Viktor Vitol'dovich Vitkevich
Viktor Vitkevich was one of the pioneers of Soviet radio astronomy, laureate of the USSR State Prize, founder and first head of the Radio Astronomy Station of the Lebedev Physical Institute (later the Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory LPI). Viktor Vitol'dovich Vitkevich was not only an outstanding scientist, but also a wonderful organizer and leader.
Viktor Vitkevich was born in the family of a secondary school teacher of mathematics, who by the end of the 1930s had become a professor at the Timiryazev Agricultular Academy in Moscow. In 1933, after graduating from a seven-year school and the first year of a radio technical school, Viktor entered the radio department of the Moscow Institute of Communications Engineers, from which he graduated with honors in 1939. His diploma work was carried out under the guidance of Professor Semyon Emmanuilovich Khaikin. The results of this work on the multivibrator synchronization problem formed the content of his first scientific publication. In the same year of 1939, he went to work at the Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Communications (Moscow), where, also under the guidance of S.E. Khaikin, he began research on atmospheric and space interferences to radio communications. A multi-channel measuring instrument for the intensity of such the radio interferences, which he made, had already been taken out for measurements to the town of Golitsino (near Moscow), but the outbreak of war interrupted this work.
In the spring of 1941, the Ministry of Communications and CRIC nominated him as a candidate for the Iosif Stalin's scholarship. But as a result of the outbreak of war, the whole work on Stalin's scholarships was suspended. The materials prepared by Vitkevich as a candidate for this scholarship had included 12 articles, one of which was already published in and the other two were submitted to Soviet journal "Telecommunication", the fourth paper was submitted for publication in the Socviet "Journal of Technical Physics" and the remaining 8 articles were prepared only as in manuscripts.
In July 1941, Viktor Vitkevich was drafted for military service in the Navy. He began his service in the Pacific Fleet Air Force in the rank of junior lieutenant, as a platoon commander and head of the training unit of the school of radio operators. However, in 1942 he was transferred to the position of an engineer and then a senior engineer of Scientific Institute of Communications and Telemechanics of the Naval Forces (SICT of the Naval Forces, located in Moscow and in Leningrad). There he organized the experiments for studying the radiation patterns of antennas on models, for which he had encouragement from the Ministry of the Navy. While working in the SICT, V.V.Vitkevich graduated in absentia from the graduate school of the Faculty of Physics of Moscow State University and in 1944 defended his PhD on the study of synchronization of discontinuous auto-oscillating systems.
In 1947, V.V. Vitkevich was discharged from the Navy and went to work as a researcher in the Radio Engineering Section of the Technical Sciences Division of the USSR Academy of Sciences, but in early 1948 he went to work at the Lebedev Physical Institute (LPI) of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Since that time, first as a member of a small group led by his teacher S.E. Khaikin, then as a group leader, head of a sector, and finally, head of a laboratory, V.V. Vitkevich has been working at LPI in the field of radio astronomy.
In the first cycle of radio astronomical investigations, V.V. Vitkevich studied the Sun and the nature of its radio emission. These works were carried out at the LPI's radio astronomical stations in Crimea. Mostly original or one of the first in the country radiometers, radio telescopes and radio interferometers were created for implementation of these studies. In 1951, V.V.Vitkevich proposed a new method for studying the outer layers of the solar corona - the translucence method. The essence of the method was to analyze the effects that the solar corona environment has on radio waves coming from a source located far beyond the solar system, and then to determine the parameters of the translucent medium from this effects. First reliable results came in 1953 from observations of Crab Nebula, the brightest radio source in the Taurus constellation, when it was close to the Sun on the sky. In the course of radio interferometric observations of the Crab Nebula when the Sun approaches to the source onto the celestial sphere, the amplitude of the interference pattern of the source decreased (the same effect in the same days were registered in Cambridge, UK, by Anthony Hewish). V.V.Vitkevich immediately explained the observed effect correctly, namely, that the amplitude of the interference decreases because the angular size of the Crab Nebula increases due to the scattering of its radiation by irregularities in the near-solar plasma. Later (in 1956) he named these outer regions of the solar corona as the Supercorona of the Sun. The discovery of the Supercorona of the Sun was officially registered (Diploma No. 11) by the State Committee for Inventions and Discoveries (SCID) under the USSR Council of Ministers. Based on the results of observations of the scattering of radio emission from the Crab Nebula in 1957, it was found that the electron density inhomogeneities in the Supercorona of the Sun, for the most part, are elongated in the radial direction. On this basis, V.V.Vitkevich (together with his young colleague B.N.Panovkin) concluded that the magnetic field lines in the Supercorona of the Sun are elongated in the same direction. And this result was also registered later (in 1970) by the same SCID as a discovery (diploma No. 86). In 1961, on the basis of a set of published works on the topic "Radioastronomical studies of the solar supercorona", V.V. Vitkevich was awarded the second (in the USSR and in Russia) science degree - Doctor of Physics and Mathematics Science.
