Nasa honours Tim's pioneering vision

A PIONEERING astrophysicist has been posthumously awarded one of Nasa's highest honours for his work improving the technology used in space telescopes.

Dr Tim Hawarden, who lived in Merchiston, was awarded the Nasa Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal for his revolutionary ideas about telescopes' cooling systems.

He was told last year that he had been nominated for the award, but confirmation only came through in May - six months after his death at the age of 65.

It was initially received on his behalf at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, USA, by American astronomer Dr John Mather, and has now been presented to Dr Hawarden's widow Frances at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, now the UK Astronomy Technology Centre.

Mrs Hawarden said: "It was one of those sad-happy occasions - you're pleased that his work has been recognised in this way and so sad that he wasn't there to receive it himself."

She said her husband had been delighted to receive the nomination last year and added: "It's hard to express what I feel. Enormous pride in Tim's contribution to science, yes, but more than this. The Nasa medal is a reminder of his continuing presence in all our minds."

The medal is the highest such award given by Nasa. Professor Ian Robson, director of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, said: "It is tremendously rewarding that Tim's brilliance and innovation has been recognised with this award from Nasa. We are all bowled over with pride and at the same time sadness that he is no longer with us to receive the award in person."

Professor Malcolm Longair, who was director of the ROE and Astronomer Royal for Scotland during the 1980s, said his colleague had been a true pioneer: "I can recall vividly Tim's excitement when he realised in the mid-1980s that passive cooling was the way to design infrared space telescopes.

"His deep insight was before its time, but it is now the preferred method for the construction of large cooled space telescopes. Despite setbacks, Tim never gave up in enthusiastically promoting his concept, which has proved to be so important for space astrophysics."