Sussex Astronomy People


photo
Dr Robert Connon Smith
Emeritus Reader
email r.c.smith@sussex.ac.uk
phone +44 1273 678974
Fax +44 1273 873124

Robert Smith was educated at the University of Glasgow (BSc Mathematics and Physics, PhD Astronomy) and taught there from 1966 to 1968, when he moved to Sussex as a Research Fellow. He has been a member of the teaching faculty of the Astronomy Centre since 1972, and has published an undergraduate textbook (Observational Astrophysics, CUP 1995). From 1996-2001 he was Subject Chairman of Physics and Astronomy and from 2001-2003 he served as Dean of the School of Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science. From August 2003 to July 2004 he was Head of Department of Physics and Astronomy in the new School of Science and Technology. He retired at the end of September 2006, but continues to be active in research and to supervise a small number of practical projects. He also continued to teach one course (Stellar Structure) until the end of 2011-12.

Until 1985 he was a theoretician, working on rotating stars, large-scale circulation in stellar envelopes and contact binary stars. Since then he has been primarily an observer, working on spectroscopy of cataclysmic binaries (CVs) and Algols. The Sussex group has made a special study of the secondary star in CVs and the effects of irradiation, and a paper on starspots on RU Pegasi was published in 2012.

Robert Smith has been an editor of Observatory Magazine (1977 - 1983) and of The Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1984 - 1996; Managing Editor 1991 - 1995). He was from 1999 to 2006 the founding Chair of the Membership Committee of the Royal Astronomical Society; he has served on various other committees of the Society, including its Council, of which he was Vice-President from 2004 to 2006.

He is married, with three daughters, three grand-daughters and one grand-son. In his spare time, he enjoys hill-walking, singing, reading and listening to classical music. In retirement he has returned to the study of classical Greek.

He also has a web page on the Physics server.

Until 2011-12, he taught the M-level course Stellar Structure, available to MPhys students in year 4 and to MSc students in Astronomy and Cosmology.

Recent publications include:
A non-main-sequence secondary in SY Cancri. MNRAS 360 364-374 (2005)
What a local sample of spectroscopic binaries can tell us about the field binary population. MNRAS 361 495-503 (2005)
(These are almost final electronic versions of articles published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: complete citation information for the final versions of the papers, as published in the print edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is available on the Blackwell Synergy online delivery service, accessible via the journal's website at MN or synergy)
Testing the criteria for stable mass transfer in cataclysmic variables Observatory 126 38-48 (2006)
(A scanned copy of a reprint - copyright The Editors of The Observatory.)
Cataclysmic Variables (A preprint of a review article published in Contemporary Physics 47 No.6 363-386 (Nov-Dec 2006).)

An informal talk at Sussex in October 2007 was based on a paper with former colleague Peter Schroeder, accepted by Monthly Notices in January 2008 (MNRAS 386 155-163 (2008)); the talk can be found here. A link to the full paper can be found on the ADS website. This paper, which discusses the final fate of the Earth as the Sun evolves to become a red giant, attracted considerable publicity world-wide, and the work featured as part of two science documentaries, which were shown on the National Geographic channel in winter 2008-09.

Another recent paper is:
High-dispersion absorption-line spectroscopy of AE Aqr. MNRAS 387 1563-1574 (2008)
(This is an almost final electronic version of an article published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: complete citation information for the final version of the paper, as published in the print edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is available on the Blackwell Synergy online delivery service, accessible via the journal's website at MN or synergy)

More recent papers are:

Cano, Z. and Smith, R.C., "Does the RR Lyrae variable DY And show the Blazhko effect?", Observatory, 130 11-16 (2010) [Corrigendum: 130, 196, 2010]

Dunford, A., Watson, C.A. and Smith, R.C., "Roche tomography of cataclysmic variables - V. A high-latitude star-spot on RU Pegasi", Mon. Not. R. astr. Soc., 422, 3444-3456, 2012. A link can be found on the ADS website.