Oct 052009

Kelly Beatty (at left) accepts the 2009 Robert C. Cowen Award from Tim Grove, president of the American Geophysical Union.

March 31 and October 5, 2009 — J. Kelly Beatty, who has reported on space science for more than three decades — and who is now a faculty astronomer at the Clay Center Observatory, has won two prestigious science-writing awards.

In May the American Geophysical Union presented Beatty with the Robert C. Cowen Award for Sustained Achievement in Science Journalism, which recognizes “significant, lasting, and consistent contributions to accurate reporting or writing” on the Earth and space sciences for the general public.

In selecting Beatty for the award, the AGU acknowledged above all his tenure at Sky and Telescope, a publication with which he has been affiliated since 1974. Beatty has also published stories in other magazines, in newspapers such as the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Christian Science Monitor, and in other venues. In choosing Beatty, AGU’s Cowen Award committee noted that he “gets deeply into the scientific details of the topic while simultaneously conveying the important science and the excitement of scientific discoveries.”

In October, Beatty became the first recipient of the 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 received the award 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.

This was Beatty’s second award from the DPS. In 2005 he won the Harold Masursky Award for Meritorious Service to Planetary Science.

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