Carolyn Shoemaker, one of the greatest American woman astronomers, has passed.

Remarkably, she **started** her astronomical career in 1980, at age 51! In the 1980s and 1990s she used film taken at the wide-field telescope at the Palomar Observatory, combined with a stereoscope, to find objects which moved against the background of fixed stars. In 1996 she was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal. At the height of her career, Carolyn, her husband Gene, and David Levy, were a powerful force for science! As of 2002, Carolyn had been credited with discovering or co-discovering 32 comets and over 500 asteroids. After recovering from the tragic car crash that took her husband, she continued to work at the Lowell Observatory with Levy and was actively involved in astronomical observation work till at least 2002.

The lunar science community has lost one of its luminaries…

SSERVI’s highest honor, the Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Medal, js an annual award given to scientists who have significantly contributed to the field of lunar science throughout the course of their scientific career. The first Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Award was given posthumously to Gene Shoemaker and was presented to his wife Carolyn at the 2009 Lunar Science Forum. SSERVI staff had the opportunity to meet Carolyn when she accepted the inaugural award.

Director Greg Schmidt recalled first meeting her in 1994, at the Nature Company in Washington DC where he was living at the time. “Carolyn and David Levy – co-discoverers of Comet Shoemaker-Levy that impacted Jupiter – were there for a book signing. There weren’t too many people there so I had a very nice long chat with them both, and David even drew a little picture of a cartoon comet in my book! She was absolutely delightful and it was nice to be able to see her again when she came to the Lunar Science Forum, and I had the opportunity to chat with her on the drive to her hotel.”

For more about Carolyn, we refer you to an excellent Memorial on

For more information about the Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist award, visit:

Posted by: Soderman/SSERVI Staff

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