Smithsonian Journeys Experts

Richard Wainscoat

photo of Richard Wainscoat

Richard Wainscoat is an astronomer at the University of Hawaii. He grew up in Australia, studying physics at the University of Western Australia, then receiving his PhD in astronomy from the Australian National University. He was attracted to Hawaii by the excellent observatory sites on Mauna Kea and Haleakala, and the powerful telescopes that are located atop those mountains. He began his career by studying the structure of galaxies, then later switched fields to study Near-Earth Objects. Near-Earth Objects are asteroids and comets that come relatively close to Earth. Impacts from larger objects will have catastrophic consequences to life on Earth, so worldwide efforts are now being made to find any objects that may hit Earth in the future so that they can be deflected. He now leads the Near-Earth Object search program with the Pan-STARRS telescopes on Haleakala. Pan-STARRS is presently the leading discoverer of Near-Earth Objects, and also discovers more than half of all new comets. He is also a photographer and an astrophotographer.