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Jim Kaler Awarded 2008 AAS Education Prize

February 2008 – James B. Kaler, a professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of Illinois, has been awarded the American Astronomical Society 2008 Education Prize. The prize recognizes Kaler for his outstanding contributions to the education of the public, students and the next generation of professional astronomers.

Kaler is well known in the astronomical community. As a professional research astronomer, he has studied stellar evolution, including planetary nebulae – the colorful remnants of dying stars. As a popularizer of astronomy, he has written 14 books and numerous magazine articles.

One of Kaler’s books, “Extreme Stars: At the Edge of Creation,” received the 2001 award for excellence in the category of physics and astronomy from the Association of American Publishers.

In 2004, asteroid 17851 Kaler was named after him, in honor of his spectroscopic research on planetary nebulae, his books, and his tireless efforts to educate teachers, students and amateur astronomers.

According to the American Astronomical Society, Kaler was cited for his:

  • Significant contributions to many aspects of astronomy education throughout his career;
  • Inspired teaching and mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom have gone on to noteworthy careers in the field;
  • Wider contributions to introductory astronomy education through his textbooks and many engaging astronomy books;
  • Maintaining a popular Web site with a wealth of useful material regularly consulted by astronomy teachers and students;
  • Contributions to the public understanding of astronomy, through his prodigious number of public lectures, his work with planetarium, television and radio programs, and for his numerous books and articles for amateur astronomers as well as the general public.

Kaler has held Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, and has been recognized for his work by the University of Liège in Belgium, the University of Mexico, the U. of I., the Great Lakes Planetarium Association, and the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society. He is the president of the board of directors of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Kaler joined the U. of I. faculty in 1964.

by Jim Kloeppel, University of Illinois News Bureau