Astronomical Society of the Pacific

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) is an American scientific and educational organization, founded in San Francisco on February 7, 1889. Its name derives from its origins on the Pacific Coast, but today it has members all over the country and the world. It has the legal status of a nonprofit organization.

It is the largest general astronomy education society in the world, with members from over 40 countries.

The ASP's goal is to promote public interest in and awareness of astronomy (and increase scientific literacy) through its publications, web site, and many educational and outreach programs. These include:

  • Project ASTRO - a national program that improves the teaching of astronomy and physical science (using hands-on inquiry-based activities) by pairing amateur and professional astronomers with 4th through 9th grade teachers and classes.
  • Family ASTRO - a project that develops kits and games to help families enjoy astronomy in their leisure time and trains astronomers, educators, and community leaders
  • Astronomy from the Ground Up - a national program to help educators at smaller science museums, nature centers and environmental education organizations create or enhance astronomy education programs.
  • The Night Sky Network - a program with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that supports a community of over 450 amateur astronomy clubs around the U.S. in public outreach activities, providing them with kits and training. The clubs have sky gazing events, solar viewings, and give presentations for the public.
  • Classroom materials and resources in astronomy (many developed by the Society's educational staff) sold through their online AstroShop or made available free through their web site

The ASP assists with astronomy education and outreach by partnering with other organizations both in the United States and internationally, and organizes an annual meeting to promote the appreciation and understanding of astronomy.

Presidents of the ASP have included such notable astronomers as Edwin Hubble, George O. Abell, and Frank Drake. George Pardee, who later became Governor of the State of California, served as president in 1899.

Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Logo of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Legal statusNon-profit organization
Purposescientific research and public education in astronomy
  • US
Region served
Executive Director
Linda Shore [1]


The society promotes astronomy education through several publications. The Universe in the Classroom, a free electronic educational newsletter for teachers and other educators around the world who help students of all ages learn more about the wonders of the universe through astronomy.

Mercury, the ASP's quarterly on-line membership magazine, covers a wide range of astronomy topics, from history and archaeoastronomy to cutting-edge developments. First published in 1925 as the Leaflets of the ASP, Mercury is now disseminated to thousands of ASP members and schools, universities, libraries, observatories, and institutions around the world.

The ASP also publishes the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (PASP) aimed at professional astronomers. The PASP is a technical journal of refereed papers on astronomical research covering all wavelengths and distance scales as well as papers on the latest innovations in astronomical instrumentation and software, and has been publishing journals since 1889.

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series (ASPCS) is a series of over 400 volumes of professional astronomy conference proceedings. Started in 1988, the Conference Series has grown to become a prominent publication series in the world of professional astronomy publications, and now publishes an average of 20-25 volumes per year. Volumes are sold to the attendees of the conferences of which the proceedings are published, as well as being offered through the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's AstroShop, and can be found in the libraries of major universities and research institutions worldwide. In 2004, the ASPCS stepped into electronic publishing, offering electronic access subscriptions for libraries and institutions, as well as individual access to volumes which they have purchased in hard copy form.

Astronomy Beat is an on-line column, which comes out every other week, and features a behind-the-scenes report on some aspect of astronomical discovery, astronomy education, or astronomy as a hobby, written by a key participant. Authors have included:


The ASP makes several different awards annually:

  • The Bruce Medal for lifetime contribution to astronomy research. The medal is named after Catherine Wolfe Bruce. This award is arguably the most prestigious award given in astronomy.
  • The Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy, named for Dorothea Klumpke-Roberts.
  • The Amateur Achievement Award in recognition of significant contributions to astronomy by one not employed in the field of astronomy in a professional capacity.
  • The Bart Bok Award, named in honor of astronomer Bart Bok, awarded jointly with the American Astronomical Society to outstanding student projects in astronomy at the International Science and Engineering Fair.
  • The Thomas Brennan Award for exceptional achievement related to the teaching of astronomy at the high school level.
  • The Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award for recent significant observational results made possible by innovative advances in astronomical instrumentation, software, or observational infrastructure.
  • The Robert J. Trumpler Award, named in honor of astronomer Robert J. Trumpler, given to a recent recipient of a Ph.D degree with a particularly notable thesis.
  • The Richard Emmons Award is given for a lifetime of contributions to the teaching of astronomy to college non-science majors.
  • The Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award, established by Wayne Rosing and Dorothy Largay, seeks to honor outstanding educational outreach by an amateur astronomer to K-12 children and the interested lay public.
  • The Arthur B.C. Walker II Award, first announced in 2016, for research and teaching with a substantial commitment to students from underrepresented groups.[2]

