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Jeffrey F. Bell (1955–2020)

Jeff Bell was primarily known for his research on the Moon and asteroids, including the 52-color Survey and the introduction of the K-type asteroid taxonomic class.

Published onMay 18, 2020
Jeffrey F. Bell (1955–2020)

Jeff in 1984. Courtesy Peter Mouginis-Mark.

Jeffrey F. Bell died on Wednesday the 11th of March, 2020.

Jeffrey Frederick Bell (1955–2020) has passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jeff received his BS from the University of Michigan and his MS and PhD from the University of Hawaii. His PhD thesis was titled “A Search for Ultraprimitive Material in the Solar System”. From 1984–2000 Jeff was a faculty member at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the University of Hawaii.

Jeff was primarily known for his research on the Moon and asteroids. With B. Ray Hawke, Jeff studied lunar dark-halo impact craters and the Reiner Gamma swirl to look for signs of impactor residue from carbonaceous asteroids or comets. Jeff was the guiding force behind the 52-color Survey, which at the time was the largest set of near-infrared asteroid reflectance spectra. The 52-color survey data was used in a large number of papers to understand the mineralogy of main-belt asteroids. Jeff introduced the K-type asteroid taxonomic class for bodies intermediate in spectral properties between S- and C-types, and noted their spectral similarity to CV/CO chondrites. His chapter “Asteroids: The Big Picture” (written with Don Davis, Bill Hartmann, and Mike Gaffey) was one of the closing chapters in Asteroids II and made a number of predictions (e.g., ordinary chondrite bodies are more abundant at smaller sizes) that were later found to be true. Jeff also did research on the composition and origin of the dark material on Saturn’s moon Iapetus.

Jeff was known for having a very sarcastic sense of humor and for giving very informative and hilarious talks at conferences, often expressing his rather contrarian viewpoints. Jeff had an encyclopedic knowledge of military history and conspiracy theories. For several years in the early-mid 2000s, Jeff wrote opinion pieces for Asteroid (3526) Jeffbell is named in his honor.

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