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Astronomical Society of the Pacific

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) is an American scientific and educational organization, founded in San Francisco on February 7, 1889. Its name derives from its origins on the Pacific Coast, but today it has members all over the country and the world. It has the legal status of a nonprofit organization.

Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Logo of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.jpg
Legal statusNon-profit organization
Purposescientific research and public education in astronomy
  • US
Region served
Executive Director
Linda Shore [1]

It is the largest general astronomy education society in the world[citation needed], with members from over 40 countries.

The ASP's goal is to promote public interest in and awareness of astronomy (and increase scientific literacy) through its publications, web site, and many educational and outreach programs. These include:

  • Project ASTRO - a national program that improves the teaching of astronomy and physical science (using hands-on inquiry-based activities) by pairing amateur and professional astronomers with 4th through 9th grade teachers and classes.
  • Family ASTRO - a project that develops kits and games to help families enjoy astronomy in their leisure time and trains astronomers, educators, and community leaders
  • Astronomy from the Ground Up - a national program to help educators at smaller science museums, nature centers and environmental education organizations create or enhance astronomy education programs.
  • The Night Sky Network - a program with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that supports a community of over 450 amateur astronomy clubs around the U.S. in public outreach activities, providing them with kits and training. The clubs have sky gazing events, solar viewings, and give presentations for the public.
  • Classroom materials and resources in astronomy (many developed by the Society's educational staff) sold through their online AstroShop or made available free through their web site

The ASP assists with astronomy education and outreach by partnering with other organizations both in the United States and internationally, and organizes an annual meeting to promote the appreciation and understanding of astronomy.

Presidents of the ASP have included such notable astronomers as Edwin Hubble, George O. Abell, and Frank Drake. George Pardee, who later became Governor of the State of California, served as president in 1899.



The society promotes astronomy education through several publications. The Universe in the Classroom, a free electronic educational newsletter for teachers and other educators around the world who help students of all ages learn more about the wonders of the universe through astronomy.

Mercury, the ASP's quarterly on-line membership magazine, covers a wide range of astronomy topics, from history and archaeoastronomy to cutting-edge developments. First published in 1925 as the Leaflets of the ASP, Mercury is now disseminated to thousands of ASP members and schools, universities, libraries, observatories, and institutions around the world.

The ASP also publishes the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (PASP) aimed at professional astronomers. The PASP is a technical journal of refereed papers on astronomical research covering all wavelengths and distance scales as well as papers on the latest innovations in astronomical instrumentation and software, and has been publishing journals since 1889.

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series (ASPCS) is a series of over 400 volumes of professional astronomy conference proceedings. Started in 1988, the Conference Series has grown to become a prominent publication series in the world of professional astronomy publications, and now publishes an average of 20-25 volumes per year. Volumes are sold to the attendees of the conferences of which the proceedings are published, as well as being offered through the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's AstroShop, and can be found in the libraries of major universities and research institutions worldwide. In 2004, the ASPCS stepped into electronic publishing, offering electronic access subscriptions for libraries and institutions, as well as individual access to volumes which they have purchased in hard copy form.

Astronomy Beat is an on-line column, which comes out every other week, and features a behind-the-scenes report on some aspect of astronomical discovery, astronomy education, or astronomy as a hobby, written by a key participant. Authors have included:


The ASP makes several different awards annually:

Defunct awardsEdit

  • The Donohoe Comet Medal (1890–1950). In July 1889 the ASP announced that a bronze medal for "the actual discovery of any unexpected comet" would be awarded on the basis of a $500 gift by Joseph A. Donohoe of San Francisco. The first award was made in March 1890 to W. R. Brooks[3] for the discovery of the comet now known as 16P/Brooks. After the 250th medal had been awarded in 1950 the award was discontinued because photography had enabled the discovery of too many comets.[4]
  • The Comet Medal (1969–1974). In 1968 the ASP Board voted to create a new Comet Medal to be awarded once yearly to recognize "an outstanding nonprofessional astronomer" for "past contributions to the study of comets." The first award was made in 1969 to Reginald L. Waterfield. After 1974 the Comet Medal was discontinued.[4]


The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Recent PresidentsEdit

  • 2013- Gordon Myers (IBM, ret.)
  • 2011-2013 William A. Gutsch (St Peters College, Jersey City)
  • 2009–2011 Bruce Partridge (Haverford College)
  • 2007-2009 James B. Kaler (U. of Illinois)
  • 2005-2007 Dennis Schatz (Pacific Science Center, Seattle)
  • 2003-2005 Catharine Garmany (U. of Colorado; National Optical Astronomy Observatories)
  • 2001-2003 Alexei Filippenko (U. of California, Berkeley)
  • 1999-2001 Frank N. Bash (U. of Texas)

Past PresidentsEdit


  1. ^ "Veteran Astronomy Educator, Astrophysicist, and Science Writer Dr. Linda Shore Named Executive Director of the ASP". Astronomical Society.
  2. ^ "Annual Awards". Astronomical Society.
  3. ^ "Awards of the Comet-Medal of the ASP (1890-1896)". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. San Francisco. 9: 99. 1897. JSTOR 40671005.
  4. ^ a b "History". Astronomical Society.


Research resourcesEdit

External linksEdit