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Hein Hvatum, N4FWA (SK)

06/03/2008

Hein Hvatum, N4FWA, who in the 1970s and 80s supervised construction of one of the world's most powerful radio observatories, died of cancer May 22 at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was 85. In 1974, Hvatum assumed responsibility for construction of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array (VLA), an arrangement of radio telescopes near Socorro, New Mexico. The observatory is perhaps best known to the general public for its appearance in the 1997 movie Contact with Jodie Foster; it has also appeared in Carl Sagan's documentary Cosmos, in the movie Independence Day, in a Bon Jovi music video and on the cover of a Dire Straits album. The VLA was completed in 1982.

Hvatum, an ARRL member since 1981, was responsible for computing, antenna design and electronics for the $78 million project, the largest the National Science Foundation (NSF) had funded at the time. Hvatum became acting director at NRAO in 1984 and project manager for the Very Long Baseline Array the next year. He retired in 1987.

Hvatum, as a member of the Albemarle Amateur Radio Club, organized a number of community emergency preparedness drills. He was active with both national and international groups seeking to protect radio frequencies for radio astronomy.

Calling Hvatum a "friend, mentor and Elmer," the Albemarle ARC said Hvatum will be missed "by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him and calling him a friend." According to the Albemarle ARC Web site, a memorial service for Hvatum is planned for 2 PM on June 27 at NRAO Headquarters. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Hospice of the Piedmont or to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.



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