Andrew G. Michalitsianos, 50, NASA astrophysicist

November 03, 1997|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

Andrew Gerasimos Michalitsianos, an astrophysicist who studied the heavens at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, died of brain cancer Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Severna Park resident was 50.

As chief of Goddard's laboratory for astronomy and solar physics, he was deputy project scientist for the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite, launched in 1978. The satellite studied objects in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum.

Mr. Michalitsianos also studied quasars and enigmatic stars and published more than 70 articles in scientific journals.

"He didn't give up to the end," said Demos Kazanas, a colleague and neighbor.

The son of a sea captain, Mr. Michalitsianos showed an early interest in stars. In high school, he built a spectrograph -- a machine that analyzes starlight -- which earned him first place in a science contest in Queens, N.Y. At 16, he traveled to South America to observe a solar eclipse from a mountaintop in Peru.

"He loved to look into other galaxies. It was something of the unknown," said his wife of 20 years, the former Kathryn Alabaster. "He dedicated his whole life to astronomy and always said he thought there was life out there."

Friends described him as outgoing and unassuming. "He had a great sense of humor," Mr. Kazanas said. "When he was diagnosed with cancer, the first thing he said was, 'Imagine what will happen in the lab when they find out their chief is having his brain removed. There will be no end to the jokes.' "

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Mr. Michalitsianos received an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Arizona and a doctorate in astrophysics from Cambridge University in England. He worked for two decades for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Goddard, where he also studied gravitational lenses and did research on symbiotic stars.

He was an avid sailor and owned a boat, the Akrivi.

He was a member of St. Constantine and St. Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 118 Granville Ave., Annapolis, where services are planned for 11 a.m. today.

He is also survived by two daughters, Elpiniki and Lydia Michalitsianos; and a son, Gerasimos Michalitsianos, all of Severna Park; and a sister, Loukia Michalitsianos of Athens, Greece.

Pub Date: 11/03/97

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