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Longtime astronomer a star in the Tucson community

Larry Lebofsky has been sharing his universe of knowledge for decades
Posted at 6:39 PM, Feb 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-15 20:39:41-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson and Southern Arizona are a haven for stargazing and learning about outer space, which can start at a very young age.

Larry Lebofsky has been an astronomer for more than 50 years. He’s won awards and recognition along the way. But he says the science is only part of what he’s passionate about.

Lebofsky has been living in Southern Arizona for four decades, studying outer space, specializing in small bodies like comets and asteroids. He and his wife Nancy even have asteroids named after them.

Lebofsky’s rock-solid career includes stops at Caltech and MIT, before the University of Arizona.

Yet, he sees the same issue at nearly every level of education.

“‘Here’s a book. Learn about the book. Do this formula. Etcetera,’” he explained. “As opposed to what my passion is, which is hands-on [learning].”

Lebofsky teaches kids as young as five years old. He and Nancy have spent the last 30-plus years educating everyone from kindergarteners to girl scouts, to college professors.

“We just brought in a number of teachers and worked with them as to, ‘What can we do to bring hands-on experiences to them and their students?’” Lebofsky explained.

Paula Nasiatka, a Pima College faculty member who’s taught science at multiple levels, tells KGUN she’s worked with Lebofsky for 10 years, and that he’s “led the way” in making the science easier to understand across all age levels.

Lebofsky is part of the Planetary Science Institute, which is based in Tucson.

This month, Lebofsky earned a rare honor: becoming an American Astronomical Society fellow.

But he’s as modest as he is dedicated.

“What we do, it’s a team,” he said. “So I have my team that I work with when I go to the telescope. We each have our own skills. And when I go to the classroom or do education, it’s usually as a team.”

Lebofsky is also a member of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.

Next month, he will be with the Foundation at the Tucson Festival of Books, once again educating Southern Arizona about what’s beyond our atmosphere.

Ryan Fish is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9 and comes to the Sonoran Desert from California’s Central Coast after working as a reporter, sports anchor and weather forecaster in Santa Barbara. Ryan grew up in the Chicago suburbs, frequently visiting family in Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with Ryan by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.