John T. Clarke

John T. Clarke, 1974

B.A., Denison University
B.S., M.A., Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D., John Hopkins University

Professor of Astronomy
Center for Space Physics
Boston University


Citation awarded June, 2005

After earning a doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins, John Clarke went directly to the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California-Berkeley. After only four years, his skills and his reputation carried him to the NASA Goddard Space Flight center where he was an associate project scientist, then an advanced instruments specialist on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Project. His work at NASA earned him three NASA Scientific Research Group Achievement Awards in 1987 (First Servicing Mission, Science, and Calibration).

That same year, John took a post as research scientist at the University of Michigan, where he stayed until 2001, continuing his award-winning ways. He received the College of Engineering Research Excellence Award in 1994 and the University of Michigan Research Achievement Award in 1998. Throughout that period, he continued his involvement with NASA, receiving a fourth NASA Group Achievement Award in 1996 for his work with the Comet S/L-9 Jupiter Impact Observation Team. In 2001, John left Michigan for an appointment as professor of astronomy at the Center for Space Physics at Boston University.

In his research, John observes planetary atmospheres using a combination of the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the HST, and a sounding rocket experiment for which he is principal investigator. He has been named principal investigator on nine observing programs with the HST in each of the 15 years of operation and was a member of the team of scientists who developed the replacement Wide Fields Planetary Camera installed in the HST (in December 1993) to repair the initial focusing error. He has since used this and other cameras on Hubble to image the planets at far-ultraviolet wavelengths to study their upper atmospheres.

John also studies the aurora on the faraway planets Jupiter and Saturn. Recently he and his colleagues used the HST imaging spectrograph to produce brilliant ultraviolet images showing Jupiter’s and Saturn’s aurora. John is now gathering more HST aurora data in coordination with the current Cassini mission to Saturn. This research was featured as the cover stories in the journal Nature on 2/28/02 and 2/17/04, reporting the discoveries obtained when Cassini flew past Jupiter in winter 2001 and past Saturn in January 2004.
John is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also the associate editor of the prestigious professional journal Icarus as well as the Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics.

In 2001, John spoke to Denison students and faculty as part of the Provost Lecture Series. He has also been a career advisor for the past 10 years.