Famous 21st Century Astronomers

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 1 
Neil deGrasse Tyson
(American Astrophysicist, Planetary Scientist and Science Communicator)
Neil deGrasse Tyson
14
Birthdate: October 5, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, United States

Public Welfare Medal-winning astrophysicist and academic Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted shows such as NOVA ScienceNow, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and Star Talk. He is the director of Hayden Planetarium and contributed to the dismissal of Pluto’s status as the ninth planet. He has also written a monthly column as "Merlin.”

 2 
Stephen Hawking
(Theoretical Physicist - First to Set Out a Theory of Cosmology)
Stephen Hawking
14
Birthdate: January 8, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oxford, England
Died: March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who despite being afflicted motor neurone disease that severely limited his physical abilities, was able to build a phenomenally successful career. He was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Hawking was ranked 25 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, in 2002.

 3 
Julie Payette
(29th Governor General of Canada Who Served from 2017 to 2021)
Julie Payette
5
Birthdate: October 20, 1963
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canadian engineer and astronaut Julie Payette has been the Governor General of Canada from 2017 to 2021. She was initially a research scientist and then joined the Canadian Space Agency, eventually completing two spaceflights. Payette resigned as governor general after a workplace review accused her of workplace harassment.
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 4 
Walter Lewin
(Astronomer, University teacher, Astrophysicist, Physicist)
Walter Lewin
6
Birthdate: January 29, 1936
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: The Hague
 5 
Vera Rubin
(American Astronomer Known for Her Pioneering Work on Galaxy Rotation Rates)
Vera Rubin
5
Birthdate: July 23, 1928
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: December 25, 2016

American astronomer Vera Rubin is best known for her pioneering discoveries on galaxy rotation rates, her groundbreaking work confirming the existence of dark matter and for her life-long advocacy for women in science. She studied the galactic rotation curves and provided strong evidence of the existence of dark matter. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile is named after her.

 6 
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
(British Astrophysicist Who Discovered the First Radio Pulsars)
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
4
Birthdate: July 15, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lurgan, Northern Ireland

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland. As a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio pulsars. She graduated from the University of Glasgow and pursued an academic career. In 2018, she received the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery of radio pulsars. She donated the three million dollars she received as prize money.  

 7 
Max Tegmark
(Physicist, Astronomer, Astrophysicist)
Max Tegmark
4
Birthdate: May 5, 1967
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sweden

Born to math professor Harold S. Shapiro, Max Tegmark grew up to co-establish the Future of Life Institute, with funding from Elon Musk. The MIT professor is a specialist in cosmology, physics, and machine learning and had also penned a book on artificial intelligence, titled Life 3.0.

 8 
Michael E. Brown
(Astronomer)
Michael E. Brown
3
Birthdate: June 5, 1965
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Huntsville
Princeton and UCB alumnus and Caltech professor Michael E. Brown is credited with discovering many "dwarf planets" and was the man behind Pluto’s demotion from a planet to a "dwarf planet." Named to Wired Online's 2006 list of the Top Ten Sexiest Geeks, he has also authored a bestselling memoir.
 9 
Lawrence M. Krauss
(Astronomer, Physicist, Astrophysicist, Academic, Non-fiction writer, University teacher, Theoretical physicist)
Lawrence M. Krauss
3
Birthdate: May 27, 1954
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City

American-Canadian theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss has taught at institutes such as ASU and Yale and also penned several bestselling books. Known for his research on dark energy and zero-energy states, he was later accused of sexual misconduct and thus lost the directorship of the ASU’s Origins Project.

 10 
Amy Mainzer
(American Astronomer Specializing in Astrophysical Instrumentation and Infrared Astronomy)
Amy Mainzer
4
Birthdate: January 2, 1974
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mansfield, Ohio, United States

Astronomer Amy Mainzer has been associated with NASA's NEOWISE mission and specializes in asteroid detection. The Stanford and Caltech alumna now teaches at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona and has also appeared on the History Channel series The Universe and in several documentaries.

 11 
Valerie Thomas
(scientist and inventor)
Valerie Thomas
3
Birthdate: 1943 AD
Birthplace: Maryland, United States
After becoming one of the two female students in her university class to graduate in physics, Valerie Thomas joined NASA as a data analyst. While she oversaw the Landsat program, she is best remembered for inventing the illusion transmitter, which helped project a 3D optical illusion using concave mirrors.
 12 
Robert Woodrow Wilson
(Physicist, Astronomer)
Robert Woodrow Wilson
4
Birthdate: January 10, 1936
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States
 13 
Jayant Narlikar
(Physicist, Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Scientist, University teacher, Science fiction writer)
Jayant Narlikar
5
Birthdate: July 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kolhapur

Born to a math professor father and a Sanskrit scholar mother, Astrophysicist and IUCAA professor Jayant Narlikar grew up to collaborate with Sir Fred Hoyle, leading to the conformal gravity theory, also known as the Hoyle-Narlikar theory. He has won the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan and penned sci-fi novels, too.

