January 21, 2015 – The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) announced on January 9 that Dr. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division in Boulder has been appointed as an Honorary Fellow. The RAS annually recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to astronomy and geophysics. Stern was recognized for his contribution to planetary science, both at the national and international levels.
Stern is a planetary scientist and Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, which launched in 2006. New Horizons recently began its long-awaited, historic encounter with Pluto, which will culminate with the first close-up flyby of the Pluto system this July.
Stern’s research has focused on our solar system’s Kuiper belt and Oort cloud, comets, satellites of the outer planets, the Pluto system, and the search for evidence of solar systems around other stars.
Stern has also worked on spacecraft rendezvous theory, terrestrial polar mesospheric clouds, galactic astrophysics, and studies of tenuous satellite atmospheres, including the atmosphere of the moon.
In 2007 and 2008, he served as NASA’s chief of all space and Earth science programs, directing an enterprise with a budget of $4 billion with 93 separate flight missions and a program of over 3,000 research grants.
During his NASA tenure, a record 10 major new flight projects were started and deep reforms of NASA’s scientific research and the education and public outreach programs were put in place.
Stern holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and planetary atmospheres from the University of Texas, Austin. Stern earned a doctorate in astrophysics and planetary science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The RAS was founded in 1820 to encourage and promote the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. Its more than 3500 members (Fellows) include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories, as well as historians of astronomy and others.
Election as an Honorary Fellow bestows the same privileges and obligations set out in the Society’s by-laws as other Fellows. The designation honors individuals who are not citizens of the United Kingdom for their services to astronomical and geophysical sciences through distinguished leadership of a school, observatory, or laboratory; outstanding services to national or international scientific organizations; exceptionally important work in editing scientific publications; influential work in education and public outreach in these sciences; or especially outstanding distinguished work in the history of these sciences.
Stern will be formally recognized by the RAS at the National Astronomy Meeting, July 5–9 in Llandudno, Wales.