Introducing Jennifer Piatek

Jennifer Piatek is an associate professor at Central Connecticut State University, where she teaches introductory courses in geology, astrobiology, and planetary astronomy as well as the occasional upper level course in planetary geology or remote sensing. Her research projects involve analysis of thermal infrared images of Mars with the goal of a better understanding the geologic processes that have affected the surface, as well as modeling of lab measurements of light scattering from analog materials. She also is active in projects that use advances in technology to help improve geoscience education through the use of high resolution panoramic images in the classroom and developing inclusive field experiences for students of differing abilities (with the benefit that both of these are great reasons to visit interesting geology, whether just down the road or a long plane flight away).
She was previously a postdoc at the University of Tennessee, and earned a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003, an M.S. from Arizona State University, and a B.S. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. When off campus (indeed there is such a place), she spends too much time consuming popular science fiction and fantasy, and not enough time outdoors.

Introducing Ryan Anderson

Dr. Ryan B. Anderson (@Ryan_B_Anderson) is a planetary scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, AZ, where he works on a mix of research and software development.  He got his PhD in Planetary Science from Cornell University. His thesis research played a role in the selection of Gale Crater as the landing site for the Curiosity Mars rover, and his work on analyzing Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) data with neural networks and other methods led to a role on the ChemCam science team. Ryan is also a member of the science team for the SuperCam instrument on the upcoming Mars 2020 rover and has a few smaller grants of his own, including two Mars geomorphology projects, and one to develop an open-source Python tool for analyzing LIBS (and other) spectra. He is also involved in a NASA-funded project to develop planetary science-themed after school activities for middle school students.

Ryan is passionate about science communication and education. He founded the Martian Chronicles blog, and enjoys giving public talks and generally sharing the excitement of science and planetary exploration.

Outside of work, Ryan enjoys spending time with his wife, baby, and two dogs. He also writes at his personal blog about non-science topics, and sometimes dabbles in fiction writing. He spends too much time on social media, and not enough on fun things like hiking and skiing.

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 Sarah Milkovich

Sarah Milkovich is a planetary geologist and system engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Sarah works on spacecraft science operations, at the point where science and engineering meet. Sarah is currently the lead Science System Engineer for the Mars 2020 Rover, which will seek signs of ancient life on Mars. She has previously worked on Mars Science Laboratory (the Curiosity rover), the Mars Phoenix lander, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft at Saturn, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, where she was the investigation scientist for the HiRISE camera. She has won JPL and NASA team awards for her efforts to return the best possible science within spacecraft engineering constraints.

Sarah grew up in Ithaca, New York. She earned her B.S. in planetary science from Caltech, and her M.S. and Ph.D. from Brown University in planetary geology with studies of mountain glaciers and polar deposits on Mars, and volcanism on Mercury. Sarah currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Jason, their son Marko (4), and their Labrador retriever Ginger. She dabbles in knitting, beading, and playing trombone.  Sarah regularly tweets at @milkysa and very occasionally blogs at

Introducing Tyler Nordgren

Tyler Nordgren is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Redlands. Prior to arriving at Redlands in 2001 he was an astronomer at both Lowell Observatory and the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. He earned his PhD in astronomy from Cornell University in 1997 for work on dark matter in interacting spiral galaxies. In addition to publishing roughly two dozen peer reviewed scientific articles he is also the author of “Stars Above, Earth Below: A guide to astronomy in the national parks,” a popular science book dedicated to revealing what visitors to America’s national parks can observe in a dark night sky. Since 2007, Dr. Nordgren has worked closely with the U.S. National Park Service Night Sky Program to promote astronomy outreach and night-sky preservation in national parks. Dr. Nordgren has helped document this vanishing landscape with award-winning artwork and night sky photography that has been on display in galleries from New York City to Flagstaff, Arizona and has been used in a number of national parks. He is a past-member of the Board of Directors for the International Dark-Sky Association. In 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover joined Spirit and Opportunity on Mars carrying sundials, or “Marsdials” which Dr. Nordgren helped design with a team of seven other scientists and artists. His new book on the Great American solar eclipse of 2017 is coming out next year.

Introducing Tanya Harrison

Tanya Harrison is a Ph.D. candidate in Geology at the University of Western Ontario’s Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) in Canada. Her current research focuses on martian gullies—how they formed and evolved, and what they can tell us about climate change in Mars’ recent past. From 2008–2012, she was on the science operations team for the Context Camera (CTX) and Mars Color Imager (MARCI) aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. She was also a science team collaborator for the Curiosity rover’s Mast Cameras (Mastcam), Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and Mars Descent Imager (MARDI), working in science operations for all three cameras at Malin Space Science Systems.
Tanya holds a B.Sc. in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Washington, and a Master’s in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Wesleyan University. In addition to being a Ph.D. student, she is a Web Editor Intern with The Planetary Society, editor of the Geological Association of Canada’s “Planetary Matters” newsletter and keeper of their Twitter account (@pgg_canadian), and a professional photographer. She has also been very active in education and public outreach for over 15 years with organizations/events such as CPSX, Expanding Your Horizons, Norwescon, The Mars Society, and The National Space Society.
The rest of the 51 weeks of the year,  you can find Tanya tweeting at @tanyaofmars

Introducing Fred Calef III

This week we have Fred Calef III hosting astrotweeps. Fred graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in Geological Sciences in 2010. His dissertation was on fresh small rayed impact craters on Mars, looking at ejecta retention rates and what they tell us about the current environment and geomorphic evolution of the surface. He postdoc’d at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) via the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) doing landing site analysis for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL, aka Curiosity) as well as trained as an Engineering Camera Payload Uplink Lead (ECAM-PUL) for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity. Towards the end of his postdoc, he was hired at JPL as the Geospatial Information Scientist, aka ‘Keeper of the Maps’, and Co-Localization Scientist for MSL. Besides work on MER and MSL, Fred is on the InSight lander science team as ‘Keeper of the Map’ for placement of a seismometer (SEIS) and heatprobe (HP3) as well as doing landing site analysis for InSight and the Mars2020 rover. You can find Fred on twitter at @cirquelar