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Dale Frail

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Subject: 1992 in science, April 21, 1992
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Dale Frail

Dale A. Frail is an astronomer working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Socorro, New Mexico. He was born in Canada, spent much of his childhood in Europe, and his professional career has been based in the United States.


Frail received his university education in Canada: first an undergraduate degree in Physics from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, followed by M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Astrophysics from the University of Toronto. In 1989 he moved to the United States as an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow. After completing a prized Jansky Postdoctoral Fellowship[1] in 1993, he joined the research staff of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, where he remains today.

He is the author of well over 200 peer-reviewed research papers,[2] including some 30 articles in the prestigious journal Nature. He has made contributions to numerous sub-fields of astrophysics including gamma-ray bursts, extrasolar planets, soft gamma-ray repeaters, the interstellar medium, pulsars, masers and supernova remnants. To the lay public he is best known for discoveries in extrasolar planets and gamma-ray bursts. In 2010, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.[3] In August 2011, he was appointed as NRAO's Assistant Director for the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array and the Very Long Baseline Array, and site director for New Mexico operations.[4]

Key discoveries

In early 1992, Frail and Polish astronomer Aleksander Wolszczan announced their discovery[5] of the existence of two planets and a possible third around the pulsar PSR B1257+12. Their discovery was confirmed in mid-1992. In addition to being the first confirmed discovery of pulsar planets, the find is also generally considered to be the first confirmed discovery of extrasolar planets of any kind.

Beginning in 1997, Frail was part of a Caltech-NRAO team that helped unravel the long-standing mystery of the origin of gamma-ray bursts. They used an optical spectrum taken with the Keck Telescope toward the optical afterglow of GRB 970508 to establish that gamma-ray bursts were at cosmological distances.[6] They then used the Very Large Array radio telescope discovery of radio afterglow emission from this same burst to measure the object's size and infer that the source was expanding relativistically.[7] These two observations have remained cornerstones in the cosmological fireball model for gamma-ray bursts.[8][9] In 2009 Thomson ISI listed Frail as one of the top three most cited researchers in the field of gamma-ray bursts over the last decade.[10]

There are many popular science accounts of the discovery of extra-solar planets as well as those of gamma-ray bursts and their afterglows. Links to a few of these can be found below.


  1. ^ NRAO Jansky Postdoctoral Fellowships
  2. ^ "Dale Frail", Partial list from the NASA ADS database
  3. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow Biography
  4. ^
  5. ^ Wolszczan, A.; Frail, D. A. (1992). "A planetary system around the millisecond pulsar PSR1257+12". Nature 355 (6356): 145–147.  
  6. ^ Metzger, M. R.; Djorgovski, S. G.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Steidel, C. C.; Adelberger, K. L.; Frail, D. A.; Costa, E.; Frontera, F. (1997). "Spectral constraints on the redshift of the optical counterpart to the γ-ray burst of 8 May 1997". Nature 387 (6636): 878–880.  
  7. ^ Frail, D. A.; Kulkarni, S. R.; Nicastro, L.; Feroci, M.; Taylor, G. B. (1997). "The radio afterglow from the γ-ray burst of 8 May 1997". Nature 389 (6648): 261–263.  
  8. ^ Piran, T. (1999). "Gamma-ray bursts and the fireball model". Physics Reports 314 (6): 575–667.  
  9. ^ Frail, D. A.; Waxman, E.; Kulkarni, S. R.; (2000). "A 450 Day Light Curve of the Radio Afterglow of GRB 970508: Fireball Calorimetry". The Astrophysical Journal 537 (1): 191–204.  
  10. ^ Special Topics Analysis of Gamma-ray Burst (GRB) Research

External links

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