of the International Astronomical Union and as president and member of the board of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

George O. Abell was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1970.

Read the entire article on which this post is based from wikipedia

As for me
As a man of religion (protestant priest) I am far more interested in Abell galaxy clusters then in some fringe paranormal phenomena like those G.O. Abell was hunting down. The amazing works of God of Israel, the only real God there is, revealed by modern science are so much more fabulous then some ghostly whispers in the night or some shiny UFO appearing in a distant corner over the skies of Texas.

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