Kuiper Telescope: Operated by Steward Observatory, the 61-inch Kuiper Telescope was built in the 1960s to survey the Moon in preparation for the lunar spacecraft missions.
Credit: Gary Rosenbaum/Steward Observatory
For a while, the 61-inch telescope in the Catalina Mountains that Kuiper had built for planetary photography was the most sensitive infrared telescope in the deep thermal infrared in the world. We would use it to take a lot of pioneering measurements. I remember I made a map of the Galactic center, the center of the Milky Way. There was clearly a complex of sources of infrared radiation right at the center of the Galaxy. We sent the map over to Caltech because we knew they would be interested. We had long telephone conversations during which they said, “That thing on your map isn’t real; we can’t detect it.” And we’d say, “Well, our telescope is more sensitive than yours. We think it’s real.” There was a lot of scientific exchange that went on. On the other hand, at one point Frank claimed he had the 28-inch telescope working more sensitively than the 200-inch, and when he said that too many places there was a certain amount of less pleasant rivalry that came to the fore.
We published the map, and it turned out the source was there. But, you know, we were warned, so we went back and looked, and we were really confident that it was there before we published it. But there were many, many discussions over the telephone about what we had seen and how it compared to what they’d seen and so on
That happens, but it’s not generally the rule in science. There’s a lot of competition that drives people to get results published without necessarily sending their results way in advance of publication to their rivals to ask the rivals, you know, do you believe this? It sort of makes the point that this was very fierce, but gentlemanly, competition. We weren’t at all concerned that if we sent all these really exciting new results over to Caltech that it would lead to problems.