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Planetary Science Institute Receives Funding for Belton Comet Symposiums

Nov. 8, 2017

Tucson, Ariz. -- The Planetary Science Institute has received a $100,000 contribution from Michael J.S. Belton and Anna Don to fund a series of international symposiums to be held every two years that will focus on the origin, physical structure and composition of comet nuclei.

Belton Symposium participants will be invited from among the world experts in each topic to be discussed and will produce a monograph that gives future direction to investigations in that area. The Symposium will include presentations, one-on-one discussions, and organized convivial discussions in the evening. 

“Research into the origins, physical structure and composition of comet nuclei promises deep insight into the processes at work as the Sun and planets were formed,” said Belton. “We seek the truth about the origin and evolution of our own Solar System, our home.” 

“We are deeply honored by Mike and Anna’s generous gift,” said Mark Sykes, Director and CEO of PSI. “We look forward to realizing Mike’s vision of a high-level discussion that will inspire and shape future research on and robotic exploration of cometary bodies for decades to come.” 

Belton, a member of the PSI Board of Trustees, received his doctorate degree in 1964, then moved to the Kitt Peak National Observatory and joined the “Space Division.” He remained at Kitt Peak until 2000, when le left the observatory to set up Belton Space Exploration Initiatives, LLC. He continues to hold the rank of Emeritus Astronomer at the Observatory. Belton is a past chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and for a short period was a vice-president of the AAS. Most recently he chaired the first “decadal” study of Solar System Exploration for the national Research Council and a NASA Workshop on the “Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids.” He has published more than 290 articles on research topics in planetary science and, in 1995, he was awarded the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize in Planetary Science by the American Astronomical Society. Also, in recognition of his work, minor planet 3498 Belton was named in his honor by the International Astronomical Society. 

The first Belton Symposium is planned to commence in the coming year in Tucson, Arizona. 

Visit for a photo of Michael Belton and Anna Don.

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