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Alfred Bernard Schultz (1948-2022)

Throughout most of his career, Schultz provided instrumentation and observational support to NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute and the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Published onJan 22, 2024
Alfred Bernard Schultz (1948-2022)

Photo credit: Ed Grayzeck

Alfred Schultz was a space scientist with a strong instrumental background and boundless curiosity. He passed away on Sunday, October 23, 2022, in Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of 73.

Alfred Bernard Schultz (Al) was born on December 28,1948 to Edna and Nicholas Schultz, in New London, Connecticut. He grew up in a large family with seven siblings, including an identical twin brother, Albert. Al was close to his family and especially devoted to his many nieces and nephews and their children.

Al relocated with his family to California in 1955 where his father was a machinist for Aerojet General and one of his noteworthy assignments was in the crafting of the engines used in the Apollo Program. The Schultz family settled in a cabin located in Sutter Creek where he grew up and graduated from Amador High School in 1966. Al was a veteran of the Vietnam war and a member of the American Legion. He served two tours as a photographer for the Air Force and survived the Saigon Tet Offensive in 1967. His passion for photography led him to pursue a career in optics. He attended the University of California Davis as an undergraduate on the GI Bill, which he supplemented by working a side job cutting and selling firewood. After graduating with a B.Sc. in Physics in 1977, Al attended the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) to pursue a career in Physics.

In 1982, Al earned his Ph.D. in Physics for his study of the “resolving power of the UNR 16-inch telescope,” under Vern Frazier. Al accepted a position as an adjunct professor in the UNR physics department and served on two Ph.D. committees. In 1984, he moved on with his scientific career to the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) where he also taught general physics as well as an upper division Optics course. Al teamed with faculty at UNLV to study interacting galaxies. Al made it a point to involve students in research, first at UNR then UNLV and then eventually at Weber State University (WSU). Al’s consistent efforts in collaborating with others persisted throughout his career.

From WSU, Al joined the comet research group at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) as a post-doctoral associate. In anticipation of observing Comet Halley during its passage in 1985/1986, Al directed his work ethic to successfully assemble a CCD camera, which produced many high-quality, broadband, visible images.

In 1990, he accepted a position at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). He also joined a comet group based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center which was part of NASA’s International Halley Watch (IHW). The archive was published both as a printed catalogue and a digital archive. Al was very interested in using the ground-based comet data with data archived at STScI. As part of those efforts, Al collaborated in a NASA workshop set up to educate the community on the use of CD-ROM media to distribute the comet data directly to scientists.

Al formed collaboration groups with many others on observing and data analysis of interacting galaxies. His efforts and acumen were recognized by the community, and he was awarded observing time as principal investigator of three different proposals to use the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) space telescope to observe these groups of galaxies. One of his students, Melodi Rodrigue, successfully pursued a Ph.D. dissertation using IUE observations of the Hickson Compact Groups of galaxies.

While at STScI, Al worked his way up through the ranks by contributing to Hubble Space Telescope (HST) operations, managing calibration proposals, proposing science observations, and publishing the results. Al began work in the Post-Observation Data Processing System (PODPS), ensuring that HST observations and the calibration data were archived and compatible with observer requirements. During his 15-year career at STScI, Al rose to become a contact scientist for the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS), Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), and Near Infrared Camera and Multi Object Spectrograph (NICMOS). Al was the recognized go-to STScI scientist to consult on the use of the NICMOS coronagraphic capabilities.

Al was a co- or principal-investigator on 41 Hubble observing programs, and the principal investigator on 28 of them. Seven of his HST principal investigator proposals were awarded observing time by the HST Time Allocation Committees (TACs). Most astronomers consider themselves fortunate if they ever receive one such award. Those successful TAC programs competed against other community proposals where the oversubscription ratio for HST ranged from 4:1 to 8:1. The TAC-awarded proposals included searches for and imaging of faint extrasolar companions, monitoring transits of extra-solar planets, imaging of the debris disk around the nearby star beta Pictoris, and a study of the Sun’s nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri. Al was a co-discoverer of three faint brown dwarfs.

Al was the conference chair for the 2002 SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation High-Contrast Imaging for Exoplanet Detection panel and editor of the conference proceedings. Al had over 90 publications in conference proceedings, astronomy and astrophysics journals including the International Optical Society (SPIE), Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), and the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (PASP),

From 1998-2005 Al Schultz led a group of scientists and operations personnel from STScI, Goddard, and Catholic University of America to re-examine an old idea discussed as early as 1962 by Lyman Spitzer of using an external occulting screen widely separated from a space telescope for the purpose of looking for and the study of planets around other stars.

During Al’s career at STScI, he collaborated with staff and guest observers and his enthusiasm for astronomical research was well known. When his employment at STScI ended in 2005, Al secured an open position at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in the Solar System Exploration Division that oversees the Planetary Data System (PDS) project, the successor to the IHW. He spent five years at GSFC working on internal GSFC proposals, technology upgrades to the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) archive, and data reviews for the Lunar Data Node of the PDS. As part of his activities at GSFC, Al collaborated on the definition of the EPOXI mission (repurposed Deep Impact spacecraft) and collaborated with groups examining external occulter exoplanet mission designs.

Along with his scientific work, Al found time to produce a book based on the historical records of his father, entitled “I Enjoyed Every Minute: A journey Through the Great Events of the 20th Century”. Al had to retrain himself to accomplish this type of historical research. He also penned a memoir about Vietnam – “My Days in the Air Force” and wrote a novel – “A Pilgrimage to the Land of King Arthur”.

Al retired early due to health reasons, purchased a house near Preston, Connecticut and enjoyed life as a gentleman farmer near the local branch of the Schultz extended family. He frequently visited family and friends and shared extensive travel logs. Al had a boundless passion for his family and astronomy. He was always enthusiastic and actively engaged in spreading new discoveries in science and astronomy. He was a dedicated scientist who was always upbeat and inclusive with students and a good friend to those who knew him well.

Schultz’ AstroGen entry

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