Alan Hale (born March 7, 1958) is an American astronomer, known for his co-discovery of the Comet Hale–Bopp.
Hale was born in 1958 in Tachikawa, Japan, where his father was serving in the United States Air Force. Four months later his father was transferred to Holloman Air Force Base outside Alamogordo, New Mexico. He served in the United States Navy from 1976 to 1983, graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1980. His next job was at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where he worked until 1986. While at the JPL, he worked as an engineering contractor for the Deep Space Network. While working as a contractor, he was involved with several projects involving spacecraft, including Voyager 2.
After Voyager's encounter with Uranus, he left JPL to attend New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, earning his Ph.D. in astronomy in 1992. Facing a poor job market for astronomers, he founded the Southwest Institute for Space Research (now formally named the Earthrise Institute). Hale is an advocate for improved scientific literacy in society, better career opportunities for scientists, and individual responsibility for making a better society. After seeing some 200 comets, in 1995 Hale co-discovered Comet Hale–Bopp with a telescope in his driveway, noting the "fuzzy object" was not found in star charts of Sagittarius and was not a known comet. Comet Hale–Bopp was probably the most widely observed comet of the twentieth century and the brightest comet seen since Comet West in 1976. He has two sons, Zachary and Tyler, both of whom are currently in college. Alan Hale currently lives in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
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