Vytautas P. Straižys

Lithuania

1936-2021


Obituary:

Vytautas Straižys, academician who devoted entire his life to astronomy, dies at the age of 85.

Doctor habilitatus Vytautas Pranciškus Straižys, emeritus member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, professor emeritus at Vilnius university institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy passed away on the 19th of December, 2021.

Prof. V. Straižys was awarded numerous prizes, including two Lithuanian science awards and the Cross of an Officer of the Order of the Duke of Lithuania Gediminas (2003). He was a Member of the International Union of Astronomers since 1967 where he served as a Vice-President and the President of the Star Classification Commission from 1979 to 1985. On a proposal from the colleagues the International Astronomical Union named the asteroid 68730 Straižys after him.

Vytautas Straižys was born on the 20th of August, 1936 in Utena, Lithuania. He began his research career at the Vilnius University Faculty of Physics. His first research papers were published as early as in 1957, while he was still a student of astrophysics. After completing his doctoral studies in 1963 V. Straižys defended his dissertation on “Multicolor Photometric Systems”. In 1962 - 1965, in collaboration with K. Zdanavičius he developed a seven-color Vilnius photometric system, which soon gained widespread international recognition.

Vytautas Straižys deserves the title of the Patriarch of Lithuanian Astronomy due to his enormous contribution to the research in the field of astronomy, training of researchers, and development of research infrastructures. In 1967 V. Straižys became the head of the astrophysics department at the Institute of Physics and Mathematics, Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, currently Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy of Vilnius University, where he was taking care of this growing team of astronomers until 2003. Over 20 doctoral dissertations were defended under his supervision. V. Straižys also supervised the construction and telescope installation of the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory and the Maidanak Observatory in Uzbekistan. V. Straižys served for many years as a scientific supervisor of Vilnius University Astronomical Observatory and taught university students various astronomy courses, for which he was awarded the pedagogical title of professor in 1976.

The Vilnius photometric system became especially popular when in 1977 prof. V. Straižys published the monograph “Multicolor Stellar Photometry”. The second monograph “Metal Deficient Stars” (1982) proved that the Vilnius photometric system can be applied for classifying not only stars of regular chemical composition, but also metal-defficient, carbonaceous, emission stars, white dwarfs, sub-dwarfs, and binary stars. The Vilnius photometric system has been the most suitable for classifying any set of stars in the Galactic field, even with large interstellar extinction. The system also allows different types of peculiar stars to be identified and classified. In 1992 the extended and supplemented monograph “Multicolor Stellar Photometry” was published in the United States. Prof. V. Straižys is the author of more than 400 research articles with over 8,000 citations.

As a result of his extensive experience in stellar astrophotometry, more than ten Lithuanian astronomers were invited to collaborate with the European Space Agency in the preparation of the Gaia Space Observatory, and prof. V. Straižys was invited to lead the peculiar stellar classification working group. In the first scientific paper on Gaia observations, published in 2016, his name appeared alongside with those of other scientists who had made the most significant contributions to this project.

In 1977 V. Straižys initiated publication of the “Bulletin of the Vilnius Astronomical Observatory” and the publication of the international research journal “Baltic Astronomy” since 1992, where he was the editor-in-chief. He was also very productive in the field of science promotion as well, with more than 500 articles and other publications. From 1992 to 2001 he was the editor of the periodical “Lietuvos dangus” (Sky of Lithuania), in 1992 he published the book “Paukščių takas” (The Milky Way). In 1984, together with A. Juška, he compiled and published the “Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Astronomy”, and in 2002 he became the author of twice as extensive edition of this dictionary. In 1993 the textbook “Astronomy” for secondary schools was on release, and in 1995 the coursebook “Astronomy” for university students and doctoral students (with 2 co-authors) appeared, which was updated in 1999. In 2012 the history and activities of the observatory were recorded in the book “Molėtai Astronomical Observatory”.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague and friend Vytautas Straižys. He was a distinguished scientist and a person of extraordinary dedication to science, whose work and legacy will live on for many years.

Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, Vilnius University

Past affiliation(s) within the IAU

  • Past President of Commission 45 Stellar Classification (1982-1985)
  • Past Vice-President of Commission 45 Stellar Classification (1979-1982)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 45 Stellar Classification (2003-2006)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (2000-2003)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 45 Stellar Classification (2000-2003)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (1994-1997)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (1991-1994)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (1988-1991)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 45 Stellar Classification (1985-1988)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (1976-1979)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 45 Stellar Classification (1976-1979)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (1973-1976)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 45 Stellar Classification (1973-1976)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (1970-1973)
  • Past Member of Commission 46 Astronomy Education & Development
  • Past Member of Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science (until 2021)
  • Past Member of Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology (until 2021)
  • Past Member of Division G Stars and Stellar Physics (until 2021)
  • Past Member of Division H Interstellar Matter and Local Universe (2015-2021)
  • Past Member of Commission B6 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (2015-2021)
  • Past Member of Commission H1 The Local Universe (2015-2021)
  • Past Member of Inter-Division G-H-J Commission Stellar Clusters throughout Cosmic Space and Time (2015-2021)
  • Past Member of Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (until 2015)
  • Past Member of Commission 45 Stellar Classification (until 2015)
  • Past Member of Commission 51 Bio-Astronomy (until 2015)
  • Past Member of Division III Planetary Systems Sciences (until 2012)
  • Past Member of Division IV Stars (until 2012)
  • Past Member of Division IX Optical & Infrared Techniques (until 2012)
  • Past Member of Division XII Union-Wide Activities (until 2012)
  • Past Member of Finance Committee (1994-1997)
  • Past Member of Finance Committee (1991-1994)

Other past affiliation(s)

  • Past President of the National Committee for Astronomy in Lithuania (until 2017)

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