Raymond N. Smartt

In Memoriam: Raymond N. Smartt

August 07, 2010

In Memoriam:  Raymond N. Smartt, 1930-2010

Raymond N. SmarttRaymond N. (Ray) Smartt, an OSA Fellow and former scientist at the U.S. National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Sacramento Peak, New Mexico, passed away on 7 August 2010, in Newcastle, Australia, a few days after his 80th birthday.  Smartt was an optical physicist who made important contributions to coronal physics.  

Smartt began his professional career at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency.  There he worked with W.H. (Beatty) Steel and Ron Giovanelli, building a 1/8 Angstrom birefringent H-alpha filter (which after refurbishment is about to continue in SOLIS).  He was one of a team of three people who built the first laser in Australia, and he personally produced the first hologram in Australia.  

Smartt moved to the US in 1967, completed his Masters Degree at the University of Rochester and his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Observations of the Near-Infrared Solar Corona and a New Interferometric Telescope Test).  He joined the Sacramento Peak Observatory (now part of NSO) in 1976 and served as Sac Peak site director from 1984 to 1993. As chair of the Sac Peak Telescope Allocations Committee, Smartt worked diligently to insure that every observing run was successful.  Later, he played a major role in developing the Sac Peak Visitor’s Center, and particularly the scientific displays enjoyed by many tens of thousands of visitors every year.  No one who has passed through Sac Peak will forget his magnificent garden with its huge dahlias.

Smartt retired from NSO in 2000 and returned to his native Australia.

As a skilled optician, Smartt developed (and obtained a patent for) the point-diffraction interferometer, made a number of innovations to Fabry-Perot filters used in solar physics, and in collaboration with Serge Koutchmy (following in the footsteps of Bernard Lyot and Jack Evans, and carried on by Jacques Beckers and Jeff Kuhn) he demonstrated the superb qualities of off-axis, all-reflecting coronagraphs, leading to the design of the four-meter Advanced Technology Solar Telescope.

The corona remained the focus of his solar physics career, during which he led a number of eclipse expeditions and obtained evidence of loop-loop reconnection events and the structure of the magnetic field vector in prominences, to name but a few of the many areas that he explored.

He is remembered by his colleagues as “an esteemed colleague and leading light in our profession and in our community. He will be sorely missed by the worldwide solar physics community to whose science he contributed greatly and whom he touched personally – and particularly by those of us who lived and worked closely with him at Sunspot.”

This obituary was contributed by UK Solar Physics.

If you would like to make a donation to the OSA Foundation in memory of Ray Smartt, please visit www.osa-foundation.org/give