PSI’s Henry Throop Honored For International Planetary Science Outreach Efforts

May 26, 2017 – Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Henry Throop has been recognized by the U.S. State Department for sharing his love of planetary science with people around the world.

Throop has been awarded the Avis Bohlen Award for a Foreign Service Family Member for his volunteer efforts, which include organizing outreach and talks on his own that inspired tens of thousands of students across Mexico, India and South Africa over the last eight years through more than 200 animated talks on topics including NASA’s New Horizons Mission to Pluto, astrobiology, the formation of the Solar System and preventing asteroid impacts on Earth.

The award, which is given annually by the American Foreign Service Association, honors the accomplishments of a family member of a Foreign Service employee whose relations with the American and foreign communities at post have done the most to advance the interests of the United States. Previous award winners have have developed community or social welfare programs in their host countries – a reading center, or a language training program, which build ties between the US and a host country. Throop was recognized for building up scientific awareness and literacy through astronomy outreach, which strengthens education and helps build stronger democracies.

Throop, his wife Heidi Hattenbach, and their three children currently live in Mumbai, India, where she is a Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate. Their earlier postings include Mexico City, Pretoria, South Africa, and Washington, D.C.

The State Department American Foreign Services Association’s citation noted that Throop volunteers about 20 percent of his time to conduct unpaid science outreach to underserved students in his host countries. Using dry ice and basic ingredients, he has taught hundreds of children about how comets are formed, and with his own telescopes, he has shared the night sky with entire rural villages. He is grateful for the opportunities that living abroad have given him to work with students and the public, and hopes that everyone can get the chance to see Saturn’s rings.

Throop’s research focuses on the outer Solar System, and he has published more than 60 articles in scientific journals, on topics including the rings of Saturn and Jupiter, planet formation and astrobiology. He is a member of the science team for NASA’s New Horizons mission, which in 2015 made the historic first flyby of Pluto, and is continuing onward to through the Kuiper belt. Throop was a co-discoverer of Pluto’s smallest moon, Styx, in 2012. He is a frequent consultant to NASA and the National Science Foundation.

“It’s easy to talk about astronomy. No matter where you are, everyone can see the moon, the planets, and some stars. And everywhere, people have the same curiosity about our world: Why does Saturn have rings? Can we travel to black holes? And is there life out there?” Throop said. “I get to help people remember that we share so much in common, and that goes a long way to building relationships and understanding.”