Introducing Luke Dones

Luke grew up in San Antonio, Texas and attended Harvard, where he majored in physics. He got his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. His thesis dealt with density waves in Saturn’s rings and the photometric properties of the rings as seen in Voyager images. He did a postdoc at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and another postdoc at CITA in Toronto. He then returned to NASA Ames, where he worked on “soft money” for seven years. Since 1999 he has worked at the Boulder office of Southwest Research Institute, where he is currently a Principal Scientist.

Luke’s research interests are mainly focused in the outer solar system, particularly the orbital dynamics of comets, Kuiper Belt objects, and planetary satellites and rings, and the impact histories of icy satellites. He is a member of the Imaging Team of the Cassini mission to Saturn.


Introducing Chris Tibbs

Chris Tibbs is currently an ESA Research Fellow at the European Space Agency ESTEC facility in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. His research focuses on the interstellar medium, the gas and dust between the stars. Chris is particularly interested in interstellar dust, and understanding how the dust evolves from diffuse to dense environments.

Studying the interstellar medium is important for two reasons: i) to better understand how the gas and dust evolve to form stars and planets like we observe in our own Solar System; and ii) understanding the physical properties of the gas and dust allow us to accurately subtract it from sensitive observations of the after-glow of the Big Bang.

Born in the UK, Chris obtained his PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics from The University of Manchester, before moving to the US to work as a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology. After a thoroughly enjoyable 3 years in California, Chris was happy to have the opportunity to move back to Europe for his current position at ESA, which he only started last month.

Chris is a big fan of tea, sports, and he usually tweets from @chris_tibbs.

Introducing: Christa Van Laerhoven

Christa studies how the orbits of extra-solar planets in multi-planet systems are currently arranged, and how those orbits evolve over long periods of time. She is also interested in how orbital evolution can affect the habitability of planets. Christa grew up in a small town outside of Vancouver, BC. She doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t interested in astronomy. When in highschool she enjoyed physics, leading her to choose Physics and Astronomy as her major in university. She did her B.Sc. at the University of British Columbia, then her Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, located in Toronto, Ontario.

Introducing Dave Jones

Dave is a postdoctoral researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Canarian Astrophysics Institute) on the Spanish island of La Palma (home to the World’s largest optical telescope, GranTeCan).  He started this job only two weeks ago, having recently moved from Chile where he was working at the Very Large Telescope as a European Southern Observatory (ESO) postdoctoral fellow, and at the Universidad de Atacama (Atacama University) as a professor of physics.  Before that, Dave did his PhD at the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (home of the World’s third largest steerable radio telescope, The 76-m Lovell Telescope) with a brief stint working for the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes (helping to run the World’s most productive, ground-based 2.5 telescope, The Isaac Newton Telescope).  In case you didn’t realise, Dave really likes telescopes.

Dave’s research focusses on some of the most beautiful objects in the night sky, planetary nebulae.  These nebulae represent final stage in the lives of Sun-like stars, and Dave really wants to understand how the presence of a second, nearby star (or even large planet) influences their formation and evolution.  Dave normally tweets as @RainDogJones.  Dave is also a keen photographer and devoted servant to his dog, Pisco.

Introducing Jennifer Hoffman

This week features Jennifer Hoffman. Jennifer is an associate professor of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Denver. However, she is on sabbatical from DU and is currently visiting the University of Wisconsin, where she received her Ph.D. Jennifer studies evolved massive stars and supernovae, with particular interests in binary interactions and circumstellar material. She uses observational spectropolarimetry and computational modeling to discover connections between core-collapse supernova explosions and their massive progenitor stars.

Now that she has tenure, Jennifer is also reviving longstanding interests in science education, public outreach, and diversifying the STEM community. She is still a relative Twitter newbie, but suspects that it can be a powerful tool for all of these purposes (and science too!). She normally tweets at @astroprofhoff, and her website is