Defunct awards

  • The Donohoe Comet Medal (1890–1950). In July 1889 the ASP announced that a bronze medal for "the actual discovery of any unexpected comet" would be awarded on the basis of a $500 gift by Joseph A. Donohoe of San Francisco. The first award was made in March 1890 to W. R. Brooks[3] for the discovery of the comet now known as 16P/Brooks. After the 250th medal had been awarded in 1950 the award was discontinued because photography had enabled the discovery of too many comets.[4]
  • The Comet Medal (1969–1974). In 1968 the ASP Board voted to create a new Comet Medal to be awarded once yearly to recognize "an outstanding nonprofessional astronomer" for "past contributions to the study of comets." The first award was made in 1969 to Reginald L. Waterfield. After 1974 the Comet Medal was discontinued.[4]


The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Recent Presidents

  • 2013- Gordon Myers (IBM, ret.)
  • 2011-2013 William A. Gutsch (St Peters College, Jersey City)
  • 2009–2011 Bruce Partridge (Haverford College)
  • 2007-2009 James B. Kaler (U. of Illinois)
  • 2005-2007 Dennis Schatz (Pacific Science Center, Seattle)
  • 2003-2005 Catharine Garmany (U. of Colorado; National Optical Astronomy Observatories)
  • 2001-2003 Alexei Filippenko (U. of California, Berkeley)
  • 1999-2001 Frank N. Bash (U. of Texas)

Past Presidents


  1. ^ "Veteran Astronomy Educator, Astrophysicist, and Science Writer Dr. Linda Shore Named Executive Director of the ASP". Astronomical Society.
  2. ^ "Annual Awards". Astronomical Society.
  3. ^ "Awards of the Comet-Medal of the ASP (1890-1896)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. San Francisco. 9: 99. 1897. JSTOR 40671005.
  4. ^ a b "History". Astronomical Society.


History of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Research resources

External links

Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

The Amateur Achievement Award is one of nine annual astronomical awards managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. It recognizes "significant contributions to astronomy or amateur astronomy by those not employed in the field of astronomy in a professional capacity." The contributions can be done in the fields of both observational astronomy or astronomical technologies. The award has been given to amateur astronomers from various countries since 1979 and has become one of the most geographically diverse astronomical awards.Amateur Achievement Award winners receive a commemorative plaque, which is presented at the Annual Meeting Awards Banquet. The monetary value of the award is US$500. Candidates can be nominated by any member of the astronomical community (with the exception of the nominees themselves and their families) and the nominations should be accompanied by other letters of support. All the nominations have to be delivered to the Astronomical Society of the Pacific by December 15 of the nominating year and remain valid for three years. The winners are selected by the Awards Committee appointed by the Board of Directors. The committee have the right not to award any of the nominees if they do not consider their achievements exceptional enough, which has already happened several times.

Andrew Fraknoi

Andrew Fraknoi (born 1948) is a retired professor of astronomy recognized for his lifetime of work using everyday language to make astronomy more accessible and popular for both students and the general public. In 2017 Fraknoi retired from his position as Chair of the Department of Astronomy at Foothill College. In retirement he continues to teach through the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Francisco State University, to give public lectures, and to continue to add to his body of written work. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors in his field.Fraknoi continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, a scientific and educational organization. He is also an elected fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, vice chair of the Lick Observatory Council, University of California's astronomical observatory, and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He has a special interest in debunking astrology and other pseudosciences connected to astronomy.


