Māris K. Ābele




We regret to report the passing on Monday, February 21, 2022, after several months of health problems, of Dr. Maris Abele, former Director of the Institute of Astronomy, University of Latvia.

Maris Abele was born in 1937, Riga, Latvia. He studied physics and astronomy at the Latvian State University. His lifelong career in satellite observations and constructing satellite observation cameras started in October 1957 when as a third-year student he participated in the visual tracking of the first “Sputnik-1”. In 1958 he started photographic observations of satellites using modified aerial photography camera NAFA-3s/25.

His 1960 diploma work was devoted to the design of a satellite tracking photographic camera TAFO-AL-75 that was developed together with Kasimir Lapushka. In 1965 Maris Abele was a team leader and optical designer of the widely known AFU-75 satellite photographic camera. More than 120 copies of camera were made thus making it the most widely used satellite photographic camera in the world.
In 1964 he obtained the Dr. phys. degree with the dissertation “Photographic camera with the speed compensation for observation of artificial satellites of the Earth”, based on the AFU-75 design, at the Moscow State University, Soviet Union. For the work on AFU-75 he received a silver medal at the “National Economy Achievements Exhibition” in Moscow (1968).

During the 1970s Maris Abele designed the LD-1 and LD-2 satellite laser ranging telescopes which were the backbone of the Soviet Union/Interkosmos first generation satellite laser ranging network. His AFU-75, LD-1 and LD-2 systems were installed around the globe, in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and in far away and exotic places such as Kourou, Spitsbergen, Kerguelen Islands, Île Amsterdam and the Mirny Station in Antarctica. He traveled widely along the world installing and testing his instruments, and visited all the continents, except Antarctica.

He continued to develop satellite laser ranging optical systems during the 1980s and later, in particular the ULIS-630, an innovative altitude-altitude mount, and the 1-meter satellite laser ranging telescope LS-105. The LS-105 system has been operated in Germany (Potsdam), Finland, Latvia, and Ukraine. In 1987 Maris Abele succeeded in permanently installing LS-105 system in Riga. This telescope is in operation until now.

He worked at different positions at the University of Latvia since 1960. He was a director of Institute of Astronomy, University of Latvia (2006 – 2010). In parallel he worked at the Optical Mechanical Factory, Riga as engineer-physicist (1963 – 1988). During his lifetime Maris Abele published dozens of scientific papers and obtained several patents. He was a member of the Latvian Astronomical Society (1955), the International Astronomical Union (1973) and a Corresponding Member of Latvian Academy of Sciences (2001). In 2000 he received the Friedrich Tsander Prize in Astronomy from the Latvian Academy of Sciences.

He continued to design optical and mechanical equipment for satellite observations and to participate at the work of Institute of Astronomy until the last days of his life. We will miss him greatly as a colleague, a friend, and a wonderful human being.

Past affiliation(s) within the IAU

  • Past Member of Division A Fundamental Astronomy (until 2022)
  • Past Member of Commission 31 Time (until 2015)
  • Past Member of Division I Fundamental Astronomy (until 2012)

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