American astronomer Eleanor Frances Helin was born on November 19, 1932. For over thirty years, she pursued astronomy and planetary science, first at the California Institute of Technology and then NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). In this photo Eleanor Helin is holding the discovery announcement of near-Earth asteroid 2100 Ra-Shalom, which she discovered.

At Cal Tech she worked with Bruce Murray to start the Lunar Research Lab to study the Moon in preparation for lunar landings. From lunar craters, she went on to initiate an asteroid survey from Palomar Observatory. The program discovered thousands of asteroids plus a number of comets. Of particular interest to her were near-Earth asteroids. Having moved on to work at JPL, during the 1980s she encouraged global interest in asteroids and organized the International Near-Earth Asteroid Survey.

After 25 years of the Palomar survey, she went for upgraded technology in her Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT). It operated from JPL from 1997-2007, and it was the first automated observing program. As the principal investigator she was given the JPL Award for Excellence and her team received a Group Achievement Award from NASA.

Helin herself is credited with the discovery or co-discovery of nearly 900 asteroids plus several comets.


Mona Evans
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