On June 20, 2022, the amateur astronomer’s community lost an experienced science writer, a knowledgeable astronomer and a cheerful friend. With a lifelong interest in astronomy, Paul Sutherland contributed in many ways to astronomy. His main commitments were with the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA) where he was a very active member for more than half a century. In 1971 he became a SPA section director and later took care as editor of the SPA magazine for almost ten years and he served as a SPA Council Member for many years.
In 2012 a minor planet was named after Paul Sutherland for his many years of active support to the SPA. “6726 Suthers” with the provisional designation 1991 PS, is a background asteroid from the inner regions of the asteroid belt, approximately 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) in diameter. It was discovered on 5 August 1991, by American astronomer Henry E. Holt at Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California. The asteroid was named after author Paul Sutherland, known as “Suthers” to friends and colleagues.
Paul was a professional journalist writing for the newspaper The Sun from the late 1970s, known as “The Sun’s Spaceman”. He had a long career as a highly respected sub-editor also working for “Today”, the “News of the World” and the “Daily Mirror”, making science understandable to the large public.
In the late 1980s Paul discovered the marvelous night sky of the Haute-Provence in the South-East of France where astronomy could be combined with living like God in France. He bought a holiday residence and later a second one, in Puimichel, a small almost abandoned village that had 80 habitants left. He was a regular guest at the local observatory and associated amateur astronomer residence where Paul and his parents enjoyed sharing dinners with amateurs from all over Europe. Over the years many amateurs and meteor observers were hosted at Paul’s holiday houses which also served for the 1993 International Meteor Conference in Puimichel. Paul was an enthusiastic meteor observer and when he was invited to attend the 2012 IMC at La Palma, Spain, as a journalist, he didn’t hesitate a moment to accept the invitation. Paul had been among the first people to explore the circumstances on the Roque de Los Muchachos peak in the early 1970s when transport on the mountain roads were still carried out using donkeys.
Participation at this meteor conference strengthened Paul’s interest in meteor astronomy and made him return to the annual meteor conference until 2016, keeping cheerful contacts with numerous meteor scientists and amateurs.
Paul felt sick in April, losing weight and lacking energy and at the beginning of June he got diagnosed with cancer in his esophagus, unfortunately already spread when discovered. He spent his last few weeks continuing to do his usual activities until a few days before his death as Paul didn’t want to disturb anyone with his medical conditions. Monday June 20, 2022, Paul died, leaving behind his identical twin brother Nigel and three other brothers, Martin, Andrew and Simon.
Paul will be missed, and we’ll all remember how he used to minimize his merits just waving away any compliments with his hand and quickly change topics. With his British humor he knew to entertain people inspired by Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and other creations of actor John Cleese. Paul was always ready for some jokes while enjoying some local wine of the Provence region with amateurs from all over Europe and beyond around the dinner table during his many stays at his holiday residences. That’s how most meteor observers will remember Paul.