 14 
Antony Hewish
(Radio Astronomer)
Antony Hewish
3
Birthdate: May 11, 1924
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fowey, Cornwall, England
Died: September 13, 2021

Radio astronomer and physicist Antony Hewish is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning research on pulsars. Apart from teaching at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, he has also served as an advisory council member for the Campaign for Science and Engineering. He also has six honorary degrees to his credit.       

 15 
Brian Schmidt
(Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU))
Brian Schmidt
3
Birthdate: February 24, 1967
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Missoula, Montana, United States

Nobel Prize-winning astronomer Brian Schmidt is best known for discovering what is known as dark energy of the universe. Born in the US, the Harvard alumnus later moved to Australia for his work. He has taught at the Australian National University and is now the university’s vice chancellor.

 16 
Eric W. Weisstein
(Mathematician, Astronomer, Non-fiction writer)
Eric W. Weisstein
3
Birthdate: March 18, 1969
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bloomington

Famous for creating and maintaining MathWorld, the most widely accessed internet site for mathematical resources, Eric W. Weisstein is an encyclopedist who began compiling scientific encyclopedias as a high school student. Author of the bestselling book, CRC Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics, he is also credited with creating ScienceWorld website.

 17 
Carolyn S. Shoemaker
(American Astronomer and a Co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9)
Carolyn S. Shoemaker
3
Birthdate: June 24, 1929
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Gallup, New Mexico, United States
Died: August 13, 2021

Carolyn S. Shoemaker is an American astronomer best known as a co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. A prolific discoverer of comets, she once held the record for most comets discovered by an individual. She was married to geologist Eugene Shoemaker and often collaborated with him. The couple was awarded the James Craig Watson Medal in 1998. 

 18 
Laura Mersini-Houghton
3
Birthplace: Tirana, Albania
 19 
Geoffrey Marcy
(Astronomer, Physicist, University teacher)
Geoffrey Marcy
3
Birthdate: September 29, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Clair Shores

American astronomer Geoffrey Marcy is best known for his use of Doppler shifts in discovering many extrasolar planets, which paved way for discovery of several hundred planetary bodies in multiple star systems. Seventy of the first hundred known exoplanets were discovered by Marcy and his research teams, who also detected the first planetary system around a Sun-like star, Upsilon Andromedae

 20 
Bernard Lovell
(British Physicist and Radio Astronomer Known for Developing the 76m Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank)
Bernard Lovell
3
Birthdate: August 31, 1913
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oldland Common, Bristol, England
Died: August 6, 2012

Bernard Lovell was a British physicist and radio astronomer who served as the first director of Jodrell Bank Observatory, holding this position from 1945 to 1980. He studied at the University of Bristol and embarked on an academic career. During World War II, he worked for the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE). He was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1980. 

 21 
Venetia Phair
(Amateur astronomer)
Venetia Phair
3
Birthdate: July 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Oxford, England
Died: April 30, 2009
 22 
Seth Shostak
(Astronomer, Radio personality)
Seth Shostak
3
Birthdate: July 20, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mountain View

Best known as a senior astronomer of the SETI Institute, Seth Shostak has also been seen on the radio show Big Picture Science. He has also appeared as himself or as an astronomer in numerous films and TV series such as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Alien Encounters.

 23 
David H. Levy
(Astronomer)
David H. Levy
2
Birthdate: May 22, 1948
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montreal, Canada

Although he studied English literature and eventually gained a master’s degree in the subject, David H. Levy was an avid comet watcher since childhood. He later teamed up with Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker to discover over 20 comets. A skilled science writer, too, he penned books such as Skywatching.

 24 
Robert Jastrow
(American Astronomer and Planetary Physicist)
Robert Jastrow
2
Birthdate: September 7, 1925
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 8, 2008

NASA scientist Robert Jastrow had also taught at Yale and Dartmouth College but is best remembered for establishing NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and serving as its director. Apart from his research on astronomy and planetary science, he had hosted countless CBS-TV programs on space science.

 25 
Allan Sandage
(Astronomer)
Allan Sandage
2
Birthdate: June 18, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Iowa City, Iowa, United States
Died: November 13, 2010

Considered to be one of the most influential astronomers of the 20th century, Allan Rex Sandage is credited with determining the first reasonably accurate value of Hubble’s constant and the age of the universe, a work he began while serving as a graduate student assistant to cosmologist Edwin Hubble. Later, he also made significant contributions to quasi-stellar radio sources.

