HALE-BOPP CO-DISCOVERER RETURNS TO IRAN FOR SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE
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 http://www.earthriseinstitute.esfahan.html).
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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