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Jason G. Porter (1954–2005)

Published onDec 01, 2005
Jason G. Porter (1954–2005)

Jason Porter, a solar astronomer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), died on 23 July 2005 from complications associated with his 18-year battle with a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was born on 28 June 1954.

Jason was Texas born and bred. He received his Bachelor's degree from Texas A&M in 1976 and then went to the University of Colorado for his graduate work. He received his PhD from the Department of Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences in 1984. His thesis, "Ultraviolet Spectral Diagnostics of Solar Flares and Heating Events," was written under the guidance of Katharine Gebbie and Juri Toomre. The ideas behind his thesis and much of his later work were formulated while he was a Graduate Research Assistant at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) working on analysis of data from the Ultraviolet Spectrometer and Polarimeter, a major instrument on the Solar Maximum Mission (SMM). While at Goddard, he met his wife-to-be, Linda Zimmerman, who was working as a computer system administrator at the SMM Operations Center. They married and moved to Huntsville, Alabama in 1984 where Jason had an appointment as an NAS/NRC Resident Research Associate in the Solar Physics Branch of MSFC and Linda was a system administrator for the Space Science Laboratory. After a short stint at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Jason joined NASA as a Senior Scientist in the Space Science Laboratory in 1987, a position he still held at the time of his death.

Jason's early work brought forth the idea that "microflares" make a significant contribution to the heating of the solar corona, an idea which he continued to champion throughout his career. He also searched for coronal emission from white dwarf stars using the ROSAT and Chandra Space Observatories, and served as the NASA Project Scientist for a lunar based ultraviolet telescope. More recently he was leading a team of engineers and scientists, from MSFC, GSFC, and the National Solar Observatory on the development of a solar ultraviolet magnetograph instrument (SUMI) capable of measuring vector magnetic fields in the upper chromosphere and transition region where the magnetic reconnection that powers solar flares and CMEs is believed to occur. He continued to provide inspiring leadership to the development of SUMI up until the last month of his life.

Jason was admired by his colleagues on both a professional and personal level. He also had a rich life outside of his professional work. He loved the outdoors - hiking, camping, and fishing in particular. He loved music. Bluegrass was one of his favorites. He played the steel guitar, the Dobro, and the trombone, and spent many evenings playing in a local bluegrass band. He also loved finely crafted lagers and ales and would occasionally bring some strange brew to liven up an evening of poker. Jason and Linda have two sons, Graham (13) and Allen (11).

All who knew him well will miss him dearly.

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