Alan Hale was born in Tachikawa, Japan (as the son of a U.S. Air Force officer) but moved with his family later soon after to Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he spent his childhood years. Hale entered the Navy and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics After leaving the service, he began working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Deep Space Network. While at JPL he was involved with several spacecraft projects, most notably the Voyager 2 encounter with the planet Uranus. Following that encounter, Hale left JPL and enrolled at New Mexico State University. He earned his Master’s Degree and then his Ph.D.. His thesis paper has become one of the seminal papers in early exoplanet research, with over 200 citations to date. He worked at the New Mexico Museum of Space History as its Staff Astronomer and Outreach Education Coordinator, before founding the Southwest Institute for Space Research (now known as the Earthrise Institute). He has developed and taught astronomy-related educational activities at the university level.
Hale’s research interests include the search for planets beyond the solar system; stars like the sun; minor bodies in the solar system, especially comets and near-Earth asteroids; and advocacy of spaceflight. He is primarily known for his work with comets, which has included his discovery of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1995. In recent years he has worked to increase scientific collaboration between the U.S. and other nations, including Iran, Zimbabwe, and Lebanon.
Hale lives in the Sacramento Mountains outside of Cloudcroft, New Mexico with his partner Vickie Moseley. He has two sons, Zachary and Tyler, both of whom have graduated from college. On clear nights he can often be found making observations of the latest comets or other astronomical phenomena.