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Hubble's New Captain

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Hubble Space Telescope's operator will have a new director in September. NASA and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which runs the Baltimore-based Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), announced today that Steven Beckwith has accepted the job they offered to him last month (Science, 2 January, p. 35). Beckwith is currently managing director of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany.

Astronomers say Beckwith will help shape the scientific goals for the rest of the Hubble telescope's mission. He is also expected to play a key role in seeking to persuade NASA that STScI should run the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), planned for launch in 2005, near the end of the Hubble's lifetime.

Beckwith's research has focused on the disks of dust and gas around young stars; he now leads a team searching for infrared signals from extremely young galaxies. Both interests would "fit well with the new infrared initiatives" planned for NGST, says former colleague James Houck of Cornell University. Beckwith has also won high marks from his colleagues for his leadership in refurbishing MPIA's Calar Alto Observatory in Almeria, Spain. Current STScI director Robert Williams, who announced his plans to resign last spring, will return to research.