Brian McLean

Last updated


  • Observatory Scientist
  • Space Telescope Science Institute
    3700 San Martin Drive
    MD, 21218, USA
  • Phone : +1 (410) 338-4900
  • Fax : +1 (410) 338-4767
  • email :
  • Name : Brian John McLean
  • Nationality : USA & UK (dual citizenship)
  • Date of Birth : 19th September 1956
  • Place of Birth : Aberdeen , Scotland
  • Undergraduate Studies
    Place : St. Andrews University 1974-78
    Degree : B.Sc. Astronomy (1st Class Honours), July 1978
  • Postgraduate Studies
    Place : St. Andrews University 1978-81
    Thesis : A Spectroscopic Study of Contact Binary Systems
    Degree : Ph.D. Astronomy, October 1981 



  • 2017 AURA Team Award as member of STScI PanSTARRS team
  • 2017 STScI Group Achievement Award as member of HST On-Line Cache Team
  • 2016 NASA Group Achievement Award as member of DAWN Science Operations Team
  • 2016 STScI Group Achievement award as member of JWST Data Management System Build 5 team
  • 2015 NASA commendation award as member of Hubble Space Telescope Science Team
  • 2015 STScI Group Achievement award as member of HST DMS upgrade team
  • 2015 STScI Group Achievement award as member of of Mars-Comet encounter team
  • 2013 NASA Group Achievement award as member of DAWN Science Operations team
  • 2009 AURA Team Award as member of HLA (Hubble Legacy Archive) team
  • 2008 STScI Group Achievement award as member of Plate Vault decommissioning team
  • 2007 STScI Group Achievement award as member of HLA (Hubble Legacy Archive) team
  • 1992 NASA Group Achievement award for construction of the Guide Star Catalog
  • 1990 AURA Achievement award for service to the Astronomical community
  • 1989 STScI Group Achievement award as member of the GSSS (Guide Star Selection System) team




  • Observing (Optical imaging and spectroscopy, Radio)
  • Image processing (photographic and CCD), Astrometry
  • Sky Surveys and Catalogues
  • Data Archives
  • Binary stars
  • Galactic structure
  • Galaxy clusters
  • Operating Systems : VMS, Windows, DOS, Unix/Linux
  • Programming : FORTRAN, IDL, Visual C++, C#, BASIC, FORTH, Assembler, Perl, HTML
  • Databases : Objectivity (Object-Oriented Database), Microsoft SQLserver
  • Hierarchical Storage Management systems
  • Real-time control systems : CAMAC
  • Courses taken -
    Objectivity Database Programming for Developers
    Programming a MS SQL Server Database (Microsoft course#2073)

    Web Services Programming (Microsoft/Developmentor)
    Introduction to Microsoft .NET Development (Microsoft course #2717B)


  • Office Applications : Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Frontpage, Outlook, Dreamweaver
  • Project Management : MS Project, FastTrack Scheduler
  • Budget planning, spending and tracking. 
  • Personnel management.
  • Courses taken -
    How to Manage Multiple Projects, Meet Deadlines, and Achieve Objectives (Fred Pryor)
    Supervisory Skills for New Managers (AMA)
    Effective Meeting Skills (Applied Performance Strategies)
    Technical Leadership (Blessing-White)
    Building Support for your Ideas (Blessing-White)
    Technical Presentation Skills (Applied Performance Strategies)
    Project Management (Kepner Tregoe)


  • "National Weather Service"  course in Weather spotting


NSF Astronomy review panels 2012,2013,2014,2016
NASA Heliophysics review panels 2009, 2011
NASA Astrophysics review panels 2002, 2004, 2007
Chandra Source Catalog Review panel 2006
National Virtual Observatory Working Group 1999-2000
ADASS XII Local Organizing Committee 2000-2002
"Virtual Observatories of the Future" Science Organizing Committee 2000
IAU Symposium 179 Local Organizing Committee 1996-1997
(STScI) Management Training Committee 2000-2001
(STScI) Director's Leadership Forum 1999-2001 (Elected co-facilitator Aug 2000)
(STScI) Science Recruitment Committee 2001-2003
(STScI) Science Personnel Committee 1998-2000
(STScI) ACDSD Web Coordination Group 2000-2001
(STScI) DSD Web Coordination Group 1997
(STScI) Computer Planning Committee 1990
(STScI) HST TAC Panel Support Scientist for cycles 1, 4, 7, 14, 16

