(Re)introducing Andy Rivkin

Andy is a planetary astronomer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, with his research focusing on the composition of asteroids. In particular, he is interested in those asteroids that have evidence of water or organic materials in them, detectable in their infrared reflectance spectrum. This pursuit has led to studies of asteroids all over the inner solar system, from dwarf planets to objects that can fit inside a sports stadium.

In addition to observational work, Andy has been active in the broader near-Earth object community, serving as a team member in several efforts to understand and report the impact hazard we face and how to lessen it, including serving as Investigation Lead for the DART mission scheduled to conduct a planetary defense demonstration in 2022. Finally, Andy is the Principal Investigator of the MANTIS mission concept, which if selected by NASA will conduct an asteroid tour in the 2020s.

The other 51 weeks of the year, you can find Andy at @asrivkin.


Introducing Saramoira Shields

Saramoira Shields (@mathematigal) is an engineer working for the Space Systems Design Studio at Cornell University. The SSDS is a multifaceted research lab, with active projects in small-scale satellite design, rover design, interstellar and inter-orbit navigation, flux pinning and and non-contact actuation. Previously, she has worked for the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source, as well as for the Cornell Astronomy Instrumentation Group, on the ARCoIRIS ad ZEUS-2 spectrographs. She started out in pure mathematics, and still noodles around in it from time to time. She also loves ultramarathoning, distance hiking, dragon boating and spending quality time with her two cats, Parsec and Ligo.

Introducing Charlotte Angus

Charlotte Angus (@c_r_angus) is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southampton, where she works on supernovae found within the Dark Energy Survey (@theDESSurvey). In particular, she is interested in Superluminous Supernovae, a rare class of supernovae that are extremely bright – around 10 to 100 times brighter than “normal” supernovae, and are visible for months at a time. The sheer amount of energy required to drive these luminous explosions has begun to challenge supernova models and our curruent understanding of their underlying physics. Charlotte hopes to shed some light on these brilliant explosions by studying the properties of the supernovae themselves, and also the properties of the galaxies from which they originate. This may provide a better picture of what type of stars make these transients, and how they exploded.
Charlotte has been slowly migrating to warmer climates throughout her academic career, first obtaining her MPhys at the University of Sheffield in 2013, then moving to the midlands to complete her PhD at the University of Warwick in 2017, and now she resides in sunny Southampton! Although she’s still a yorkshire girl at heart, occasionally forgetting to use “the” in conversation. Outside of research, Charlotte enjoys long distance running and triathlon, fuelled by the insane amount of cakes she bakes between races.

Introducing Harriet Brettle

Harriet Brettle is a Planetary Sciences graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. She is the Strategic Partnerships Team coordinator of the Space Generation Advisory Council, supporting its mission to represent students and young professionals to the United Nations, space agencies, industry, and academia. Harriet has a keen interest in public engagement with space science, interactions between different fields relevant to space exploration, and the future of new space economy. 

(Re)Introducing Michele Bannister

Dr Michele Bannister (@astrokiwi) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Director’s Outreach Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom. An expert in the discovery and characterization of minor planets in the Solar System, she has been involved in the discovery of more than eight hundred new minor planets that orbit beyond Neptune. Originally from New Zealand, Bannister has worked at institutes in Australia, the US, and Canada. She was honoured in 2017 by the International Astronomical Union with asteroid (10463) Bannister.

Introducing Emily Lakdawalla

Emily Lakdawalla is an internationally admired science communicator and educator, passionate about advancing public understanding of space and sharing the wonder of scientific discovery.

Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in geology from Amherst College and a Master of Science degree in planetary geology from Brown University. She came to The Planetary Society in 2001. She has been writing and editing the Planetary Society Blog since 2005, reporting on space news, explaining planetary science, and sharing beautiful space photos. Emily has been an active supporter of the international community of space image processing enthusiasts as Administrator of the forum UnmannedSpaceflight.com since 2005. She is also a contributing editor to Sky & Telescope magazine.

Her first book, titled The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job, is due out from Springer-Praxis in March, 2018. The book explains the development, design, and function of Curiosity with the same level of technical detail that she delivers in the Planetary Society Blog. A second book, Curiosity and Its Science Mission: A Mars Rover Goes to Work will follow in 2019.

She was awarded the 2011 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award from the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society for her blog entry about the Phoebe ring of Saturn. Asteroid 274860 was formally named “Emilylakdawalla” by the International Astronomical Union on July 12, 2014. She received an honorary doctorate from The Open University in 2017 in recognition of her contributions in communicating space science to the public.

Emily can be reached at blog@planetary.org or @elakdawalla on Twitter.

Introducing Esther Hanko

Esther Hanko (@EstherHanko) is the local outreach coordinator of the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy of the UvA in Amsterdam, NL. She’s had an unconventional career path. After earning a master’s degree in Linguistics, she decided that an academic career was not for her and started working as a Linux system engineer in 2006. She worked for big companies like KLM (the Royal Dutch Airlines) but in 2015, she decided it was time for a change and started working for the API.

At the API, she organizes visits to the observatory. She also maintains much of the API website contents and the institute’s social media (@uva_api). One of her main goals is developing new audiences and finding ways to reach them. Another part of her job is maintenance of the observatory telescopes, working closely with a master student, in order to keep the students’ observing projects running smoothly.

She has been an amateur astronomer since 2012, after seeing an image of Io casting its shadow on Jupiter and realizing that she was now a grown up and could actually just buy herself a telescope. She also dabbles in no-telescope astrophotography, and shares her work online. She loves to write about her astronomy adventures and blogs about it in Dutch on her website oetie.nl. In her spare time, she is one of the moderators on the Dutch astronomy forum astroforum.nl, where one of her tasks is to help pick and write about the “Object of the Month”, a shared observing challenge.

She is passionate about creating awareness about light pollution, promoting the art of astronomical sketching, and teaching anyone who will listen to her that the skies are closer than you think.