In memorium – Robert H. Rubin 1941-2013

Bob Rubin 1941-2013
Bob Rubin 1941-2013

Remembrance Gathering for Bob Rubin, Space Science and Astrobiology Auditorium, Bldg. 245, 3 p.m.
POC: Sean Colgan,
Ames employees are welcome to attend a remembrance gathering for Bob Rubin, April 12, at 3 p.m.

Bob’s hometown was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He completed undergraduate and graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. His advisor, Robert Hjellming, was interested in the physics of H II regions interstellar clouds of gas ionized by nearby hot stars. He ignited in Bob an interest in such objects that endured the rest of his life. Bob’s thesis included a detailed model for the photoionization and thermal structure of an H II region. This was the first such model to accurately incorporate radiative transfer of the ionizing photons, and, consequently, Bob’s continually updated NEBULA code has been used extensively ever since. After receiving his PhD in 1967, Bob took postdoctoral positions at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and then at the University of Illinois, after which he taught for several years at Cal State Fullerton.

In 1980 Bob moved to NASA Ames where he began modeling H II regions to interpret measurements of far infrared emission made from the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) by Ed Erickson’s group. For example, combined with the group’s data, the models established gradients as a function of distance from the Galactic Center in the abundances of nitrogen, oxygen, neon, and sulfur relative to hydrogen, and provided evidence for the previously unsuspected presence of hot stars in the vicinity of the Galactic Center.

To further our understanding of the structure and composition of ionized nebulae, Bob conceived observing programs to measure spectral lines from Galactic and extra-galactic sources to compare with his models. Recently he has been working to deduce the unobservable extreme ultra-violet spectral energy distributions of hot stars that are critical to the relevant physics in these nebulae. Via successful proposals, he obtained data on both H II regions and planetary nebulae with various radio telescopes, the KAO, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Infrared Space Observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory, and most recently, SOFIA. Bob consistently supported his research at Ames with such proposals, funded by NASA through his personal venture – named for his favorite, signature nebula – Orion Enterprises: and .

One of the most significant aspects of Bob’s legacy is the many students that he mentored over the years. He always involved students in his research activities, attracting them both from local high schools and through various Ames programs that support college students for a semester or a summer. Often Bob included them as co-authors on his papers, deservedly for their efforts and in gratitude for their help. Many of his high-school students have gone on to study at the very top-rated American universities.

In his younger days Bob enjoyed piloting planes, running and hiking. He was an avid fan of competitive sports, especially track and field, and was enthusiastic about any team from Philadelphia. Bob’s “Door” collection of some 200 non-astronomy Orion references was a favorite hobby: . He valued and spoke often of his collaborators and friends, both from Ames and elsewhere. The latter included Reggie Dufour (Rice U.), Bob O’Dell (Vanderbilt U.), Ben Zuckerman (UCLA), Pat Palmer (U. Chicago), and others all over the world. It is a credit to NASA Ames that it accommodates dedicated, accomplished and productive scientists like Bob Rubin. Bob passed away on March third. He will be missed and well-remembered by his many colleagues.

Janet P. Simpson, Edwin F. Erickson, Sean J.W. Colgan, and Michael R. Haas, 5 March 2013