Ted Pedas “Science at Sea

Dr. Phyllis Burton Pitluga

Eclipse '99 - Black Sea Voyage to Darkness aboard Royal Olympic's World Renaissance
South America - Voyage to Lost Civilizations

Phyllis Burton Pitluga, astronomer at the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum in Chicago, has a special research interest in the archaeoastronomy of the Nazca Lines in Peru - such a special interest, in fact, that she is the successor to the leading authority on the enigmatic lines that cross the pampa in this desert area.

Dr. Pitluga has led numerous successful eclipse expeditions to exotic places around the world. The Eclipse '99 Voyage to Darkness aboard the World Renaissance will be her 10th eclipse, her seventh as expedition leader. As such, she has developed a unique ‘eclipse song’ to help eclipse chasers recall the rapid sequence of dramatic events during those fleeting minutes of an eclipse. This preparation and a good background in the specific qualities that make each eclipse unique provide a richer, more meaningful experience to participants.

Her love of observing the universe through telescopes and via CCD cameras is realized through weekly observing sessions at the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin and weekly remote observing with the 3.5-meter telescope at Apache Point in New Mexico. Images are taken for public display and for Hands-On-Universe image analysis by planetarium visitors.

Dr. Pitluga began teaching an 8-week course in ancient astronomy at the Adler more than 20 years ago. While visiting many of the sites first-hand, she became acquainted with Maria Reiche, the principle researcher on the Nazca Lines in Peru. The lines are a series of drawings of animals, geometric figures, and birds ranging from up to 1,000 feet in size. Scratched onto the desert and preserved for 2,000 years by the lack of rain in the arid region, the true iconic nature of the drawings can only be observed by air.

She was invited to participate in Reiche's research. Funded by a Wenner-Gren anthropological grant and a three-year Fulbright Scholarship serial grant, she carried forth research by acquiring extensive and precise data regarding the directions, dimensions, and associations of the lines appended to the plant and animal figures at each of the huge plazas. She has presented these results at numerous international conferences whose proceedings report these results.

Her work with the Nazca Lines also has been shown in television on The New Explorers, National Geographic, and the BBC.

With a special interest in space-age exploration of the solar system, Pitluga has lectured on a variety of related topics and recently has developed self-guided classes using the Adler's internet-connected cyberspace learning center.

In a professional career that has spanned more than 30 years, her formal education includes degrees in science education and astronomy educator, and most coursework toward a Ph.D. in the history of astronomy at The University of Chicago.

Dr. Pitluga's varied professional associations include the International Planetarium Society, where she is a past officer and the current awards chair. She is a longtime member of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the History of Science Society, the Society for American Archaeology and the Association for Women in Science.

Her personal interests include slalom water skiing, scuba diving, horticulture, and adventure traveling.

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E-mail:   Ted Pedas — mpedas@ix.netcom.com