Further developments of radio astronomy research in the crowded grounds of the Crimean scientific stations was very difficult. In addition, it would be very desirable that large industrial enterprises, which were not in Crimea, took part in the construction of the large radio telescopes, the projects led by the Lebedev Physical Institute (LPI). For this reasons, the Government of the USSR in 1956 adopted a Decree allowing the USSR Academy of Sciences to build in the Moscow region the Radio Astronomy Station of the LPI with the radio telescope on it. V.V. Vitkevich, Head of the LPI radio astronomy sector, was appointed Head of this station, which is currently called the Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory of the LPI. The first, 22-meter fully steerable centimeter-range radio telescope at the station (supervisor A.E. Salomonovich and designer P.D. Kalachev) was put into operation in April 1959. And in 1957-1964, at the same station, a wide-band meter-wavelengths radio telescope DKR-1000 with an aperture of 40 m x 1000 m was constructed. V.V.Vitkevich was the scientific supervisor and P.D.Kalachev was the designer of this giant radio telescope.
In 1964-68 the high quality flux density measurements of more than 500 radio sources at several wavelengths were carried out with the DKR-1000 telescope. The first observations in the USSR of interplanetary scintillations of radio sources (discovered by A.Hewish) began in Pushchino under Vitkevich's leadership in 1965. In 1966, the DKR-1000 radio telescope was supplemented by two smaller radio telescopes in the Kalinin (now Tver') and Yaroslavl regions. Using these three radio telescopes, V.V.Vitkevich with his young collaborators made the world's first measurements of the solar wind velocities not only in wide range (including very small) distances from the Sun in the ecliptic plane, but also at high heliolatitudes, too. The characteristic size of the inhomogeneities responsible for the scintillation of the sources was determined in the course of this study too. In 1968, VV Vitkevich was awarded the State Prize of the USSR for the discovery and studies of the Supercorona of the Sun and interplanetary plasma.
Since 1968, the scientific activity of V.V.Vitkevich shifted to the study of the new class of astrophysical objects - pulsars. Immediately after the announcement of their discovery by the Cambridge radio astronomers the DKR-1000 radio telescope was equipped with the necessary receivers, and very successful observations of these objects began. To conduct research on pulsars, Viktor Vitkevich organized a separate group of young astrophysicists aimed at studying these interesting objects. Within a short time, a series of brilliant results were obtained: the polarization of the radio emission of pulsars was measured, and the strength of the galactic magnetic field was estimated using the Faraday effect, the drift of pulses was discovered in the pulsar 0809 + 74, the first Pushchino pulsar PP 0943 was discovered. All this became possible largely due to the high sensitivity and wide-frequency-band of the DKR-1000 radio telescope. But V.V.Vitkevich never stopped his characteristic forward thinking, and he started construction of a new very large phased array, named BSA radio telescope, for pulsars studies. Today, this array is one of the most sensitive meter-wave radio telescopes in the world. This makes it most suitable for studies of pulsars, interplanetary plasma as well as various types of sporadic radio bursts.
V.V.Vitkevich was distinguished by outstanding leadership skills, breadth of scientific interests, deep knowledge of technology, experimental methods, and the ability to apply theory to the interpretation of observational results. It should be noted his dynamism, the ability to quickly switch to new urgent tasks. He brought up many students who formed the basis of the following staffs of the Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory of the Lebedev Physical Institute.
The scope of V.V.Vitkevich's scientific interests was not limited to the areas listed above. He closely followed and actively contributed to the development of all the work that was carried out in the team he headed, even if they were not directly within the scope of his scientific interests. As an example, we can cite his support and participation in the measurements of the landing coordinates of domestic spacecrafts of the Luna series, performed on the radio interferometers of the LPI's Crimean station in Katsiveli. Other, no less striking examples are the work on measuring the polarization of the radio emission of the Crab Nebula, carried out in the same place in Katsiveli with a 32-meter radio telescope, as well as the investigations by R.L.Sorochenko, which led to the discovery of radio lines of highly excited hydrogen, helium, carbon and other atoms of the interstellar medium. He was very interested in and supported the investigations of spectra and angular sizes of extragalactic radio sources at meter wavelengths using E-W arm of the DKR-1000 radio telescope. Viktor Vitoldovich Vitkevich was an active member of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Radio Science Union (URSI). He took an active part in the work of the Council on Radio Astronomy of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
He passed away early, when he was not yet 55, in the prime of his creative powers. But what he managed to do in 25 years of work at LPI would be sufficient for several lives. To this day, a large team of researchers at the Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory, many of whom consider themselves colleagues and students of Viktor Vitoldovich, not without pride, work in scientific areas, at the origins of which V.V. Vitkevich stood, and in their work constantly use the experimental base created by under his leadership. VV Vitkevich left a deep mark in the history of domestic and world science. The memory of this remarkable scientist, outstanding organizer and leader is kept by scientists of the Pushchino Observatory, which today bears the name of Viktor Vitoldovich Vitkevich.