An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe astronomical objects such as stars, planets, moons, comets, and galaxies – in either observational (by analyzing the data) or theoretical astronomy. Examples of topics or fields astronomers study include planetary science, solar astronomy, the origin or evolution of stars, or the formation of galaxies. Related but distinct subjects like physical cosmology, which studies the Universe as a whole.

Astronomers usually fall under either of two main types: observational and theoretical. Observational astronomers make direct observations of celestial objects and analyze the data. In contrast, theoretical astronomers create and investigate models of things that cannot be observed. Because it takes millions to billions of years for a system of stars or a galaxy to complete a life cycle, astronomers must observe snapshots of different systems at unique points in their evolution to determine how they form, evolve, and die. They use these data to create models or simulations to theorize how different celestial objects work.

Further subcategories under these two main branches of astronomy include planetary astronomy, galactic astronomy, or physical cosmology.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is a website provided by NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU). According to the website, "Each day a different image or photograph of our universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer."

The photograph does not necessarily correspond to a celestial event on the exact day that it is displayed, and images are sometimes repeated.

However, the pictures and descriptions often relate to current events in astronomy and space exploration. The text has several hyperlinks to more pictures and websites for more information. The images are either visible spectrum photographs, images taken at non-visible wavelengths and displayed in false color, video footage, animations, artist’s conceptions, or micrographs that relate to space or cosmology. Past images are stored in the APOD Archive, with the first image appearing on June 16, 1995. This initiative has received support from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and MTU. The images are sometimes authored by people or organizations outside NASA, and therefore APOD images are often copyrighted, unlike many other NASA image galleries.When APOD began it received only 14 page views on its first day. As of 2012 it had received over a billion image views. APOD is also translated into 21 languages daily.APOD was presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 1996. Its practice of using hypertext was analyzed in a paper in 2000. It received a Scientific American Sci/Tech Web Award in 2001. In 2002, the website was featured in an interview with Nemiroff on CNN Saturday Morning News. In 2003, the two authors published a book titled The Universe: 365 Days from Harry N. Abrams, which is a collection of the best images from APOD as a hardcover "coffee table" style book. APOD was the Featured Collection in the November 2004 issue of D-Lib Magazine.During the United States federal government shutdown of 2013, APOD continued its service on mirror sites.Dr. Robert J. Nemiroff and Dr. Jerry T. Bonnell were awarded the 2015 Klumpke-Roberts Award by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific "for outstanding contributions to public understanding and appreciation of astronomy" for their work on APOD.

Bruce Medal

The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal is awarded every year by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding lifetime contributions to astronomy. It is named after Catherine Wolfe Bruce, an American patroness of astronomy, and was first awarded in 1898.

Coronal mass ejection

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a significant release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the solar corona. They often follow solar flares and are normally present during a solar prominence eruption. The plasma is released into the solar wind, and can be observed in coronagraph imagery.Coronal mass ejections are often associated with other forms of solar activity, but a broadly accepted theoretical understanding of these relationships has not been established. CMEs most often originate from active regions on the Sun's surface, such as groupings of sunspots associated with frequent flares. Near solar maxima, the Sun produces about three CMEs every day, whereas near solar minima, there is about one CME every five days.

D. Harold McNamara

D. Harold McNamara, Ph.D. (June 28, 1923 - January 9, 2014) was an American astronomer at Brigham Young University and an internationally recognized authority in intrinsic variable and eclipsing binary stars.McNamara received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950. His dissertation was entitled "A Two Color Photometric Study of the Eclipsing Variable, YZ Cassiopeia". Following his Ph.D. he spent five years teaching and researching with the renown Professor Otto Struve. He then joined the faculty of Brigham Young University in 1955 as the first person whose training was primarily in the field of astronomy and inaugurated the graduate program in astrophysics at BYU in 1957. He has authored or co-authored more than 100 publications and has presented in different countries around the world.McNamara was a recipient of the Lick Observatory Fellowship while a graduate student at Berkeley. He has been a guest investigator at the McDonald Observatory in Texas, guest investigator at the Mount Wilson and Mount Palomar Observatories in California, guest investigator at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile and principal scientist at the Space Sciences Laboratory in California.From 1968 to 1991, McNamara was editor of the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. In 1987 he founded the Conference Series, which has grown to become one of the community's leading publishers of conference proceedings. McNamara was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1968 to 1969.In 2000 McNamara received the George Van Biesbroeck Prize by the American Astronomical Society for "long-term extraordinary or unselfish service to astronomy". He was honored in 2010 with the Distinguished Service Award by the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Other rewards and recognition include the Karl G. Maeser Research Award in 1966, the Fourth Distinguished Annual Faculty Lecture from Brigham Young University in 1967 and the Wesley P. Lloyd Memorial Award in 1982-83.McNamara served in the United States Navy during World War II (1943–1946) and retired as a Lieutenant JG.McNamara was a member of the American Astronomical Society, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the International Astronomical Union and Sigma Xi.

