Science: The Astronomer In the Engine Room

The U.S. Naval Observatory needed a new survey of Jupiter's moons as a navigational aid for future space probes. To assemble the vital data, it turned not to a top-ranking astronomer but to an unassuming Caltech research associate who had no Ph.D., had published no papers and had no other academic achievements to his name. "I know nothing about astrophysics or electrodynamics," says Charles Kowal, 34. "All I'm good at is using a telescope."

Topsy-Turvy Life. As the Naval Observatory was well aware, that was more than good enough. Last year in the course...

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