Planetary Science/Stellar Astronomy
BS Northern Arizona University, 1977
Brian Skiff has spent nearly 40 years at Lowell Observatory as an observer and research assistant. Among Skiff’’s accomplishments at Lowell is the vital role he played in the decade-long Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS) survey for near-Earth asteroids.
He has measured thousands of plates, films, and CCD images to improve observations of the orbits of asteroids at a time when there was little activity in this area.
In support of the observatory’s long-running solar analogs project, Skiff has spent 1,200 nights over 15 years doing single-channel photoelectric photometry on Sun-like stars to explore long-term variations in the 11-year sunspot cycle. He continues this work to today, conducting spectroscopic observation of stellar chromospheric activity. In recent years, Skiff’s work has encompassed recording the rotational light curves of more than 200 asteroids, both near-Earth and beyond, via CCD and using several telescopes. Skiff maintains a comprehensive catalogue of stellar spectral classifications, which is one of the most-frequently used items in the VizieR catalogue-query service.
Skiff took the final photographic plates with the Pluto Discovery Telescope before its retirement and is a valuable resource in recounting how this and other Lowell instruments were used. His knowledge of the night sky is legendary in both professional and amateur circles, and he has also greatly impacted Lowell’s visitor program, for decades volunteering during public nights to share his love for astronomy and the night sky.