Planet named after award-winning CSIRO scientist

Dr Alex Held, Director of the CSIRO Centre for Earth Observation, has been recognised for his pioneering contributions to Earth observation and space research with the 2020 Harrie Massey Award.

The award was presented in Sydney by the Committee of Space Research (COSPAR) and includes having a minor planet named in their honour – in this case, the minor planet 8479, that will now be known as Held. Discovered in 1987, the planet is 5km in diameter and is situated in the Main Asteroid Belt.

Acting CSIRO Chief Scientist Dr Sarah Pearce congratulated Dr Held on the international recognition and his 30-year contribution to CSIRO.

“Dr Held is one of Australia’s leading Earth Observation experts, and I’ve been fortunate to work with him over the last two years while he’s led the CSIRO Centre for Earth Observation,” Dr Pearce said.

“His work has harnessed satellite imagery to solve real challenges here on Earth, like the Sentinel Hotspots program to spot bushfires when they start, and establishing CSIRO’s share of the NovaSAR-1 satellite, soon to be available as a national research facility, providing Australian scientists with access to sophisticated new satellite radar capability.

“He is now at the forefront of developing one of CSIRO’s new missions, AquaWatch Australia, which will aim to establish an integrated ground-to-space national water quality monitoring system and support growth across Australia’s high-tech space sector.”

Dr Held thanked his peers and colleagues for nominating him for the award and their support through his career.

“I feel honoured to receive the COSPAR Harrie Massey Award, and thank the Australian Academy of Science for its nomination,” Dr Held said.

“It has been a privilege to support great science and represent Australia and my own organisation, CSIRO, at regional and global space forums, and be part of this global community.”

Dr Held has also been instrumental in developing OpenDataCube, a high-performance open source data management system which now has over 50 DataCube implementations globally with partners including NASA.

His work to improve international collaboration and democratise accessibility to satellite data has led to better understanding, monitoring and management of our natural environment.

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