Alan Hale

After graduation from Alamogordo High School in 1976, Alan Hale attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor's Degree in Physics.

He left the Navy in 1983 and began working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, as an engineering contractor for the Deep Space Network. While at JPL he was involved with several spacecraft projects, most notably the Voyager 2 encounter with the planet Uranus in 1986.

Following the Uranus encounter, Alan Hale left JPL, returned to New Mexico, and enrolled in the Astronomy department at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He earned his Master's Degree in 1989 and his Ph.D. in 1992 with a thesis entitled "Orbital Coplanarity in Solar-Type Binary Systems: Implications for Planetary System Formation and Detection" (which was published in the January 1994 issue of the Astronomical Journal). Subsequently, he worked at The Space Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico as its Staff Astronomer and Outreach Education Coordinator, and in 1993 he founded the Southwest Institute for Space Research.

Alan Hale's research interests include the search for planets beyond the solar system, including those which might have favorable environments for life; stars like the sun; minor bodies in the solar system, especially comets and near-Earth asteroids; and advocacy of spaceflight. He is primarily known for his work with comets, which includes his discovery of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1995, and his participation in the International HalleyWatch during the return of Halley's Comet in 1986.

He has written for such publications as Astronomy, the International Comet Quarterly, the Skeptical Inquirer, Free Inquiry, and the McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology, and he writes a weekly newspaper column entitled "In Our Skies," He is the author of Everybody's Comet: A Layman's Guide to Comet Hale-Bopp (High-Lonesome Books, 1996), is presently working on a book tentatively entitled A Century of Comets, to be published by W.H. Freeman and Company, and is a frequent public speaker on astronomy, space, and other scientific issues.

He is an outspoken advocate for improved scientific literacy in our society, and better career opportunities for current and future scientists.


Published on the Secular Web


An Open Letter to the American People

Alan Hale, codiscoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp, urges Americans to think critically about the upcoming Presidential Elections. In an open letter to the American public, he confronts the issues at hand, addresses the diversity of stances being made, and emphasizes the importance this election will have on the very future of human civilization. “The decision we make next week will have effects which will reverberate throughout our nation and our overall human society for many decades to come.”