Reintroducing Chris Lintott

Chris Lintott is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, where he leads the team of people responsible for the Zooniverse.org collection of citizen science projects. Volunteers have used the Zooniverse to classify galaxies, discover planets (and perhaps but probably not an alien megastructure), catch supernovae and do a lot of non-astronomical things too. His own research is on galaxy evolution and formation, mostly using data from Galaxy Zoo to think about what changes star formation in galaxies. His background is a little closer to home, having completed a PhD at University College London mostly on the chemistry of star formation; he’s a big fan of triply-deuterated ammonia but likes sulphur compounds the best.

Chris is best known (in the UK at least) as the co-presenter of the BBC long-running Sky at Night program, a monthly look at the worlds of astronomy and astrophysics. This has taken him to all sorts of places, including the control room for ESA’s Rosetta mission which ends this week. He also once got the age of the Universe wrong on camera by a factor of a million. Away from research, Chris answers email. Away from email, he can be found cooking, watching theatre or opera or shouting loudly at the Chicago Fire and Torquay United. He also plays real tennis, which is far superior to the young upstart lawn tennis.

Most other days, you can find Chris on twitter at @chrislintott

Introducing Christy Caudill

Christy  (@christycraters) is a planetary geologist currently working on her PhD at Western University, Canada, focusing on impact cratering products and processes. With former experience in Mars spacecraft operations as a HiRISE Downlink Specialist, and a former geologist at the Arizona Geological Survey, Christy has a background in terrestrial as well as planetary geology. Her current field site is the Ries Impact Structure (Germany), where she studies the mineralogy and other aspects of the ejecta deposits. Impact craters provide a window into the subsurface of planetary bodies, with the largest structures exhuming tens of kilometers of any available rock, water, and ice. The ejecta deposits are the result of that exhumation, which redistributes this material across the surface and forms new materials under intense heat and pressure. The deposits at the Ries Impact Structure are of particular interest to her research as they represent analogies to similar impact-generated deposits on Mars. Earth-Mars comparative studies allow researchers like Christy an avenue to extrapolate past Mars climate and habitability, soil production, and subsurface volatile availability.

Introducing Maria Womack

Maria Womack (@StarzanPlanets) is Research Professor of physics at the University of South Florida in Tampa.  Her research involves multi-wavelength spectroscopy of comets and exoplanets. She is mainly interested in the chemical abundances and physical parameters that can be measured from volatiles with spectroscopic techniques. Lately, her cometary interests have focused on the activity of distant comets: those that are too far from the Sun for water ice to sublimate, but nonetheless have comae. Her work on exoplanetary science was mostly devoted to extracting signal from relatively faint ground-based spectra of hot Jupiters and super-Earths, which gave her a deep appreciation to the problems of Earth-atmosphere contamination.

Maria earned a B.S. in physics from Florida State University and a Ph.D. in physics from Arizona State University. She held a postdoctoral position in astronomy/planetary science at Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff) and her first faculty position was at Penn State Behrend (Erie). After three years, she left Erie to start a new faculty position at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, where she worked for 18 years. She carried out research with over 60 undergraduate students and managed student-run observatories at both universities. From 2011-2015 she worked as a ‘rotating’ astronomy program director to the National Science Foundation. She used her cometary and exoplanetary expertise at NSF to manage the stellar and planetary astronomy individual investigator grant programs; and to help create and establish the joint NASA-NSF EXPLORE program for exoplanetary science. She started her USF faculty position in 2015 and occasionally helps out NSF as a part-time “expert.”

Introducing Benne Holwerda

Benne Holwerda is a postdoc at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands working with Rychard Bouwens. He will be starting as an associate professor at the University of Louisville on January 1, 2017. Leiden Observatory has a rich hiistory in astronomy and today is a vibrant research facility in extra-galactic astronomy, astrochemistry and instrumentation.

Benne Holwerda works on galaxies, and their gas, dust and stars, in galaxies both near and far. He studies dust in galaxies using accidental overlapping (occulting) galaxies and gas using the MeerKAT Radio Telescope, under construction in South Africa (to be completed mid-2017). He works on the most distant galaxies with Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. He has worked at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the University of Cape Town, and the European Space Telescope.

You can find Benne  most other weeks at @BenneHolwerda