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Norman W. Broten, former Director of Radio Astronomy at the National Research Council of Canada, died 12 January 2015 in Greely, Ontario, at age 93. Born 21 December 1921 to Anton and Clara Broten of Choiceland, Saskatchewan, Broten completed his BSc degree in physics at the University of Western Ontario in 1950, after serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. He was introduced to radio astronomy during a summer job at the fledgling solar radio observatory in Ottawa, under the direction of Arthur Covington.
Covington and Broten’s joint 1953 paper, “Brightness of the Solar Disk at a Wave Length of 10.3 CM,” in the Astrophysical Journal, described the successful scan of solar radio emission with a 150-foot-long, slotted-waveguide array whose beam was narrow enough to resolve the solar disk; two regions of intense radio emission coincided with sunspots. In 1967, Broten and his colleagues reported on a successful test of long-baseline interferometry, which used magnetic-tape recorders and atomic frequency standards to operate two widely separated radio telescopes at Canada's Algonquin Radio Observatory as a phase-coherent pair. Starting in the 1970s, Broten also published a number of articles on the radio detection of complex molecules in interstellar clouds.
Broten’s pioneering role in the early development of radio astronomy brought him the Rumford Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1971 as well as an honorary PhD from Western University. He was a longtime member of the IAU’s Commission 40 Radio Astronomy. Broten was married to the late Emelia Tkachuk and had three children. An avid musician, he played trumpet, guitar and banjo in a local dance band.
Obituary written by: Alan Hirshfeld (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)
BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2015, 47, 022