Loren Wilber Acton (born March 7, 1936) is an American physicist who flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-51-F as a Payload Specialist for the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory.
Acton was born in Lewistown, Montana. He went on to receive a bachelor of science degree in Engineering Physics from Montana State University in 1959, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Solar Physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1965.
Acton was the senior staff scientist with the Space Sciences Laboratory, Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory, California. As a research scientist, his principle duties included conducting scientific studies of the Sun and other celestial objects using advanced space instruments and serving as a co-investigator on one of the Spacelab 2 solar experiments, the Solar Optical Universal Polarimeter. He was selected as one of four payload specialists for Spacelab 2 on August 9, 1978, and after seven years of training he flew on STS-51-F/ Spacelab-2 in 1985. At mission conclusion, Acton had traveled over 2.8 million miles in 126 Earth orbits, logging over 190 hours in space.
Acton is married and has two children. In 2006 he ran in elections to be the state representative of Montana's District 69, as a Democratic candidate. In the event he lost to the Republican incumbent, Jack M. Wells of Belgrade.
Acton is currently a Research Professor of Physics in the Solar Physics Group at Montana State University, where he oversees the solar physics group, which carries on an active research program under NASA support. The group is actively involved in day-to-day operation and scientific utilization of the Japan/US/UK Yohkoh mission for studies of high-energy solar physics. This satellite carries a solar X-ray telescope, prepared under the leadership of Acton, for the study of high-energy processes, such as solar flares, on the sun. The primary emission of the extremely hot outer atmosphere of the sun, the solar corona, is at X-ray wavelengths and the extended duration, high resolution X-ray imagery from Yohkoh are being analyzed in an effort to learn why the sun has a corona at all and why it varies in intensity so strongly in response to the 11-year sunspot cycle.
- 2000 George Ellery Hale Prize by the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society