Markku Poutanen has had a significant career in geodesy, a discipline of science that studies the size, shape, and gravitational field of the Earth, as well as the reference frames and their temporal changes. His research has covered topics from the Earth's core to outer space.
His career began with astronomy studies at the University of Helsinki, and in the 1980s, Poutanen delved into asteroid research at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, USA. Space-related topics merged with Earth studies in 1985 when Poutanen was selected for a researcher position at the Geodetic Institute.
"I became interested in space and astronomy in the 60s during the first moon flights, and it also influenced my studies. Since then, also the chance has played a role in my career. The background in astronomy has been beneficial in geodetic research as well," he explains.
Technological Leap from Land to Space
From 1985, Poutanen embarked on a long career in geodesy, during which geodesy and land surveying transitioned from centuries-old triangulation towards satellite positioning.
"I was involved in the last triangulation measurements in Lapland. After that, I participated in the establishment of Finland's permanent GPS network, on which our national coordinate system is based. Over the years, the network has been developed, and it has become the Finnref network, maintained by the National Land Survey. I was also centrally involved in establishing current coordinate and height systems in Finland."
Poutanen is pleased with Finland's high expertise and technological investments in geospatial infrastructures.
"The Metsähovi Geodetic Research Station has recently been modernized. It plays a crucial role in the spatial data needed by society, and with it, Finland responds to the UN’s goals of sustainable global reference frames.
Podcasts, Books, and International Connections
As retirement begins, Poutanen remains active in projects and in a top position in his field.
Since 2019, Poutanen served as the Secretary-General of the International Association of Geodesy (IAG), promoting cooperation between countries. Although his tenure as Secretary-General ended this year, he will continue to serve on the IAG Executive Committee for the next four-year term.
Poutanen is known to the public from Yle's "Starry Sky of the Month" program, which he hosted for 30 years.
"We produced about 300 episodes of the program. After the series ended, we started “URSA Starry Sky” podcasts on YouTube. Why stop good hobbies?" he says. Perhaps there would be more time for other astronomy-related hobbies and photography as well.
Markku Poutanen has made significant contributions to various popular science books and textbooks in his field. He authored two textbooks on satellite positioning and began his writing journey in the 1980s as a co-author of the acclaimed astronomy textbook, "Fundamental Astronomy." The 7th edition of this textbook will soon be published by Springer.
"The next book is already in the works, focusing on the history of Finnish geodesy," he hints.
Welcome to Markku Poutanen's lecture "Astrogeodesy in Five Decades"
Date: November 30, 2023, from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Venue: Vuorimiehentie 5, auditorium
- Doctor of Philosophy in 2000, University of Helsinki, Department of Geophysics
- Professor, Head of the Department of Geodesy and Geodynamics at the Geodetic Institute (since 2015, the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) of the National Land Survey) 2001-2019, Research Professor 2020-2023.
- Secretary-General of the International Association of Geodesy (IAG) 2019-2023 and President of the IAG Reference Frame Sub-Commission for Europe (EUREF) 2015-2019
- Member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
- Chairman of the Astronomical Society Ursa ry 2003-2005 and 2018-2023.
- Docent at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki
- Known for popularizing science in the media, including the "Starry Sky of the Month" radio program on Yle. Also responsible for answering children's science questions in Helsingin Sanomat.
- Books include "Geodetic Institute 100 Years", "Satellite Positioning", and "Shape of the Earth".
- Asteroid 3760 is named after Markku Poutanen.