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Nominations are now closed for the 2024 ASP Awards

Klumpke-Roberts Award

For outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy

The ASP bestows the Klumpke-Roberts Award on those who have made outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. Awardees include Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Chesley Bonestell, Timothy Ferris, Walter Sullivan, Heidi Hammel, and the staffs of Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines.

2023 Klumpke-Roberts Award is given to Don McCarthy, University Distinguished Outreach Professor, University of Arizona and Director of Astronomy Camp for his contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy 

San Francisco, California – September 27, 2023 - Awarded to an individual or individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy, the Klumpke-Roberts Award for 2023 goes to Don McCarthy, for his four decades of commitment and dedication to the field of astronomy, impacting the lives and careers of thousands of astronomy enthusiasts throughout his career, as well as bringing his leadership, humility, and determination as a model to emulate those whose lives he touched.

Throughout his scientific career, McCarthy has enjoyed explaining technical concepts (like “infrared interferometry” and “brown dwarfs”) to people of all ages. Beginning with his children who wondered what Dad did on mountaintops at night, he sought to provide behind-the-scenes experiences at modern observatories. His most well-known educational endeavor began in 1989, with the development of the teenage Astronomy Camp programs and creating one of the most revered outreach programs in its field.  The Camps still emphasize a hands-on, project-oriented approach at mountaintop observatories. Campers reside on site and are personally mentored by astronomers at different stages in their careers. Camps were also created for adults, educators, Girl Scouts, and school groups throughout the U.S. and the Tecnológico de Monterrey (TEC) School of Hermosillo, México.

An enthusiastic supporter expresses how “Many students leave Camp inflamed with a zeal for astronomy and an expressed intent to pursue the discipline as a career.” To date, 30 Camp alumni have received doctoral degrees in astrophysics. Former Campers now work at more than 50 institutions worldwide including 30 universities/colleges, 12 national labs, six research observatories, Defense companies, science education centers, schools, and even serve in Congress.

In 2001, the Astronomy Camp model became the foundation for Arizona’s education proposal to build the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). As a member of the NIRCam Science Team, McCarthy created a 15-year partnership with the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) to “Train the Trainers” on age-appropriate STEM concepts so that young girls would understand upcoming JWST discoveries and consider STEM careers. Signifying this collaboration, the NIRCam instrument was physically etched “Go Girl Scouts!” Eventually, nearly 400 adult trainers attended the biannual workshops in Tucson from 47 states, Guam, Japan, and Puerto Rico.

McCarthy has not just mentored students and Campers, but also colleagues. One former Camp counselor validates that “without the camp experience I would not be as effective in my teaching, outreach, and even my professional work…his selfless efforts have had incredible impacts both personally and professionally for campers of all ages.”

Join us in celebration of Don McCarthy’s achievements at the in-person ASP Awards Gala on Saturday, November 11, 2023 at the Grand Bay Hotel San Francisco in Redwood City, California.

  • Read more about the legacy of NIRCam and JWST in the ASP's member February 2022 AstroBeat article, "Subject Matter Experts" in Science Education", by Don McCarthy, Larry Lebofsky, and Alison Nordt.

Please contact the Awards team if you have questions about the nomination process