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Faculty Profile: Bo Reipurth

Bo Reipurth

Bo Reipurth at Mauna Kea Observatories.

As a small child, one of Bo Reipurth's first astronomical experiences was looking at the craters of the Moon and the rings of Saturn through the telescope at a public observatory in his native Copenhagen. After that experience, he never doubted that he would become an astronomer. While growing up, he subscribed to the English-language magazine, Sky & Telescope, which he read with the help of a dictionary. "One day I read an article about small mysterious blobs called Herbig-Haro objects which might be signposts of stars in the making. I was completely captivated by the possibility that we might actually be able to see stars in the process of being born, and I have spent most of my professional career trying to learn about how stars are formed."

Reipurth received his PhD from the University of Copenhagen in 1981. After several years there as a postdoctoral researcher, he worked as a staff astronomer with the European Southern Observatory in Chile for 11 years. He then spent four years at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA) of the University of Colorado as a research professor.

Reipurth joined the IfA in Honolulu in 2001 and moved to the Hilo office in 2004.

Reipurth has been a leader in the star formation community for years. While in Colorado, he started "The Star Formation Newsletter," a monthly electronic publication that includes abstracts of newly accepted papers, and listings of recent PhD theses, meetings, books, and jobs related to star formation. Almost immediately after arriving in Honolulu, he founded the Center for Star and Planet Formation, which brings together interested astronomers on Oahu and Hawaii for lectures and discussions. He says, "Understanding how stars are born is the single most important remaining problem in stellar evolution."

The author of numerous scientific papers and the author or editor of several books, Reipurth is now editing a two-volume set, Handbook of Star Forming Regions, which distills our knowledge about the 60 or so star-forming regions closer than 6,000 light-years.

Reipurth is the coauthor (with frequent collaborator John Bally) of The Birth of Stars and Planets. Published in 2006 by Cambridge University Press, it contains many beautiful color pictures of sites of starbirth and text that is very accessible to nonscientists. They note in the foreword to the book, "It is possible—even likely—that within the next decade all the major pieces of a full picture of star and planet formation will be in place."

Reipurth is also a member of the UH NASA Astrobiology Institute Lead Team, a cross-disciplinary group that is studying the relationship of water in the Universe to the development of life.

When not doing science, Reipurth's main interests are reading, listening to classical music, and playing the piano. On weekends he and his Brazilian wife Mercia swim and kayak.