Ian McLean, director of UCLA's Infrared Laboratory for Astrophysics, has received many honors in his distinguished career. Now he has an asteroid named after him. McLean was chosen the namesake of Asteroid #249544 (2010 HQ44) at a recent Scientific Detector Workshop 2013.
McLean said having the asteroid named after him was a "complete surprise." The object is a normal asteroid in a stable orbit in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter; it will never come close to hitting the Earth, he said.
McLean built the world’s first infrared camera for wide use by astronomers in 1986 and since then has built several increasingly sophisticated infrared cameras and spectrometers — which split light into its component colors. UCLA’s infrared laboratory, which McLean founded in 1989, has produced instruments for the W.M. Keck Observatory, Lick Observatory, Gemini Observatory, and NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. He and his colleagues built a “time machine” that will allow scientists to study for the first time the earliest galaxies in the universe. The five-ton instrument is called MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infra-Red Exploration) and has been installed in the Keck I Telescope at the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Many of the most crucial components of the planned Thirty Meter Telescope’s (TMT) Infrared Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), will be designed and built at UCLA’s Infrared Laboratory for Astrophysics. IRIS is one of three scientific instruments that will be ready for use with the TMT when the telescope begins operation in 2022.
McLean is also the principal investigator for a research imaging instrument called FLITECAM, on NASA's SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), a modified 747 SP jetliner that is the world's largest airborne observatory. FLITECAM, which McLean and his colleagues built at UCLA, is a camera that can be converted to a spectrometer electronically, using a computer. It will be used to study planets orbiting other stars and stars eclipsed when an asteroid or comet in the outer part of the solar system passes in front of them.