Jay Pasachoff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Jay Myron Pasachoff (born 1943) is an American astronomer. Pasachoff is Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College and the author of textbooks and tradebooks in astronomy, physics, mathematics, and other sciences.


After the Bronx High School of Science, Pasachoff studied at Harvard, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1963, his master's degree in 1965, and his doctorate in 1969. He worked at the Harvard College Observatory and Caltech before going to Williams College in 1972. His sabbaticals and other leaves have been at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and most recently at Caltech in Pasadena, California. He has taken a leading role in the science and history of transits of Mercury and Venus, as an analogue to exoplanet studies, leading up to the transit of Venus and the 2015 transit of Mercury.


Pasachoff observes with a wide variety of ground-based telescopes and spacecraft, and reports on those activities in writing his texts. Pasachoff has carried out extensive scientific work[1] at total solar eclipses, and has championed the continued contemporary scientific value of solar eclipse research.[2] His research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Geographic Society. He is Chair of the Working Group on Eclipses of the International Astronomical Union of the Sun and Heliosphere Division and of the Education, Outreach, and Heritage Division. His solar work also includes studies of the solar chromosphere, backed by NASA grants, using NASA spacecraft and the 1-m Swedish Solar Telescope on La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. He has collaborated with a professor of art history, Roberta J. M. Olson of the New-York Historical Society, on astronomical images in the art of Renaissance Italy, Great Britain, the U.S. (eclipse oil paintings), and elsewhere.

Pasachoff received the 2003 Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society, "For his eloquent and informative writing of textbooks from junior high through college, For his devotion to teaching generations of students, For sharing with the world the joys of observing eclipses, For his many popular books and articles on astronomy, For his intense advocacy on behalf of science education in various forums, For his willingness to go into educational nooks where no astronomer has gone before, the AAS Education Prize is awarded to Jay M. Pasachoff." Asteroid 5100 Pasachoff recognizes Pasachoff's astronomical accomplishments. In addition to his college astronomy texts, Pasachoff has written a field guide to the stars and planets, and is author or coauthor of textbooks in calculus and in physics, as well as several junior-high-school textbooks. Pasachoff received the 2012 Prix-Jules–Janssen from the Société astronomique de France, "for your outstanding research, teaching and popularisation of Astronomy, in the spirit with which Camille Flammarion created the award back in 1897." He received the 2017 Richtmyer Memorial Lecture Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers "for outstanding contributions to physics and effectively communicating those contributions to physics educators."

He is a collaborator, backed by NASA grants, with a group of scientists from Williams College and MIT observing the atmospheres of outer planets and their moons, including Pluto, its moon Charon, Neptune’s moon Triton, and other objects in the outer solar system. He also makes radio astronomy observations of the interstellar medium, concentrating on deuterium and its cosmological implications.

Pasachoff has been active in educational and curriculum matters. He is U.S. National Liaison to and was President (2003–2006) of the Commission on Education and Development of the International Astronomical Union, has twice been Chair of the Astronomy Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been on the astronomy committees of the American Astronomical Society (and its representative 2004–2013 to the AAAS), the American Physical Society, and the American Association of Physics Teachers. He was on the Council of Advisors of the Astronomy Education Review. He has spearheaded a discussion of what should be taught in astronomy courses, championing the position of including and emphasizing contemporary astronomy.[3] He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the International Planetarium Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Royal Astronomical Society, and he has held a Getty Fellowship.[4] He has lectured widely, including a stint as a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer. He is also Director of the Hopkins Observatory and past (in rotation, most recently 2014–2015) Chair of the Astronomy Department at Williams.

Pasachoff has been Chair of the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society (2013-2015). He is on the Organizing Committee for Commission C.C3 on the History of Astronomy of the International Astronomical Union (2015-2018) and on the Johannes Kepler Working Group. A catalogue of the Jay and Naomi Pasachoff rare-book collection—including works by Copernicus, Tycho, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Fraunhofer, and Einstein—on deposit in the Chapin Library of Williams College (W. Hammond, 2014).[5]

Selected publications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://web.williams.edu/Astronomy/eclipse/eclipse2015/index.html
  2. ^ Solar eclipses as an astrophysical laboratory, Jay M. Pasachoff Nature 459, 789–795 (11 June 2009) doi:10.1038/nature07987
  3. ^ What Should College Students Learn? Published April 19, 2002 Astronomy Education Research, Volume 1, Issue 1, 124, (2001); What Should Students Learn? Stellar Magnitudes?, Published September 30, 2003 Astronomy Education Research, Volume 2, Issue 2, 162, (2003)
  4. ^ "Images of Comets in Art". Williams College. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  5. ^ Jay and Naomi Pasachoff rare-book collection

External links[edit]