Observatory Scientist
(2015 - present, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA)

Work on the Common Archive Observation Model (CAOM) is continuing. The model has evolved and is starting to be adopted by other archives. A major consolidation of the HST archive (using CAOM) is underway between STScI, CADC and ESAC.
As a member of the GAIA data consortium, and with MAST becoming an official GAIA affiliated Archive partner, I obtained a copy of the GAIA dr1 and made it available via all the MAST services. In addition a project is underway to integrate GAIA astrometry into the GSC2 for HST/JWST operations. Additional surveys are also being merged into this new GSC2 in order to increase it's usefulness to support JWST science operations. We also intend to reprocess all existing HST observations to transferred all of them to the more precise GAIA reference frame to better enable cross wavelength matching of sources.
Another major project was the
integration of the Pan-STARRS1 database and image archive into the MAST infrastructure in order for MAST to become the PS1 public archive. This involved obtaining, populating and transferring (from Hawaii to Baltimore) a 2PB image archive and a 125TB SQLserver database whilst the processing was ongoing in Hawaii.

Observatory Scientist
(August 2009 - 2015, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA)

Following the HST servicing mission (SM4) I was asked to assist the WFC3 team with the astrometric calibration of this new instrument during the SMOV period. This was successfully accomplished and I returned to working full-time on the archive. In addition to working on the HLA, I have joined the JWST database design team to help ensure that searches and data retrievals are optimised for science.
I have also been collaborating with the Canadian Astronomical Data Center (CADC) on the implementation of a Common Archive Observation Model (CAOM) which provides a common framework for storing the observation metadata for any mission. We are currently populating a database with observations from all the MAST missions. This enables a single query to search across missions rather than querying each one separately using custom code.
I was also asked by the DAWN working group to assist them with a search for small moons of the asteroids Vesta and Ceres whilst the probe was approaching and inserting itself into orbit. Whilst unsuccessful, I introduced a new paradigm for these planetary scientists. Rather than rely on techniques using visual image examination of the images, I constructed a calibration pipeline to flat-field and calibrate all the image frames, detect objects, cross-match to known star catalogs and then identify candidate unidentified objects.

(August 2005 - August 2009, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA)

With the DSS and GSC-II project at the end of HST funding, the remaining members of CASB were absorbed into the newly formed Archive Sciences Branch where our experience with large datasets and catalogs provide valuable experience as the HST archive continues to grow in popularity. We are currently implementing new techniques to create an improved HST legacy archive (HLA). In addition to providing much faster access to calibrated HST data, we are improving the absolute astrometry of the images as well as combining images from multiple visits and proposals along with derived object catalogs. We are also developing improved user interfaces to these data products. I also have taken over oversight of the High Level Science Products (HLSP) in the Multi-mission Archive at Space Telescope (MAST), which provide community access to important HST data sets that have been carefully processed & combined by specialized teams.
I have also been creating a set of all-sky colour JPG images by combining the DSS images in different bandpasses to be used by various services such as the HLA and for public access by incorporating them into the World Wide Telescope and GoogleSky products.
We are continuing to perform DSS and GSC-II support with a major new release of GSC 2.3 which contains all objects to the plate limits. Another project was the integration of the GSC2.3 into HST operations for GO use in cycle 15 onwards. This included the inclusion of improved astrometry into all the DSS image headers. We continue our collaboration with JHU/SDSS and are integrating GSC-II into emerging VO-standards providing cone-search and SkyNode capabilities to access our data holdings. Research work on the Markarian and SBS galaxies is continuing along with an initiative to investigate the effects of environment on supernova.