George O. Abell

George Ogden Abell (March 1, 1927 – October 7, 1983) taught at UCLA. He worked as a research astronomer, administrator, as a popularizer of science and of education, and as a skeptic. He earned his B.S. in 1951, his M.S. in 1952 and his Ph.D. in 1957, all from the California Institute of Technology. He was a Ph.D. student under Donald Osterbrock. His astronomical career began as a tour guide at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Abell made great contributions to astronomical knowledge which resulted from his work during and after the National Geographic Society - Palomar Observatory Sky Survey, especially concerning clusters of galaxies and planetary nebulae. A galaxy, an asteroid, a periodic comet, and an observatory are all named in his honor. His teaching career extended beyond the campus of UCLA to the high school student oriented Summer Science Program, and educational television. He not only taught about science but also about what is not science. He was an originating member of the Committee on Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

Jean Meeus

Jean Meeus (born 12 December 1928) is a Belgian meteorologist and amateur astronomer specializing in celestial mechanics, spherical astronomy, and mathematical astronomy.Meeus studied mathematics at the University of Leuven in Belgium, where he received the Degree of Licentiate in 1953. From then until his retirement in 1993, he was a meteorologist at Brussels Airport.

Kenneth Kellermann

Kenneth Irwin Kellerman (born July 1, 1937) is an American astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He is best known for his work on quasars. He won the Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society in 1971, and the Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 2014.

Kellerman was born in New York City to Alexander Kellerman and Rae Kellerman (née Goodstein). His paternal grandparents emigrated from Hungary and his maternal grandparents from Romania.

Klumpke-Roberts Award

The Klumpke-Roberts Award, one of seven international and national awards for service to astronomy and astronomy education given by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, was established from a bequest by astronomer Dorothea Klumpke-Roberts to honor her husband Isaac Roberts and her parents.

It recognizes outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. It is open to "individuals involved in science, education, writing/publishing, broadcasting, astronomy popularization, the arts, or other pursuits" from all nations and is the most prestigious award of its kind.

Mount Laguna Observatory

Mount Laguna Observatory (MLO) is an astronomical observatory owned and operated by San Diego State University (SDSU). The telescope was operated in partnership with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) until 2000. MLO is located approximately 75 kilometers (47 mi) east of downtown San Diego, California (USA) on the eastern edge of the Cleveland National Forest in the Laguna Mountains and near the hamlet of Mount Laguna. MLO was dedicated on June 19, 1968, seven years after SDSU's Department of Astronomy became an independent academic department of SDSU's College of Sciences. The dedication took place during the 1968 summer meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Nik Szymanek

Nicholas Szymanek, better known as Nik Szymanek, is a British amateur astronomer and prolific astrophotographer, based in Essex, England.Originally a train driver in the London Underground, he started to be interested in astronomical CCD imaging shortly before 1991. His interest in this kind of observational astronomy rose in 1991, after he met Ian King, another amateur astronomer and a fellow from the local Havering Astronomical Society.Since that time he got most known for his deep sky CCD images and his contributions to education and public outreach. He collaborates with professional astronomers and works with big telescopes located at La Palma in the Canary Islands, and at Mauna Kea Observatories at the Hawaiian Islands. He publishes his pictures in astronomical magazines and has written a book on astrophotography called Infinity Rising.His imaging and image-processing abilities brought him the Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 2004.

Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (often abbreviated as PASP in references and literature) is a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. It publishes research and review papers, instrumentation papers and dissertation summaries in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. Between 1999 and 2016 it was published by the University of Chicago Press and since 2016, it has been published by IOP Publishing. The current editor-in-chief is Jeff Mangum of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

PASP has been published monthly since 1899, and along with The Astrophysical Journal, The Astronomical Journal, Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is one of the primary journals for the publication of astronomical research.

Russell Merle Genet

Russell Merle Genet (born 1940) is an American research scholar and astronomer, who specializes in photometric observations and analysis of very short-period eclipsing binary stars.Between 1964 and 1968 he worked as a rocket scientist for Space and Missile Systems, San Bernardino, California. Between 1969 and 1975 he worked as a mathematical analyst for Aerospace Guidance System Center, Newark, Ohio. Since then until 1990 he worked as a research supervisor for Air Force Human Resources Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, and Mesa, Arizona.In 1979 he founded the Fairborn Observatory, which he moved from Fairborn, Ohio to Mount Hopkins, Arizona in 1985, and worked there until 1993. He was also its first director, until 1989. Genet and his colleagues developed robotic telescopes there. It became the first totally automatic robotic observatory in the world. It appeared in the documentary of the Public Broadcasting Service The Perfect Stargazer. He also established the magazine IAPPP Communications, the first international astronomical photometry journal. In 1983 he received the Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for his photometric studies and in 1986 the Leslie Peltier Award of the Astronomical League. After Genet left this observatory, he founded the Orion Observatory in Santa Margarita, California.In 1993 Genet was elected the 51st president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and served in this position for two years. Throughout his career, he taught at Central Arizona College, California Polytechnic State University's Osher Institute and Cuesta College. In 2007 he published the book Humanity: The Chimpanzees Who Would Be Ants.While teaching at Cuesta College, Genet taught an astronomy research seminar that required students to publish their results.On November 17, 2001 Genet married Cheryl Linda Davidson.

Shuichi Nakano

Syuichi Nakano (中野 主一, Nakano Shuichi, born September 11, 1947) is a Japanese astronomer. He specializes in the study of comets, in particular calculating their orbits and making predictions about when periodic comets will return for another perihelion approach. It is considerably more difficult to predict the orbits of comets than of other types of Solar System objects, since their orbits are susceptible not only to perturbations from the planets but also to non-gravitational forces due to the release of gaseous material in the form of a comet's coma and tail.

He is affiliated with the Computing & Minor Planet Sections (Center for Astrodynamics) of the Oriental Astronomical Association in Sumoto, Japan.

He publishes the Nakano Notes on comet observations and ephemerides.

In 2001 he won the Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The asteroid 3431 Nakano is named after him, and asteroid 3983 Sakiko is named after his sister.

1026 Ingrid was reidentified in 1986 by Syuichi Nakano, ending its time as a lost asteroid. 3568 ASCII is another long-lost asteroid whose recovery was made by Nakano.

Steve Mandel

Steve Mandel is an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer. He owns a small observatory, called Hidden Valley Observatory, in Soquel, California. He has been acknowledged especially for his wide-field photographs of the Milky Way nebulae and for public outreach, for which he has received Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Besides this he has also captured and published wildlife images of endangered animals. He works as an American communications coach for professional executives, and is the founder of the Mandel Communications Inc., which aims to teach effective communication and public speaking.

V803 Centauri

V803 Centauri (V803 Cen) is a cataclysmic binary consisting of a dwarf helium star losing mass to a white dwarf. It is an example of the AM Canum Venaticorum (AM CVn) type of cataclysmic variable stars.

Walter H. Haas

Walter H. Haas (July 3, 1917 – April 6, 2015) was an American amateur astronomer.

He started observing in the 1930s. After the Second World War he founded the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) and served there as the executive director between 1947 and the mid-1980s. Since then he had been a member of the board of directors as the Director Emeritus.He received several awards for his contributions to astronomy: the Astronomical League Award in 1952, the Amateur Achievement Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1994 and the Presidential Award of the Astronomical League in 2004.

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