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PSI’s Henry Throop Named 2017 Sagan Medal Winner


 henry throop mug

PSI’s Henry Throop has been awarded a 2017 Carl Sagan Medal for excellence in public communication by the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society. 

Throop has given more than 200 presentations across the developing world at schools, science festivals, planetariums, and community centers. He has brought his telescopes for night sky observing across the world, from rural African villages to Indian megacities. 

The Sagan Medal citation says, “The DPS awards the Carl Sagan Medal for excellence in public communication by an active planetary scientist to Henry B. Throop (Planetary Science Institute) for his efforts to kindle interest in worlds beyond Earth throughout the developing world. Dr. Throop’s presentations in South Africa, India, Namibia, Botswana, Nepal, and Mexico reach audiences who might otherwise not be exposed to planetary science. He closely collaborates with teachers and works with a diverse group of students and the public to stimulate their curiosity and show them how they can explore the world around them. With his engaging personality and genuine interest in interacting with students and teachers in far-flung places, Dr. Throop presents a positive face for science using planetary exploration as a driver.” 

PSI Senior Scientist David Grinspoon, who nominated Throop, said, “One thing that really distinguishes Henry, and makes him especially worthy of this award, is that he has put vast amounts of creativity and energy into education and outreach activities in other countries where many students have not had the kind of exposure to planetary science that they have had here in the U.S. 

“Through his articulate and winning communication style, engaging personality, and genuine interest in interacting with far-flung and nontraditional audiences Henry has acted as an effective international ambassador for our community,” Grinspoon said. “He has been a tireless, passionate and effective public communicator of astronomy and planetary science, particularly in countries where students have had little exposure to these topics. 

“I am grateful to the DPS for this honor. I’ve been lucky to be able to talk about astronomy with students and the public around the developing world,” Throop said. “Astronomy is both tangible, and mysterious: you can see the night sky from anywhere, but it’s far enough away that it’s not immediately obvious how it all works. I love bringing people along on the journey of exploration that we do, so they can understand the solar system, and answer themselves the same questions that scientists do. 

“The work that we do as scientists is only valuable if the public knows about it. I have seen over and over again that students and the public are just as curious and excited about exploring the solar system as we are as scientists. With more and countries developing strong research programs, it’s important to keep building science education and awareness across the world,” Throop said. 

Above, Henry Throop 

Below, Henry Throop shows students how to make a comet out of dry ice, ammonia and dust – the same ingredients used in space – at Madikweng Secondary School in rural Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Ephraim Manamela

henry in school

July 10, 2017
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