By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
Even among the 41 faculty at the University of Hawai'i's world-renowned Institute for Astronomy, emeritus professor George Herbig stands out.
"Our faculty is among the leaders in their field, but it's right to say that Dr. Herbig is in a class of his own," said Rolf Kudritzki, the institute's director. "You rarely find an example of a scientist like this. George is somebody who everyone here has the deepest respect for."
Don't bother trying to get Herbig himself to talk about anything but his work studying the physics of the formation of stars, including pioneering observations of young stellar objects.
"He's one of the most modest persons I have ever met," Kudritzki said. "He just wants to do his work."
Herbig, 89, has spent a career studying how young stellar objects formed off the interstellar gas between the stars and dust clouds in the Milky Way. At least three celestial objects bear his name — Asteroid 11754 Herbig; Herbig Ae/Be stars; Herbig-Haro objects — "and probably many more," Kudritzki said.
Herbig came to UH in 1987 from Northern California's Lick Observatory and attained emeritus status at UH in September 2001.
Yet Herbig shows up at the institute every day and remains up to date in his field, publishing papers and doing research atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island.
"He is definitely still making contributions," Kudritzki said, "and everybody here is very happy about that."