 26 
Guy Consolmagno
(Astronomer, School teacher, Writer, Planetary scientist)
Guy Consolmagno
3
Birthdate: September 19, 1952
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Detroit
 27 
Harald Lesch
(Physicist)
Harald Lesch
2
Birthdate: July 28, 1960
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gießen, Germany

Harald Lesch is a German astronomer, physicist, author, and natural philosopher. He serves as a professor of physics at the LMU and teaches natural philosophy at the Munich University of Philosophy. He is credited with educating complex physical or philosophical issues to public with the help of his television programs. He is the recipient of the Hanns Joachim Friedrichs Award.

 28 
John Dobson
(Astronomer)
John Dobson
2
Birthdate: September 14, 1915
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Beijing, China
Died: January 15, 2014

Known as the "Pied Piper of Astronomy" or the "Star Monk," amateur astronomer John Dobson created a low-cost Newtonian telescope, known as the Dobsonian telescope. Born in China, Dobson later moved to the U.S., where he spent 23 years at the Vedanta Monastery, following which he promoted astronomy and cosmology.

 29 
Colin Pillinger
(Scientist)
Colin Pillinger
2
Birthdate: May 9, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kingswood, Bristol, England
Died: May 7, 2014
Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan
7
Birthdate: October 24, 1940
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ernakulam, India

Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan is an Indian space scientist who supervised the development of several scientific satellites including the Indian Remote Sensing Satellites IRS-1A and IRS-1B and the Indian National Satellite (INSAT-2) while serving as the director of ISRO Satellite Centre. He served as the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for nine years from 1994 to 2003.

 31 
Halton Arp
(American Astronomer Known for Challenging the Theory That Redshifts of Quasars Indicate Their Great Distance)
Halton Arp
2
Birthdate: March 21, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: December 28, 2013

Harvard and Caltech alumnus Halton Christian Arp later worked at Indiana University, before joining the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. The astronomer is best known for his Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, which listed countless galaxies, and his research on the distance of quasars. He believed the Big Bang Theory was incorrect

 32 
Aleksander Wolszczan
2
Birthdate: April 29, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Szczecinek

Polish astronomer Aleksander Wolszczan is best known for co-discovering extrasolar and pulsar planets. He started developing an interest in astronomy at age 7 and later worked at Cornell and Princeton, eventually gaining a teaching position at the Pennsylvania State University. He has won several awards, such as the Bohdan Paczyński Medal.

 33 
Grote Reber
(Amateur Astronomer)
Grote Reber
2
Birthdate: December 22, 1911
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Wheaton, Illinois, United States
Died: December 20, 2002

Grote Reber is remembered as a pioneer of American radio astronomy. The radio engineer made the world’s first radio telescope, which helped detect celestial signals. He won several awards for his research, including the Elliott Cresson Medal. The asteroid 6886 Grote was named after him.

 34 
Fred Lawrence Whipple
(Astronomer, who worked at the Harvard College Observatory for more than 70 years.)
Fred Lawrence Whipple
2
Birthdate: November 5, 1906
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Red Oak, Iowa, United States
Died: August 30, 2004
Remembered for his 70-year stint at the Harvard Observatory, astronomer Fred Lawrence Whipple was born to a farmer in Iowa and had to abandon his dream of becoming a tennis player due to a bout of polio. His best-known discovery was the Whipple shield, which protected spacecrafts against small meteors.
 35 
Maarten Schmidt
(Astronomer)
Maarten Schmidt
1
Birthdate: December 28, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Groningen, Netherlands

Maarten Schmidt is a Dutch-American astronomer credited with measuring the distance between two or more quasars. In 2008, he became the co-recipient of the maiden Kavli Prize for Astrophysics along with Donald Lynden-Bell. Maarten Schmidt has also received several other prestigious awards, such as the Helen B. Warner Prize, James Craig Watson Medal, Bruce Medal, and Henry Norris Russell Lectureship.

 36 
Alexander Ollongren
(He serves on the Advisory Council of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence))
Alexander Ollongren
1
Birthdate: November 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kepahiang Sub-District, Indonesia

A renowned professor of Leiden University, Dutch astronomer Alexander Ollongren has also taught at Yale. Born in the Dutch East Indies, he spent his childhood in Japanese internment camps after the Japanese occupation, before moving to the Netherlands. He has also been associated with SETI.

 37 
John A. Eddy
(Astronomer)
John A. Eddy
1
Birthdate: March 25, 1931
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Pawnee City, Nebraska, United States
Died: June 10, 2009

John A. Eddy, also known as Jack Eddy, is best remembered for his extensive research on the Sun and was the first to prove that the Sun is a variable star and not a constant star. He also discovered an amateur astronomical observatory of the Native Americans in Wyoming.

