This week features Branden Allen, a staff astronomer at the Harvard College Observatory, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Branden’s research has primarily been focused on the development and deployment of next generation X/γ-Ray wide field monitors with the goal of detecting and characterizing a wide range of
high energy phenomena such as Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) and Supernova. He began his career as graduate student at the University of California, Irvine with the Milagro project (a water Cherenkov all sky TeV γ-ray monitor) and, after graduating in 2007, moved to the CfA joining the ProtoEXIST collaboration which has successfully launched two next generation CdZnTe (CZT) hard X-ray telescopes in two balloon payloads in 2009 and 2012.
In a strange twist of fate he has recently joined the science team of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, and has become engaged in the study of near earth objects (NEOs). Here he has been active in the development of the REgolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS), a joint Harvard-MIT effort which is the student instrument for
OSIRIS-REx that will characterize the elemental composition of the surface of the asteroid 101955 Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is slated for launch in September of 2016, will reach Bennu in 2018, and return a sample to Earth in 2023.
You can find Branden the rest of the year on Twitter at @fermi_lives