Richard Martin West

Richard Martin West (born 1941) is a Danish astronomer and discoverer of astronomical objects with a long career at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and at the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Minor planets discovered: 40[1]
see § List of discovered minor planets

He discovered numerous comets, including Comet West (C/1975 V1), which was one of the brightest comets of the 1970s,[2] and the periodic comets 76P/West–Kohoutek–Ikemura and 123P/West–Hartley.

He is also credited by the Minor Planet Center with the discovery of 40 minor planets between 1976 and 1986,[1] including 2146 Stentor and 2148 Epeios, two Trojan asteroids. Together with Hans-Emil Schuster, he co-discovered the Phoenix Dwarf galaxy.

Early life and education

West was born in Copenhagen in 1941. He completed high school in 1959 and then achieved a degree in astronomy and astrophysics from University of Copenhagen in 1964.

Career at ESO

Richard West began working at ESO in 1970, when he joined as Assistant Astronomer to the ESO Director General, Adriaan Blaauw. His career took a leap in 1972, when he charged one of the first and largest scientific programmes of ESO: the Sky Atlas Laboratory project to systematically map the southern hemisphere.[3]

West was a leading figure in helping out and establishing serious collaborations with the scientific communities of the Central and Eastern European countries in the wake of the political, social and economical turmoil following the collapse and dismantling of the Soviet block in the early 1990s.[3][4]

West retired in 2005, after a continuous employment at ESO.[3]


Richard West focussed a lot of his worklife on the organizational matters of the international scientific community in addition to science communications in general. He held a number of influential positions:[3]

  • Assistant General Secretary of the IAU in 1979–1982.
  • General Secretary of the IAU (1982–1985).[5]
  • Presided over a number of IAU Commissions, including Commission 20 from 1988 to 1991.[5]
  • Member of the Executive Committee of ICSU.

Awards and honors

  • Rosenkjaer Prize. A prestigious award in Denmark, given for outstanding science or culture communication.
  • The main-belt asteroid 2022 West was named in his honor.[5]

List of discovered minor planets

2052 Tamriko24 October 1976list
2053 Nuki24 October 1976list
2115 Irakli24 October 1976list
2116 Mtskheta24 October 1976list
2117 Danmark9 January 1978list
2145 Blaauw24 October 1976list
2146 Stentor24 October 1976list
2147 Kharadze25 October 1976list
2148 Epeios24 October 1976list
2187 La Silla24 October 1976list
2526 Alisary19 May 1979list
2595 Gudiachvili19 May 1979list
2596 Vainu Bappu19 May 1979list
2935 Naerum24 October 1976list
3004 Knud27 February 1976list
3477 Kazbegi19 May 1979list
3871 Reiz18 February 1982list
3933 Portugal12 March 1986list
5270 Kakabadze19 May 1979list
5890 Carlsberg19 May 1979list
6362 Tunis19 May 1979list
8066 Poldimeri6 August 1980list
8993 Ingstad30 October 1980list
9272 Liseleje19 May 1979list
10462 Saxogrammaticus19 May 1979list
10668 Plansos24 October 1976list
11005 Waldtrudering6 August 1980list
12188 Kalaallitnunaat9 August 1978list
(12198) 1980 PJ16 August 1980list
(14350) 1985 VA11 November 1985list
(15201) 1976 UY31 October 1976list
(15207) 1979 KD19 May 1979list
(20995) 1985 VY1 November 1985list
(22252) 1978 SG27 September 1978list
(26081) 1980 PT16 August 1980list
(27667) 1979 KJ19 May 1979list
(34998) 1978 SE27 September 1978list
(65661) 1985 VB11 November 1985list
79086 Gorgasali4 September 1977list
(187746) 1976 DC27 February 1976list


  1. "Minor Planet Discoverers (by number)". Minor Planet Center. 25 October 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  2. Information, Reed Business (1982-07-15). "New Scientist - Google Books". Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  3. Madsen, C. (June 2005). "Richard West Retires" (PDF). The Messenger. 120: 56. Bibcode:2005Msngr.120...56M. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  4. "Strange New Star Appears in the Southern Sky". ESO. 17 January 1991. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  5. Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). "(2022) West". Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (2022) West. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 164. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_2023. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3.
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