Meet Thomas Dame, PhD

Thomas Dame, Ph.D. Director, Radio Telescope Data Center, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Lecturer on Astronomy at Harvard University

Thomas Dame presented a lecture Mapping the Milky Way for SftPublic on February 13, 2013. He described his team's challenging project (30+ years) of mapping the Milky Way using small radio telescopes, and their spectacular discovery of two new spiral arms of the Milky Way. His lecture is very informative: how radio astronomy can penetrate the dense molecular clouds in the galaxy, the difficulties of mapping the galaxy from the inside, and how it's not always clear when a discovery has been made.

Dr. Dame received his PhD from Columbia University and then was a Research Associate, first in the Department of Astronomy at Columbia University and then at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. He joined the staff of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as a research astronomer in 1986, and the faculty of Harvard University as a Lecturer in 1988.

Dr. Dame is a member of the American Astronomical Society, and his many awards include the prestigious Secretary's Research Prize from the Smithsonian Institution (2009). Although his publications are technical, his discoveries have been described for a more general public in magazines such as Scientific American, Discovery, and Science News. You can find links to the background information about the project on the SftPublic web page for this lecture.

Dr. Dame is distinguished for his team’s radio telescope survey of the entire Milky Way galaxy and for the discovery of two newspiral arms in the Milky Way. The decades-long project as a whole is a huge accomplishment in astrophysics. It was based on two important factors, both of which represented scientific innovations. First was the focus on the huge clouds of dense molecular gas in the galaxy, and second was the use of small, nearly identical telescopes in opposite hemispheres.