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 Tÿler, both of whom are currently in college. Alan Hale currently lives in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
As an atheist and a skeptic, he is a member of the Honorary Board of the online group, Internet Infidels.
^Alan Hale; Dan Barker (2011). The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God. Ulysses Press. pp. 175–176. ISBN9781569758465. Oh, I have plenty of biases, all right. I'm quite biased toward depending upon what my senses and my intellect tell me about the world around me, and I'm quite biased against invoking mysterious mythical beings that other people want to claim exist but which they can offer no evidence for. By telling students that the beliefs of a superstitious tribe thousands of years ago should be treated on an equal basis with the evidence collected with our most advanced equipment today is to completely undermine the entire process of scientific inquiry.