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Minor planet named after the late Paul Kintner, ECE Professor

Thursday, January 30, 2014


The International Astronomical Union Minor Planets Center has named minor planet 15358 “Kintner” after the late Paul Kintner, professor of electrical and computer engineering and head of the Cornell Global Positioning Systems Laboratory. Kintner died in 2010.

Renaming of the planet now known as “Kintner,” originally designated 1995 FM(8), was announced in the Jan. 16 Minor Planets Circular. Kintner is a main belt asteroid 2.75 AU (Astronomical Unit) from the sun, taking 4.65 years for each orbit. It has a diameter estimated between 5 and 11 kilometers.

The citation reads, “Paul Kintner (1946-2010), professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University, made pioneering rocket measurements of auroral electric fields and conducted research on space weather and its effects on GPS signals. He promoted international cooperation in space weather research and operations.”

Spacewatch, a group at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, originally discovered Kintner on May 26, 1995. The group is located at Kitt Peak, Arizona, 45 miles southwest of Tucson. Minor planets are named by, but not for their discovers, and are often named to memorialize an individual’s contributions to science.

Kintner was an internationally recognized authority on the interaction of radio signals, both natural and man-made, with space environments, particularly the ionosphere and magnetosphere. His studies included the effect of the space environment on GPS signals. During the 2009-10 academic year, he served as a Jefferson Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, advising the government on GPS, navigational satellite systems, space weather, and other scientific topics with implications for defense and national security.

He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester in 1968 and a Ph.D. in plasma physics from the University of Minnesota in 1974, for work on the space environment of the northern lights. He continued this work with the Space Physics Group at the University of Iowa until 1976 when he moved to Cornell as a research associate. He was appointed to the Cornell faculty in 1981.

He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He changed the Living with a Star/Geospace Mission Definition Team and NASA’s Sun-Earth Connections Advisory Subcommittee. He served on the National Research Council committees on Solar and Space Physics and the Economic and Societal Impacts of Severe Solar Storms. In 2007, he convened an American Geophysical Union Chapman Conference on mid-latitude ionospheric dynamics and disturbances, leading to a monograph by the same name. In September 2009, he delivered the Birkland Lecture to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

He was a mentor to generations of Cornell students and younger faculty members, often at pivotal points in their professional development, and continued to advise graduate students and colleagues preparing for a sounding rocket research campaign in Norway until days before his death.

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