i. 2021/08/13 – Carolyn Spellman Shoemaker

Carolyn Shoemaker, 1929–2021

Carolyn Shoemaker, Gene Shoemaker’s partner in life and in science, joined him on August 13, 2021, in their continued journey through the Solar System.

Carolyn and Gene Shoemaker at Mt. Palomar’s 18″ Astrograph Schmidt telescope used in asteroid and comet searches, now decommissioned and on display at the visitor’s center. Carolyn took the plates showing the now famous Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with this instrument. (USGS photo).

When I arrived to work at the Geological Survey’s Branch of Astrogeology in Flagstaff, Arizona, in July of 1964, Carolyn took me under her wing, as she did all the many new, bright-eyed geologists that were arriving to assist Gene in the geological exploration of space. She will be greatly missed by all of us who benefited from her kindness as well as her talent.

Carolyn in her office with the stereoscope she used in many of her asteroid/comet discoveries.

Carolyn’s unique ability to scan repeated photographic images of the heavens and pick out a minute change that heralded a traveling comet or asteroid contributed greatly to our growing knowledge of the Solar System that she and Gene loved so much. Her discovery of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 gave the world the experience of watching multiple and spectacular impacts of the comet’s many progeny on Jupiter, contributing firsthand knowledge of the effects of such impacts on a gas giant planet.

Carolyn with the 18″ Palomar Astrograph which she often used to photograph comets and asteroids (USGS photo).

As the premier discoverer of comets in the world, Carolyn Shoemaker’s many prestigious honors and awards stand as testament to the extraordinary contributions she left as inspiration to future generations on how to grow into new, rewarding endeavors.

Copyright © by Harrison H. Schmitt, 2021, All rights reserved.