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Jim Houck is Principal Investigator for the InfaRed Spectrograph (IRS) on the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) that was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 25, 2003. He pioneered the use of mid-infrared spectrometers to determine the physical conditions inside a wide variety of astronomical objects - from the giant planet Jupiter to distant galaxies. Early in his career he built infrared instruments launched on sounding rockets for brief, five minute peaks at the sky from above the atmosphere. Among the results from that work were the first discovery of the very high luminosities of star forming regions in our galaxy. These results were challenged in the literature until they were solidly confirmed by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) more than ten years later.
Houck was a member of the science team that launched IRAS in 1983. IRAS operated for 100 days - a far shorter lifetime than is predicted for SIRTF. Using IRAS data, Jim discovered a large class of sources which are very faint in the optical but bright in the infrared. These sources are distant galaxies powered by a combination of starburst activity and accretion of matter onto a central massive black hole. Galaxy collisions, or mergers, are often associated with these sources.
Jim's immediate plan for SIRTF is to use the IRS to diagnose the physical conditions in Blue Compact Galaxies - nearby analogs of the building blocks of young galaxies in the early Universe. He expects to determine the composition and sizes of the dust particles responsible for the infrared radiation.
He led the Cornell development of state-of-the-art instrumentation for the 5-meter telescope at the Palomar Observatory. The first major instrument developed at Cornell for Palomar was SpectroCam, a thermal infrared camera and spectrograph operating at the diffraction limit of the telescope.
- The Nature of Star Formation in Distant Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies Selected in a Remarkably Narrow Redshift Range. The Astrophysical Journal. 677:957-969. 2008
- Blue Compact Dwarf Galaxies with Spitzer: The Infrared/Radio Properties. The Astrophysical Journal. 676:970-977. 2008
- Elemental Abundances of Blue Compact Dwarfs from Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy with Spitzer. The Astrophysical Journal. 673:193-202. 2008
- Spitzer Spectra of a 10 mJy Galaxy Sample and the Star Formation Rate in the Local Universe. The Astrophysical Journal. 671:323-332. 2007
- Mid-Infrared Galaxy Classification Based on Silicate Obscuration and PAH Equivalent Width. Astrophysical Journal Letters. 654:L49-L52. 2007
- The Mid-Infrared Properties of Starburst Galaxies from Spitzer-IRS Spectroscopy. The Astrophysical Journal. 653:1129-1144. 2006
- Active Galactic Nucleus and Starburst Classification from Spitzer Mid-Infrared Spectra for High-Redshift SWIRE Sources. The Astrophysical Journal. 653:101-111. 2006
- Spectroscopic Redshifts to z > 2 for Optically Obscured Sources Discovered with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astrophysical Journal Letters. 622:L105-L108. 2005
- The Extraordinary Mid-Infrared Spectrum of the Blue Compact Dwarf Galaxy SBS 0335-052. The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. 154:211. 2004
- The Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) on the Spitzer Space Telescope. The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. 154:18. 2004
- A Mid-Infrared Spectral Survey of Galactic Wolf-Rayet Stars. Astronomical Journal. 121:2115. 2001
- CorMASS: A Compact and Efficient Near-Infrared Spectrograph for Studying Low-Mass Objects. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 113:227-239. 2001
selected publications listing
-Wilson, J.C., M.F. Skrutskie, M.R. Colonno, A.T. Enos, J.D. Smith, C.P. Henderson, J.E. Gizis, D.G. Monet, and J.R. Houck. "CorMASS: A Compact and Efficient Near-Infrared Spectrograph for Studying Low-Mass Objects." P.A.S.P., 113, 227 (2001).
-Smith, J.D.T., J.R. Houck. "A Mid-Infrared Spectral Survey of Galactic Wolf-Rayet Stars." Astron. J. 121, 2115 (2001).
-Hayward, T.L., B. Brandl, B. Pirger, C. Blacken, G.E. Gull, J. Schoenwald, and J.R. Houck. "PHARO: A Near-Infrared Camera for the Palomar Adaptive Optics System." P.A.S.P., 113, 105 (2001).
-Wilson, J.C., J.D. Kirkpatrick, J.E. Gizis, M.F. Skrutskie, D.G. Monet, and J.R. Houck. "Three Wide-Separation L Dwarf Companions from the Two Micron All Sky Survey: Gliese 337C, Gliese 618.1B, and HD 89744B." Ap. J.122, 1989 (2001).
featured in archived article
- ASTRO-4940: Independent Study in Astronomy - Spring 2013
- ASTRO-6940: Advanced Study and Research - Spring 2013
- ASTRO-4940: Independent Study in Astronomy - Fall 2012
- ASTRO-6940: Advanced Study and Research - Fall 2012
- ASTRO-4940: Independent Study in Astronomy - Spring 2012
- ASTRO-6940: Advanced Study and Research - Spring 2012
- ASTRO-4940: Independent Study - Fall 2011
- ASTRO-6940: Advanced Study and Research - Fall 2011
education and training
- Ph.D., Cornell University 1967