NJIT astrophysicist who revived earthshine named fellow of American Physical Society

01/11/05

Phillip R. Goode, PhD, distinguished professor of physics at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) who has led the charge to revitalize a 15th century technique for monitoring Earth's climate, has been named a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Scientist, inventor and artist Leonardo Da Vinci first explained this phenomenon known as earthshine, which studies the glow of the moon's dark side to measure earth's reflectance.

The honor lauds Goode not only for his earthshine research and studies of solar structure and oscillations, but also for his critical national and international research leadership in solar astrophysics.

As a leader, Goode has focused his attention on strengthening Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBBSO) in California. Goode has been executive director of BBSO since NJIT took over the facility's management in 1997 from California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech).

Under Goode's leadership, BBSO has grown in size and stature. The staff has mushroomed from 4 to 40 people and the annual budget, supported solely by competitive federal grants, has increased tenfold, from less than $500,000 then, to more than $5 million now. Over the next decade, Goode anticipates that BBSO will play an even larger role monitoring Earth's climate. The NJIT team is more than doubling the size of the BBSO telescope. The current 65-cm (2 foot) vacuum aperture telescope will be replaced by a modern off-axis, open air, 1.6-meter (5 foot, 3 inch) clear aperture instrument. The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded the project $1.5 million.

"Our new telescope will be the world's largest optical telescope for solar research," said Goode. "The new telescope will use visible and infrared light rays to measure simultaneously the Sun's magnetic field at different altitudes in the solar atmosphere to study the field's evolution.

Goode's study of earthshine, funded by NASA, has also been notable. He and his team of researchers have published two important and controversial scholarly journal articles. In the May 28, 2004, issue of Science, Goode and solar physicists from NJIT and Cal Tech argued that by observing earthshine for eight years, they had witnessed first a gradual decline in the earth's reflectance, which although it grew sharper in the late 1990s, reversed itself in the past three years.

"There seemed to be a decadal natural variability of the climate system, specifically clouds," Goode said. "The decreases in the planet's reflection of sunlight through the end of the last century may well be associated with the accelerated global warming in recent years."

In the May 1, 2001 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, Goode and a research team detailed how they had revived and modernized earthshine as a technique for monitoring Earth's climate. It is believed that earthshine's measures are a useful complement to satellite observations for determining Earth's reflectance of sunlight. Long-time observations of earthshine thus monitor variations in cloud cover and atmospheric particles known as aerosols that play a role in climate change.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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