Dutch-American astronomer Tom Gehrels dies

13th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The famous Dutch-American astronomer Tom Gehrels passed away on Monday at the age of 86. Gehrels discovered thousands of asteroids and comets and published numerous scientific articles. Up until his last days, he continued his work at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Born in 1925 in Harlemmermeer, Gehrels earned his B.S. in physics and astronomy from Leiden University. In the early 1950s he emigrated to the United States. There, he founded the Spacewatch Project, installing telescopes on Kitt Peak in Arizona to survey the sky for dangerous asteroids.

In 2007, Gehrels won the Masursky Award, an annual prize given to planetary scientists by the American Astronomical Society.

In an obituary written by Dutch science journalist Govert Schilling, Gehrels is described as an avid biker who rode to and from work every day. 

Schilling also recounted a conversation he had with Gehrels about his work at on the Spacewatch Project. Schilling asked him, “Suppose an asteroid would be discovered that would hit the Earth. What would you do?" Gehrels replied, "Go out there and have a look, of course!" 

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