Introducing Christa Van Laerhoven

Christa is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia
(UBC). She’s from a small town just a couple hours east of Vancouver,
BC. She did her Bachelors in Physics and Astronomy at UBC, then did
her PhD in Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. She does
orbital dynamics, or, as she likes to call it “orbital shenanigans.”
She investigates how orbits change over long periods of time and how
that can be used to tease out interesting things about a planetary
system. In particular, she is interested in what the Kuiper Belt can
tell us about the history of our Solar System, and in how planetary
systems go unstable (or avoid going unstable). In her spare time she
works with the Yukon Center of the Royal Astronomical Society of
Canada ( As a result of that collaboration, this week she
will be on a flight to see the Aurora Borealis.

Christa tweets as @K04PB2B. Her twitter handle is the Minor Planet
Center (MPC) packed designation for the Kuiper Belt object 2004 PB112,
which orbits 4 times in the time it takes Neptune to orbit 27 times.


Introducing Coel Hellier

Coel Hellier is a Professor of Astrophysics at Keele University in the UK, working on extrasolar planets.   After undergraduate study at the University of Oxford and a PhD at University College London he was then a Hubble Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin before moving to Keele.

In 2004 Keele joined the WASP consortium (Wide Angle Search for Planets) to search for transiting exoplanets.  Professor Hellier leads the team which built and now operates the WASP-South camera array, hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory. Over the last decade WASP has become the most productive of the ground-based transit searches with over 140 discoveries, including many that are prime targets for characterisation with the Hubble Space Telescope and the imminent James Webb Space Telescope.

Coel posts about exoplanets at and tweets as @WASPplanets.

Introducing Bella Boulderstone

Bella Boulderstone is a PhD student currently working in the University of Southampton. She works on Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and their dusty tori. She graduated from Lancaster University in 2014 with an MPhys in physics with particle physics and cosmology. She decided after that she liked doing degrees so much she’d get another master’s so studied at Queen Mary University of London and got an MSc in astrophysics a year later. Bella’s first master’s project was working on Dark Matter Halos of galaxies and their density profiles and her second was working on the orbital evolution of Triton (Neptune’s largest moon), she also has a soft spot for magnetospheric physics in the Solar System.

Bella is a dual UK/US national and therefore enjoys both American Football and Cricket. She enjoys listening to podcasts and considers herself a feminist. She tries to do a lot of outreach because it reminds her why she likes doing what she does.

Introducing Rachael Ainsworth

Rachael Ainsworth (@rachaelevelyn) is a Research Associate at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) at the University of Manchester. Her expertise lies in the interpretation of radio emission from protostellar systems in nearby star forming regions, particularly at very long (metre) wavelengths. Her primary research interests include astrophysical jets/outflows, star formation and evolution. She works on the Horizon 2020 RadioNET “Radio Interferometry Next Generation Software” (RINGS) project to develop software for calibrating dispersive delay corrections in long baseline radio interferometry for long wavelength telescopes such as the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR).

She is Open Science Champion for the Interferometry Centre of Excellence at JBCA, where she promotes, advocates and organises events relating to open science in astronomy. She is also a Mozilla Open Leader running the open project Resources for Open Science in Astronomy (ROSA), which aims to compile and tailor open science best practices from around the web into a toolkit for astronomers to work openly from proposal to publication. This project seeks input from the entire astronomy community, so feel to bookmark and become a contributor to the project in the coming weeks.

Rachael also organises the Manchester chapter of XX+Data (@xxplusdatamcr) – a community for women who work with and love data. The goal of the community is to bring together women with diverse expertise and experience to support one another, share experiences and talk data.

Introducing Ben Montnet

Ben Montet (@benmontet) is a NASA Sagan Fellow at the University of Chicago. He works to find and characterize planets with Kepler and K2, and soon, the upcoming TESS mission. He also uses Kepler data to better understand stellar activity through observations of long-term brightness variations of stars. (Ask him about KIC 8462852, or “Boyajian’s Star.”)
Ben is originally from the Chicagoland area, receiving his BS from the University of Illinois before heading to sunny California for his PhD at Caltech. When he’s not in the office, he enjoys traveling, watching the Cubs, and exploring his old and new hometown of Chicago.