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Tom Gehrels

Tom Gehrels (1974)
Born February 25, 1925(1925-02-25)
Haarlemmermeer, the Netherlands
Died July 11, 2011(2011-07-11) (aged 86)
Tucson, Arizona, United States
Citizenship United States
Institutions University of Arizona
Alma mater Leiden University, University of Chicago
Known for Asteroids
Notable awards Harold Masursky Award

Tom Gehrels (1925 – 2011), was an American astronomer, Professor Planetary Sciences, and Astronomer at the University of Arizona, Tucson. With co-workers, he discovered over 4,000 asteroids, including Apollo asteroids, Amor asteroids, as well as dozens of Trojan asteroids. Gehrels also discovered a number of comets. In an interview, Gehrels was asked what he would do if an asteroid hit the Earth. He said, "Go out there and have a look, of course."[1]

In the 1970s, Gehrels was in charge of the Imaging Photopolarimeter experiment on the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 satellites which explored the planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

Gehrels edited a number of space science textbooks. One of his sons, Neil Gehrels, is also an astronomer.

Gehrels was part of the Dutch Resistance in World War II. In 1994, he argued that German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun had been involved in Nazi concentration camps during that war.[2]


  • Physical Studies of Minor Planets, edited by Tom Gehrels (1971), NASA SP-267
  • Planets Stars and Nebulae Studied With Photopolarimetry, edited by Tom Gehrels (1974), ISBN 0-8165-0428-8
  • Jupiter: Studies of the Interior, Atmosphere, Magnetosphere, and Satellites, edited by Tom Gehrels and Mildred Shapley Matthews (1976), ISBN 0-8165-0530-6
  • Protostars & Planets: Studies of Star Formation and of the Origin of the Solar System, edited by Tom Gehrels and Mildred Shapley Matthews (1978), ISBN 0-8165-0674-4
  • Asteroids, edited by Tom Gehrels and Mildred Shapley Matthews (1979), ISBN 0-8165-0695-7
  • Saturn, edited by Tom Gehrels and Mildred Shapley Matthews (1984), ISBN 0-8165-0829-1
  • Asteroids II, edited by Richard P. Binzel, Tom Gehrels, and Mildred Shapely Matthews (1989), ISBN 0-8165-1123-3
  • Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids, edited by Tom Gehrels, Mildred Shapley Matthews, and A. M. Schumann (1994), ISBN 0-8165-1505-0
  • On the Glassy Sea, in Search of a Worldview, Tom Gehrels (2007, first published in 1988), ISBN 1-4196-8247-4
  • Survival Through Evolution: From Multiverse to Modern Society, Tom Gehrels (2007), ISBN 1-4196-7055-7


  1. "Dutch-American astronomer Tom Gehrels dies". July 13, 2011. Retrieved October 23, 2011. "The journalist asked: “Suppose an asteroid that would hit Earth is discovered. What would you do?' Dr Gehrels replied, 'Go out there and have a look, of course!'"
  2. Gehrels, Tom (1994). "Of Truth and Consequences". Nature 372: 511-512.

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