Mike Simmons has been an amateur astronomer and outreach leader for 50 years and loves sharing the sky with others. His outreach activities began in the 1970s with the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and at Griffith Observatory where he operated the Zeiss 12-inch refracting telescope for the public. In the 1980s, Mike founded the Mount Wilson Observatory Association, a support organization dedicated to improving the experience of visitors to the renowned observatory.
Mike’s outreach efforts in astronomy went international following a trip to Iran for the solar eclipse of 1999. In one of his return visits, he led a group of Westerners to Iran to observe the rare Transit of Venus alongside hundreds of Iranian amateur astronomers in 2004. In 2006 he traveled to Iraq with observing equipment donated by American astronomers to their enthusiastic but isolated Kurdish counterparts. His online assistance of amateur astronomers and educators around the world also increased as the internet expanded. Seeing astronomy as a universal interest that transcends cultural differences, Mike founded Astronomers Without Borders in 2006 to unite astronomy and space enthusiasts around the world through their common interests. During the UN-declared International Year of Astronomy 2009, Mike led the effort to organize the Cornerstone Project 100 Hours of Astronomy in more than 100 countries, with an estimated one million people looking through outreach telescopes in one night.
Since retiring from Astronomers Without Borders in 2020, Mike has joined Blue Marble Space Institute of Science as an Affiliate Research Scientist where he launched his latest nonprofit venture, Astronomy for Equity, using astronomy to bring science opportunities to marginalized communities. He also co-founded AstroGear Today and OneSky Expeditions and joined the Board of Directors of the International Dark Sky Association. Mike is also a writer and photographer who has contributed to publications including Scientific American, Astronomy and Sky and Telescope where he was a Contributing Editor. He regularly gives presentations, both in the US and abroad, on his experiences and interests, and on his outlook on international relations through astronomy.
Minor Planet Simmons (22294) was named in Mike’s honor in 2003, in part for his “varied outreach activities in astronomy.” In 2005 Mike was presented with the Clifford W. Holmes Award, an honor given annually by RTMC for a “Major Contribution to Popularizing Astronomy.” In 2009 Mike received the prestigious G. Bruce Blair Award given annually by the Western Amateur Astronomers for “outstanding contributions to amateur astronomy.” Mike was also awarded the prestigious 2014 Gabrielle and Camille Flammarion Prize from the Société Astronomique de France (SAF) for “setting a worldwide example that astronomy does transcend political and cultural borders.”
Mike is retired from his 36-year career as a biomedical researcher at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Retirement doesn’t suit him, though, and he is as busy as ever, now focusing on astronomy outreach and education with organizations worldwide. He lives with his wife in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California and has happily become a doting grandfather.