Asteroid expert receives Carl Sagan Medal for public communication
The Sagan Medal rewards a planetary scientist for the excellence of his public communication. Yeomans will receive the medal at the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Annual Meeting October 6-11 in Denver.
“When I first started doing this, asteroids were only considered solar system vermin, irritants that sometimes prevented astronomers from taking pictures of a distant galaxy,” Yeomans said. “While times have certainly changed, two things about NEOs remain the same. We need to find them before they find us and tell everyone about them as effectively and clearly as possible.”
JPL’s Near-Earth Object Program office, along with the Minor Planet Center, help coordinate the search and tracking of asteroids and comets passing through Earth’s vicinity, in order to identify possible dangers to Earth.
The quote from the Sagan Medal by the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society reads: “For over two decades, Don Yeomans has been the go-to person whenever the media looks for a planetary scientist to shed light on the matter. scientific middle ground between the hype and the ho-hum … His calm demeanor and scientific rigor helped tone down apocalyptic hysteria and sound the green light on potentially more serious risks (e.g. Apophis) when better observations warrant it. And in any case, he takes the opportunity to educate the public on the real long-term risks and potential benefits of NEOs. ”
Yeomans was born and raised in Rochester, NY, and now lives in Glendale, California. He graduated from Middlebury College, Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and received a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park. He has worked at JPL since 1976. In addition to managing the office of the NASA Near-Earth Object Program, Yeomans is Supervisor of JPL’s Solar System Dynamics Group. He was a member of the science team for NASA’s Deep Impact / EPOXI mission, which deployed an impactor that was “crushed” by Comet Tempel 1 in 2005 and flew near Comet Hartley 2 in 2010. He was also the scientist of the American project for Japan. – led the Hayabusa mission which returned a sample of the near-Earth object Itokawa in 2010, and a team leader for the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission which orbited and then landed on the asteroid Eros in 2001. The Early images of Comet Halley’s return in 1982 were also obtained based on Yeomans’ predictions.
Yeomans has written about asteroids, comets, and near-Earth objects in over 160 trade publications and extensively in the popular press. He is the author of five books, the most recent of which is his 2013 book, “Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us”.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation Program manages and funds the research, study, and monitoring of asteroids and comets whose orbits periodically move them closer to Earth. JPL manages the near-Earth object program office for the direction of NASA’s science missions in Washington. The Minor Planet Center is funded by NASA and hosted by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
More information on asteroids and near-Earth objects is available at: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/, http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch and via Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/asteroidwatch .