WHITE, William C. (1922 - )

William C. White is a civilian astronomer that participated as scientific observer in the STARGAZER balloon manned mission in December 1962.

He was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1922. Son of a methodist clergyman, he was attracted since childhood by astronomy. After serving in the Air Force during World War II, he graduated from the Department of Astronomy, at the College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the Ohio State University. In 1950 he defended his thesis on "Investigation of the radial velocity of stars on complex spectra" and received a Master of Science degree in astronomy.

After that, as a civilian he joined the Michelson Laboratory U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake, where he moved to with his wife Gene in 1952. During this time he published several papers in the Astrophysical Journal related to spectrography of artificial meteors.

His first involvement with balloon missions started in 1957 when he participated, along with other scientists of the laboratory, in an experiment that consisted in the installation of collection sample bottles and radiation measuring devices on the exterior of the gondola of the "Stratolab High II" manned mission. The experiment was also included in the "Stratolab High III" flight carried out the following year.

In early 60's he was invited to join the STARGAZER project, which was aimed to test the feasibility of doing astronomical research from a manned balloon borne vehicle. He was asked to design and carry out the science agenda of the flight. The invitation came from Dr. Josef Allen Hynek who was at the time chairman of Northwestern's University astronomy department and scientific test director for the project. The two men were old acquaintances since Hynek had been White's thesis adviser.

The flight took place on December 1962. The balloon launched from Holloman AFB spend near 19 hours at float altitude. During the flight, White performed several star observations including scintillation, seeing, and interference by absorption of light by water vapor. These observations were performed using a Cassegrian telescope mounted in the top of the gondola, coupled with a photoelectric photometer, a motion picture camera and an infrared photometer.

He was also scientific observer for the second Stargazer flight which would be performed on April 20, 1963, but minutes before launch the balloon broke free from the capsule, forcing to cancel the flight. After that, budget problems led to the cancellation of the program

From Febraury to April 1965, in the context of the scientific activities of the International Quiet Sun Year (IQSY) he was part of the NASA Mobile Launch Expedition Nº 1 onboard the USS Croatan, performing total ozone measurements with a Dobson Spectrophotometer during the cruise of the ship in the Eastern Pacific.

There is not much information about the whereabouts of White after that.

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