Contact: Alan Hale, Southwest Institute for Space Research (505) 687-2075

Date: July 20, 2000


Dr. Alan Hale, Director of the Southwest Institute for Space Research in

Cloudcroft, New Mexico, and known for his discovery of Comet Hale-Bopp which

shone in the nighttime skies three years ago, is journeying to Iran to

participate in an international scientific conference on comets to be held in

the city of Esfahan from July 22--24. This trip builds upon contacts that were

made during Hale's trip to Iran in August 1999 to view the total solar eclipse

that took place then and which included presentations at several universities

within Iran. The conference has been organized by the Adib Astronomical

Society in Esfahan, and was designed to coincide with the appearance of Comet

LINEAR, an object discovered last fall by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid

Research program based at White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico and

which is currently visible in the nighttime sky.


Several other American scientists will be accompanying Hale to Iran. Among these

is former astronaut Bruce McCandless, co-developer of the Manned Maneuvering Unit

used by Space Shuttle astronauts during the 1980s and the subject of a famous

photograph with this device -- almost an icon of the space age -- taken during

Mission STS 41-B in 1984. He was also heavily involved in the development of the

Hubble Space Telescope, and was a member of the crew that deployed it in 1990.

"With the very significant contributions that can be made by amateur astronomers

around the world and the excellent conditions in Iran," says McCandless, "it is

important to include the members of the Adib Society and other Iranian astronomical

groups in the mainstream of scientific discussion and participation."


Members of the Adib Society have spent several months organizing the conference,

which, in addition to the American scientists, will include participants from

several European and Asian countries as well as many astronomers from within

Iran. "Like many western countries, there are many active amateur astronomy groups

in Iran. Due to the vast area of the country and lack of communication among these

groups, they are not aware of the work of each other. Bringing these groups together

is one of the purposes of this gathering," comments Alizera Mehrani, President of

the Adib Society. "Furthermore, the gathering brings astronomers from different

countries together in order to share recent findings in the field and provide for

future mutual cooperation among these astronomers." In addition to scientific

sessions, the conference includes some presentations to the general public by

conference participants, and viewing of Comet LINEAR and other celestial objects

from the clear desert skies of Iran.


For Hale, the trip has an added personal significance. "By an interesting coincidence, I'll be in Iran

attending this conference on the 5-year anniversary of my discovery of Hale-Bopp," he notes. "I'm grateful

that I'm able to use my fortunate discovery in order to advance international collaboration in scientific

research and education." While in Iran Hale plans to post updates from the trip to the Southwest Institute's

web site at the URL http://www.swisr.org/esfahan.html(now 



The trip was made possible by the assistance of Search for Common Ground, a

Washington D.C. based nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging conflict

resolution and facilitating people-to-people exchanges. Search for Common Ground

has assisted in several exchanges between Americans and Iranians, including a

highly publicized tour of Iran by an American wrestling team in 1998, and the visit

to Iran by Hale's group last year. "We see this conference as another opportunity

to respond to the 1998 call by President Khatami -- echoed by President Clinton --

for a 'dialogue of civilizations'," comments Stacy Heen, Program Director for

Search for Common Ground with Iran. "Dialogue betwen Iranians and Americans

becomes possible when relationships based on mutual respect can be formed --

and sustained over time -- through cooperative action and joint projects. The

return visit by Dr. Hale to Iran is a good example of just this sort of dialogue."


The Southwest Institute for Space Research is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

dedicated to the enhancement of scientific research and science education.

Information about its programs and activities can be found at its web site at

http://www.swisr.org. Individuals and organizations who might be interested in

making contributions to the Institute are invited to contact its Financial

Development Officer, Hal Chambless, at WChambless@aol.com.

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