Alan Hale (astronomer)

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Alan Hale
Astronomer Alan Hale at the Cosmic Carnival held at Cottonwood Mall in Albuquerque on Sept. 10th, 2005.jpg
Astronomer Alan Hale at the Cosmic Carnival, Sept. 2005
Born (1958-03-07) March 7, 1958 (age 58)
Tachikawa, Japan
Nationality American
Alma mater New Mexico State University
Known for Co-discovery of comet Hale-Bopp

Alan Hale (born March 7, 1958)[1] is an American astronomer, known for his co-discovery of the Comet Hale–Bopp along with amateur astronomer Thomas Bopp.[2]


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.[3] He graduated from Alamogordo High School in 1976, and then served in the United States Navy from 1976 to 1983, having graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in physics. 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.[4]

After Voyager 2'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.[5] Comet Hale–Bopp was probably the most widely observed comet of the twentieth century and the brightest comet seen since Comet West in 1976.[6]

He has two sons, Zachary and Tÿler. As of 1997 Alan Hale lived[5] in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.

As an atheist and a skeptic, he is a member of the honorary board of the online group, Internet Infidels.[7][8]


  1. ^ Hale, Alan. "Comet Image Gallery 1". Retrieved March 8, 2012. March 7, 1986 (my 28th birthday) 
  2. ^ Ramamurthy G. (August, 2005). Biographical Dictionary of Great Astronomers, Surah Books (pvt) Ltd., Chennai, ISBN 81-7478-697-X.
  3. ^ Hale, Alan (August 2009). Jackson, Devon, ed. "My Secret Place". New Mexico Magazine. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ Biography of Alan Hale ( - info appears to be self-published
  5. ^ a b Newcott, William (December 1997). "The Age of Comets". National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  6. ^ Baalke, Ron. "Comet Hale-Bopp". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. California Institute of Technology. Retrieved 7 December 2009. Comet Hale-Bopp was ... the brightest comet seen since Comet West in 1976. 
  7. ^ Alan Hale; Dan Barker (2011). The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God. Ulysses Press. pp. 175–176. ISBN 9781569758465. 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. 
  8. ^ "Internet Infidels Honorary Board". Retrieved 15 June 2012. He is a member of the Honorary Board of the online group, Internet Infidels. 

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