Mt. Wilson Observatory, California
Tim Thompson received his B.S. (1978) & M.S. (1985) degrees in physics from California State University at Los Angeles. His graduate advisor was Roland Carpenter [1926-2008], who had started out as a psychologist, and switched to astronomy. Carpenter is the one who first looked beneath the clouds of Venus, with planetary radar from Goldstone, and discovered the slow retrograde rotation of Venus (1961-1962).
Recommended by Roland, Tim joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory technical staff in January 1981, as a member of the Radio Astronomy Group. He retired from JPL in November 2008, just over a month shy of 28 years later. His research experience includes planetary radio astronomy, atmospheric physics & chemistry, infrared geological remote sensing, and infrared astronomy, as well as the all-sky survey portion of the short-lived NASA SETI project. Tim is also an amateur astronomer.
Tim Thompson has an unbroken record of public outreach astronomy at the Garvey Ranch Observatory, in the City of Monterey Park, California, since 1975. He started there with the Monterey Park Astronomical Society (1975-1987), and then with the Los Angeles Astronomical Society (1987-now), after the MPAS disbanded in 1987. Tim was the last President of the MPAS, is the current President of the LAAS (as of 2019), and has been elected President 12 times, serving more terms than anyone else, since the LAAS was founded in 1926.
Tim was one of the founders of the docent and tour guide programs at Mt. Wilson Observatory, starting about 1982. He is also one of the founders of the public observing program on the 60-inch telescope at MWO, and acted as Session Director for the first public observing session, on 18 September 1998, for the Los Angeles Astronomical Society (LAAS). Tim has been an outreach volunteer for MWO since 1981, as one of the founders of the Mount Wilson Observatory Association. He was the last President of MWOA when it disbanded, and was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Mt. Wilson Institute in September 2015.
Thompson is also a prolific public speaker on astronomical topics for astronomy clubs, civic groups, and private functions for many years. In this capacity, he has addressed public and private audiences as young as kindergarten and pre-school, all the way up to college students, amateur and professional astronomers, and the interested public of all ages.
Awards and Recognition
Thompson earned two NASA Group Achievement Awards (for his work on the NASA SETI project, and for his contributions to the Advance Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) and a NASA/JPL Center Award (for his role in establishing the Center for Long Wavelength Astrophysics at JPL).
He also received the LAAS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, and received the G. Bruce Blair Medal from the consortium of Western Amateur Astronomers, in 2015.
Activities and Events