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Paul Barr (1955–2005)

Published onDec 01, 2007
Paul Barr (1955–2005)

Paul Barr, an extragalactic astronomer and spacecraft mission planner, died on 19 October 2005 at his home in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, at the age of 50. Although his scientific interests ranged from AGN to X-ray binaries, he will perhaps best be remembered for his mission planning skills on EXOSAT, ISO, and Integral. Many hundreds of observers have benefited from his ability to juggle seemingly impossible observing constraints and arrive at the optimum observing program. A rare talent.

Barr was born in Sunderland, England, on 28 July 1955. After attending Saint Aidans Grammar School, where his father was the headmaster, he obtained his Bachelors Degree in astronomy from the University of London (June 1976) before moving to the Mullard Space Science Laboratory. There he obtained his Doctorate in X-ray astronomy in February 1980, using data from the Ariel V and Copernicus satellites. After a Post-Doctoral position at London University, where he did research into ultra-violet emission from AGN and X-ray binaries using IUE, Paul joined ESA in 1983. He worked on a wide range of missions including EXOSAT, ISO, and Integral. These observatories spanned the wavelength range from the Infra-red to the gamma-ray, giving insight into Paul's flexibility and ability to contribute in many areas. On ISO, Paul oversaw the scientific development and use of the very successful observation scheduling system — this topic became his specialty. As ISO operations became routine, he took up the challenge of space-borne gamma-ray astronomy and moved in 1997 to Integral where he worked in the Science Operation Centre (ISOC), at ESTEC in the Netherlands, as senior mission planner. He worked with the gamma-ray imager (IBIS) instrument team to ensure that operations of their instrument were properly supported by ESA and supported preparations of announcements of opportunity. In early 2005 the ISOC moved to Europe's Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) just outside Madrid, Spain. Paul, however, decided to stay put physically, but move on scientifically, and transferred to the Ulysses mission where he joined the software development team.

We miss a uniquely flexible scientist in these days of increasing specialization and a colleague with an infectious enthusiasm for all things to do with Sunderland, especially the football club.

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