Press Release

First Jonathan Eberhart Prize Goes to J. Kelly Beatty

By SpaceRef Editor
October 5, 2009
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J. Kelly Beatty, Senior Contributing Editor of Sky & Telescope magazine, is the recipient of the 2009 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award from the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The DPS created this new award in honor of the late journalist and friend of planetary sciences Jonathan Eberhart, to recognize and stimulate distinguished popular writing on the subject. Beatty will receive the award tomorrow, October 6th, at the 41st annual DPS meeting now under way in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

“It is very appropriate that the first Eberhart Prize is being given to Kelly,” says DPS Press Officer Sanjay Limaye of the University of Wisconsin. “Kelly and Jonathan covered many DPS meetings together, and their unhesitating questions, usually the first ones to be asked following a presentation, were very interesting for younger students attending their first meeting. Kelly’s articles in Sky & Telescope and in other publications have helped the public share the excitement of learning about the solar system along with the scientific community.”

Beatty is receiving the Eberhart Award for “Reunion with Mercury,” the cover story of the May 2008 issue of Sky & Telescope. In the well-illustrated article Beatty lucidly explains what scientists learned from the January 2008 flyby of Mercury by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, the first probe to visit our solar system’s innermost planet in more than 30 years. MESSENGER made a second flyby in October 2008 and a third last week, on September 29th. The spacecraft will settle into orbit around the Sun-baked world in March 2011.

“Jonathan and I spent more than two decades together on the ‘beat’ of planetary exploration,” notes Beatty. “He was a master at conveying science news with both clarity and nuance, and I am deeply humbled to be honored with this award that bears his name.”

This is Beatty’s second award from the DPS. In 2005 he won the Harold Masursky Award for Meritorious Service to Planetary Science. And, earlier this year, the American Geophysical Union gave him its 2009 Robert C. Cowen Award for Sustained Achievement in Science Journalism.

Beatty has reported on planetary science for Sky & Telescope for more than three decades. He has written more than 100 feature-length stories and countless shorter news reports. His work has appeared in newspapers such as the New York Times and Boston Globe, on National Public Radio, and in a host of book chapters. Beatty regularly speaks about science in classrooms and has been a fixture at planetary-science conferences since the 1970s. His acclaimed book “The New Solar System” is currently in its 4th edition and is used as an introductory textbook at universities across the United States.

Beatty studied geology, planetary science, and astronomy at Caltech and earned a master’s degree in science journalism at Boston University. In addition to his work for Sky & Telescope, he teaches astronomy at the Dexter and Southfield Schools in Brookline, Massachusetts, and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Dark-Sky Association.

Jonathan Eberhart (1942-2003) covered planetary sciences with exceptional curiosity and the results from early planetary-exploration missions with phenomenal inquisitiveness. In those early days, print media were the primary outlets for reporting new findings from planetary missions, and Jonathan Eberhart, writing for Science News, performed that task exceptionally well. He developed an unprecedented rapport with scientists who wished to ensure that he accurately understood their complex reasoning.

More Information

AAS Division for Planetary Sciences:

DPS meeting in Puerto Rico, Oct. 4-9, 2009:

DPS Eberhart Award:

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A publication-quality photograph of J. Kelly Beatty is available from DPS Press Officer Sanjay Limaye and AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg. Credit: Sky & Telescope / Dennis di Cicco.

The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) was founded in 1968 by members of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) devoted to solar-system research. With some 1,500 members and affiliates, the DPS is the largest special-interest division of the 7,700-member AAS.

SpaceRef staff editor.