Jan Cuypers - Gaia
Royal Observatory of Belgium
We are sad to hear that Jan Cuypers suddenly passed away on 28 February 2017.
Jan obtained his PhD at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, where he continued to work as a researcher for several years. In 1987, he was appointed at the Royal Observatory of Belgium. He became responsible for the information service in 1997, and in 2015 he was nominated as the head of the department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, after being its acting head for a number of years.
Jan's scientific career started with the study of a method of period analysis for the short-period variable stars of type Beta Cephei and Be stars. He extended his work to theoretical studies of period search methods of variable phenomena applied to various types of celestial objects. He acquired an international reputation in the field of period analysis of variable stars.
Because of his lifelong interest in the variability of stars and his former contribution to the Hipparcos mission, it is no surprise that Jan would become involved in Gaia. Jan thus joined the DPAC at its start in 2006. He played a major role within Coordination Unit 7, which handles the variability analysis. He was a member of its Steering Committee and responsible for the variability characterization work package. In this package, he applied his knowledge of the statistical properties of period search methods, and adapted them to the specific needs of the Gaia data. As part of the validation, he applied these techniques also to other large data sets, such as those of Hipparcos and OGLE.
Jan was the Observatory Co-PI of the Belgian PRODEX-project centred on the preparation of Gaia and funded by BELSPO, and he was proud to see the first scientific results of his work, as the first Gaia Data Release contained light curves for a number of Cepheid and RR Lyrae variables.
The scope of his interest in astronomy was very broad, first as a young amateur astronomer and member of the local amateur astronomers club Helios, later as the head of the information service of the Observatory and member of the Board of Directors of the "Vlaamse Vereniging voor Sterrenkunde" (the Flemish astronomy association).
As a science communicator, he enjoyed explaining the celestial phenomena and the latest astronomical news to both the media and the public. In his spare time, he was leading the local association Helios, and was in regular contact with the community of Flemish amateurs where he was a most welcome guest speaker.
His sudden passing is a great loss. We thank him for all he did at the Royal Observatory of Belgium. Our thoughts go out to Jan's family.
[Published: 01/04/2009, Updated: 20/06/2017]
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