Carolyn Cordonnier, 1929-2021 | Virtual Solar System Exploration Research Institute


Carolyn Shoemaker, one of America’s greatest female astronomers, has passed away.

Remarkably, she ** started ** her astronomical career in 1980, at age 51! In the 1980s and 1990s, she used films taken with the Palomar Observatory’s wide-field telescope, combined with a stereoscope, to find objects moving against the background of fixed stars. In 1996, she received the NASA Medal for Scientific Excellence. At the height of her career, Carolyn, her husband Gene and David Levy were a powerful force for science! In 2002, Carolyn was credited with the discovery or co-discovery of 32 comets and more than 500 asteroids. After recovering from the tragic car accident that killed her husband, she continued to work at the Lowell Observatory with Levy and actively participated in astronomical observing work until at least 2002.

The lunar scientific community has lost one of its luminaries …

SSERVI’s highest honor, the Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Medal, is an annual award given to scientists who have made significant contributions to the field of lunar science throughout their scientific careers. The first Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Award was presented posthumously to Gene Shoemaker and was presented to his wife Carolyn at the 2009 Lunar Science Forum. SSERVI staff had the opportunity to meet Carolyn when she accepted the inaugural award.

Director Greg Schmidt remembers his first meeting in 1994 at the Nature Company in Washington DC where he was living at the time. “Carolyn and David Levy – the co-discoverers of Comet Shoemaker-Levy that impacted Jupiter – were there for a book signing. It wasn’t too crowded so I had a long, lovely chat with the two of them, and David even made a little drawing of a cartoon comet in my book! She was absolutely lovely and it was nice to be able to see her again when she came to the Lunar Science Forum, and I had the opportunity to chat with her on the ride to her hotel.

To learn more about Carolyn, we refer you to an excellent memorial on

For more information on the Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Award, visit:

Posted by: Soderman / SSERVI Staff
Source: SERVI / USGS

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