Scientist/CASB Branch Chief
(February 1999 - August 2005, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA)

At that time my main function was the management of the Catalogs and Surveys branch. In addition to day-to-day management tasks, this includes project planning and budgeting for not only the HST prime contract work, but the DSS-II and GSC-II collaborative agreements and contracts, and looking ahead to JWST operations. We are also planning and implementing changes required to switch HST operations from the older GSC-I to the more accurate, modern GSC-II. I am continuing to play an active role in the development of the COMPASS database which is currently over 2TB in size. We are also working to provide access to the DSS-II and GSC-II databases using webservices for tools such as APT and SKYCAT in order to simplify observation planning in general and Bright-Object Protection for the MAMA detectors in particular.  Of particular note was the migration of all DSS data (1 TB) to a Network Attached Storage device (RAID array) to improve community availability. We are also actively promoting the inter-operability of archives and databases, and are involved in the "National Virtual Observatory" initiative. I am also collaborating with members of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to inter-compare preliminary SDSS data with the GSC-II data as a quality control check on both surveys. Research work on the ROSAT galaxy clusters  and Markarian galaxies is still continuing and I am also reducing some FGS data on early type stars to look for duplicity.

(May 1995 - February 1999, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA)

The 2nd generation Guide Star Catalogue (GSC-II) and Digitized Sky Surveys (DSS-II) became very active branch projects and I continued to support the design, implementation and management of these tasks as part of several international collaborative agreements. These products are required for HST operations (observation planning, STIS bright object protection etc.), the operations of next-generation ground based telescopes and for the astronomical community in general.
Of particular interest is the development and implementation of an Terabyte-sized object-oriented database system for the creation of the GSC-II which will contain position, proper-motions, magnitudes, colours and classifications for the entire sky to at least 18th magnitude. I was been involved in the design and coding (C++) of this object-oriented database which will support the construction of this catalogue with an final estimated size of 10 billion entries. This included setting up an Hierarchical Storage Management system to manage the large data set.
I was also involved in the development and delivery of new and/or improved services for the support of HST operations or observers. These include the automatic generation and delivery of HST finder charts (FITS and Postscript), interfacing the CASB databases and various sky survey CD-ROM sets in jukeboxes to the GASP and WWW environments and migrating a complete GASP system to behind a firewall to support operations on a more secure node. As part of this effort, I was involved in the migration of our data archive from tape to optical media and the maintenance of our databases. In collaboration with ARI/Heidelberg, an improved version of the GSC has been completed which contains improved astrometry and once the proposed extensions for the FITS WCS are approved we can release the new calibrations to the community. In addition, I have provided support to the panels for the HST program selection process.
Over the last few years, in addition to technical management of these projects, I assisted with administrative tasks such as budgeting, personnel decisions,   purchasing, monitoring subcontractor task orders and computer systems planning. When necessary, I was given the responsibility of acting branch chief.
My research work was continuing with the optical follow-up of galaxy clusters detected with the ROSAT X-ray satellite, trying to obtain images and redshifts for a complete sample of clusters selected solely from their X-ray parameters. In addition, the prototype GSC-II plate processing techniques were being used in a galactic structure project for which star counts, colours and proper motions in a meridional section of the galaxy are being derived and compared with current galaxy models. I also continued to supply galaxy coordinates to extend the CfA redshift survey. My collaboration with the TYCHO/Hipparcos groups  also continued. Finally, I  helped to organize IAU symposium 179 here in Baltimore and edited the proceedings for publication as well as creating a web site for the IAU Working Group on Wide Field Imaging.

Associate Scientist
(October 1990 - May 1995, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA)

My work at this time was to continue maintenance of the GSC, support HST observers and to start development work for a 2nd generation Guide Star Catalogue. This included participation in a major hardware and software effort to improve the performance of the microdensitometers in order to scan the 2nd generation sky survey plates from Palomar and the AAO, and to start prototyping new algorithms to process and analyze the data. I was also involved in the development and implementation of the techniques used for the publication of the Digitized Sky Survey CD-ROMs to the astronomical community. I was also responsible for the installation and maintenance of an HTTP server to provide community access to CASB services including WWW queries of the Guide Star Catalogue, Digitized Sky Survey etc.
The research work continued with the optical identification of sources detected with the ROSAT X-ray satellite. A particular emphasis was placed upon the identification of galaxy clusters using both X-ray and optical selection criteria, for ongoing follow-up observations using ground-based telescopes. As part of this project I processed all northern POSS-I E plates above galactic latitude 25 degrees to create a 4x107 object catalogue which is being used to identify sources and will form the basis of a new galaxy catalogue. This catalogue is also being used to provide coordinates of galaxies to extend the depth of the CfA redshift survey beyond that of the Zwicky catalogue.. In addition, I was part of a collaboration studying the environment of Markarian galaxies to determine the effect of close companions upon star formation rates, and also participated in compiling an atlas of the ROSAT Wide Field Camera EUV sources.