 38 
Brian G. Marsden
(Astronomer)
Brian G. Marsden
1
Birthdate: August 5, 1937
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cambridge, England
Died: November 18, 2010
 39 
Malcolm Longair
(British Physicist and Astronomer)
Malcolm Longair
1
Birthdate: May 18, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland

Scottish astronomer and physicist Malcolm Longair has been a renowned academic, having taught at the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh. His research also took him to Moscow. Known for his work in cosmology and astrophysics, he spends his leisure time indulging in music, art, and mountain walking.

 40 
Ken Freeman
(Astronomer)
Ken Freeman
1
Birthdate: August 27, 1940
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Perth, Australia
 41 
Yuji Hyakutake
(Japanese Amateur Astronomer Who Discovered 'Comet Hyakutake' in 1996)
Yuji Hyakutake
1
Birthdate: July 7, 1950
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Shimabara, Nagasaki, Japan
Died: April 10, 2002
Yuji Hyakutake was a Japanese amateur astronomer. He is best remembered for discovering Comet Hyakutake in 1996. Hyakutake's search for comets began in 1989 and his search led him to move to Hayato, where he made his first discovery by identifying Comet C/1995 Y1 in 1995.
 42 
William E. Gordon
(American Electrical Engineer, Physicist and Astronomer Who Designed, Built and Operated the World’s Largest Radio Telescope)
William E. Gordon
1
Birthdate: January 8, 1918
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paterson, New Jersey, United States
Died: February 16, 2010

William Edwin Gordon was a pioneer in the research on the ionosphere. An electrical engineer, he earned a PhD from Cornell before joining the faculty of Cornell and then Rice University. He was also associated with the Arecibo Observatory. His radar telescope in Puerto Rico is used for radar astronomy.

 43 
Gerry Neugebauer
(Astronomer)
Gerry Neugebauer
1
Birthdate: September 3, 1932
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Göttingen, Germany
Died: September 26, 2014

Born to a mathematician in Germany, Gerry Neugebauer later moved to the U.S. One of the pioneers of infrared astronomy, Neugebauer was known for his association with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the U.S. Army. He later taught at Caltech and was married to renowned geophysicist Marcia Neugebauer.

 44 
Robert Hanbury Brown
1
Birthdate: August 31, 1916
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Aruvankadu, India
Died: January 16, 2002
 45 
Jerry Nelson
(Astronomer)
Jerry Nelson
1
Birthdate: January 15, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Los Angeles County, California, United States
Died: June 10, 2017

American astronomer Jerry Nelson is best known for designing segmented mirror telescopes. He was working in the Physics Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory when he designed the segmented mirror telescopes. He was also the chief designer and project scientist of the Keck telescopes. His work on segmented mirrors led him to share the 2010 Kavli Prize for Astrophysics.  

 46 
Horace W. Babcock
(Astronomer)
Horace W. Babcock
2
Birthdate: September 13, 1912
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Pasadena, California, United States
Died: August 29, 2003

Credited with inventing numerous astronomical instruments and procedures, American astronomer Horace W. Babcock specialized in spectroscopy and the study of magnetic fields of stars. He is especially known for proposing the idea of adaptive optics, a technology used to improve the performance of optical systems and Babcock model, a mechanism to explain magnetic and sunspot patterns observed on the Sun.

 47 
Roger Angel
(Astronomer)
Roger Angel
2
Birthdate: February 7, 1941
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Saint Helens, England

British-born American astronomer Roger Angel initially taught at Columbia University and is now part of the faculty of the University of Arizona. The Caltech alumnus has worked on projects related to global warming and solar cells. He is also the man behind some of the world’s biggest lightweight mirror telescopes.

 48 
Donald Edward Osterbrock
1
Birthdate: July 13, 1924
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died: January 11, 2007

Donald Edward Osterbrock is best remembered for his research on the Milky Way and the stellar structure and later specialized in the history of astronomy. His studies on the nebulae and galaxies are invaluable. He was associated with Caltech and had also been the director of the Lick Observatory.

 49 
James L. Elliot
(Astronomical Scientist)
James L. Elliot
1
Birthdate: June 19, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, United States
Died: March 3, 2011

MIT and Harvard alumnus James L. Elliot returned to MIT as a professor after completing his postdoctoral research at Cornell. He is best remembered for discovering Uranus’s rings. His research also included Pluto and Triton. He also contributed to astrophotography by developing a special telescope camera for the Las Campanas Observatory.

 50 
Audouin Dollfus
(Astronomer)
Audouin Dollfus
1
Birthdate: November 12, 1924
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 1, 2010

Audouin Dollfus was a French aeronaut and astronomer. He worked at the Meudon Observatory where he oversaw the operations of the Laboratory of Solar System Physics. Dollfus was the first person to use a stratospheric balloon to carry out astronomical observations. He is credited with discovering Janus, Saturn’s 10th known satellite.