Introducing Bill Keel

This week, March 3-9, 2014, we hear from Bill Keel, professor of astronomy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After study at Vanderbilt University and the University of California at Santa Cruz, he spent postdoctoral terms at Kitt Peak National Observatory and Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands before taking his position at Alabama (a quarter-century ago). His research interests center on galaxies – active galaxies, interacting galaxies, dust in galaxies, history of galaxies; you get the picture. He approaches astronomy with a distinct observer’s viewpoint – more data, please! This makes Bill a connoisseur of telescopes, and he maintains amateur status as well with a couple of telescopes hauled out frequently on his deck at home. In recent years much of his observing has been by remote control, which can be convenient and affords much greater opportunities for feline “assistance”. He’s worked with data not only in visible light, but radio, infrared, ultraviolet, and X-rays, since the Universe cares about our instrumental divisions of the electromagnetic spectrum even less than it cares about our division of knowledge among academic departments. Much of his most interesting research in recent years came about as spinoff projects of the Galaxy Zoo citizen-science initiative, in particular unraveling the nature of the giant cloud known as Hanny’s Voorwerp and its smaller relatives. He enjoys conducting many public-outreach activities, such as Live Astronomy remote-observation sessions as part of the Space Track programming at DragonCon each year. Bill is also a weekend trombonist; one ballroom dance-band leader thinks it’s funny to ask him to do melody turns on “Stars Fell on Alabama”, “Stardust”, and “Fly Me to the Moon”. The rest of the year, you can find his tweets as @NGC3314.


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