Assistant Scientist
(January 1986 - September 1990, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA)

My duties in this position were to continue research, development and testing of techniques to be used in the creation of the Guide Star Catalog (GSC) and its operational use by the HST. In addition, I was more involved in providing technical assistance to observers. One result of this was the development of an optical disk archive, software allowing access to these images, image processing and analysis tools, and the many on-line databases to provide target positions for HST GTO teams and GO's. This GASP system (GSSS Astrometric Support Package) is extensively used for HST operations and by many astronomers in support of ground-based observations also.
The research work during this time was very much related to the scientific applications of the image archive, with the compilation of an atlas of the Einstein Medium Sensitivity Survey (EMSS) X-ray sources, and the identification of optical counterparts of radio sources discovered in a VLA galactic plane survey. In addition, I became a scientific consultant to the TYCHO project as part of ESA's HIPPARCOS satellite, working on the input catalogue by merging the GSC and SIMBAD databases.

Research Associate
(February 1984 - January 1986, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.)

The Guide Star Selection System group were developing and implementing a major operational and scientific task to create an all-sky astrometric and photometric star catalog to be used to point the Hubble Space Telescope. This was to be done by scanning Schmidt plates for the entire sky with PDS microdensitometers, perform image processing on these digitized images, apply astronomical analysis techniques to calibrate these data and organize the results into the world's largest star catalog. My duties were to prototype and test algorithms that were to be used in the production system. These included machine tests, image processing techniques, astrometric and photometric calibrations, and simulations of spacecraft performance with regard to guide star acquisition.
In addition, some independent research was carried out with an investigation of galactic structure from star-counts, proper motion studies and correlation functions, using the GSSS plate scans. These observations were then compared with theoretical galaxy models.

Research Associate
(January 1983 - February 1984, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.)

This position continued the ongoing collaboration with Prof.Hughes but added some teaching responsibility. I taught a graduate level course in extragalactic astronomy, supervised the design studies, projects and experiments for both Astronomy and Engineering Physics. In addition, I assumed responsibility to develop a microcomputer controlled photometer system for the university telescope. The continuing radio survey resulted in the discovery of radio emission from W UMa stars due to magnetic and chromospheric activity, providing important physical constraints on the stellar atmospheres of these systems. In addition, we also discovered radio emission from the variable star FK Comae due to chromospheric processes.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
(October 1981 - December 1982, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.)

The duties in this position were to assist Prof.Hughes in his continuing radio studies of galactic star-formation regions as well as to continue independent research on contact binary systems. This included performing routine observations with the Canadian National 150' radio telescope at the Algonquin Radio Observatory, data reduction and analysis, familiarizing me with the acquisition, handling and organization of very large data sets. In particular, we investigated the radio sources in the field of the globular cluster M3, and a suspected Herbig-Haro object in a giant molecular cloud which has a "jet-like" radio source. In addition, I initiated a radio survey of contact binary systems which exhibit strong conoral activity, and continued to perform photometric observations and light curve analysis.

Postgraduate Research Student
(October 1978- September 1981, St.Andrews University, St.Andrews, Scotland.)

This position was primarily to perform research work into the properties of the W UMa class of contact binary systems. This involved photometric and spectroscopic observations of many systems, analysis of light curves using light curve synthesis techniques, and investigation of chromospheric activity using spectrum deconvolution techniques. A large part of this work involved the development and implementation of a real-time computer control system for a Joyce-Loeble microdensitometer to scan photographic plates, and software to perform image processing and astronomical analysis of these data. In addition to my study of contact binaries, the plate measurement applications led to investigations of automatic spectral classification and radial velocity determination from objective prism plates, photographic photometry of galaxies, astrometry and star/galaxy counts from Schmidt plates. Duties also included the teaching and supervision of undergraduate students in the 1st B.Sc. Astronomy Laboratory.  


Music : Avid music fan - play guitar - sound engineer/webmaster for local rock bands - home studio recording
Flying : Will fly in anything, anytime.....(have flown in prop.plane, glider, helicopter and 13 skydives)
Sports : Kickboxing, Football (soccer to those of you in the US), shooting (member Maryland Rifle Club and Mayberry Archers)
Relaxation : Tai Chi Chih
personal web page :