We are very sorry to report the news that pioneering JPL radar astronomer Steve Ostro died early on the morning of Monday December 15th.
The following appreciation is based on a note sent by Bonnie Buratti to Steve’s Cassini colleagues.
Steve was a luminary in the field of Radar Astronomy, and received the DPS Kuiper prize in 2003 for his groundbreaking work in asteroid and satellite radar studies. Steve’s seminal work on the surface properties of the Galilean satellites – which he was extending to the Cassini Radar data he was gathering and analyzing up to a few days before he died – led to the development of new models to explain how electromagnetic radiation interacts with ice. He and his colleague Lance Benner almost single handedly established the field of radar studies of Near Earth Objects. Steve received his PhD from MIT in 1978 under Gordon Pettengill and Irwin Shapiro. He was a professor of Astronomy at Cornell University before coming to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1984, where he established the radar astronomy group. Steve gave of his time freely to younger colleagues and students. His collegiality and intellectual honesty will be missed.
Steve was also a great friend of Spaceguard UK and the Spaceguard Centre. He gave us great advice and support whenever we needed it, and was a staunch friend.
Steve died of pneumonia after a silent and courageous battle with cancer. He leaves his wife of 40 years, Jeanne Ostro, and three children.