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.

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Introducing Will Armentrout

Will Armentrout (@WillArmentrout) is a doctoral student at West Virginia University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. A graduate of Westminster College (@WestminsterPA), his roots are in Ford City, Pennsylvania, a glass town northeast of Pittsburgh. He’s in his last year of graduate school at WVU, studying high-mass star formation and Galactic HII regions with Prof. Loren Anderson (@Loren__Anderson). HII regions are areas of ionized gas surrounding young, high-mass stars and can help us to understand the structure, formation, and chemistry of galaxies. Will’s current project involves observing HII regions in the most distant molecular spiral arm within the Milky Way, known as the Outer Scutum-Centaurus spiral arm.

Will is spending this week at the Green Bank Telescope (@IamGBT), smack in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, which will certainly make tweeting a bit difficult! Primarily a radio astronomer, he is the principal investigator on projects with the GBT and the Very Large Array (@TheNRAO). He has recently moved into optical astronomy, though, with a project at the Gemini North Observatory (@GeminiObs).

Outside of research, he co-founded the West Virginia University Science Policy Organization (@WVUScience) in 2014. The group aims to open communication channels between university scientists and policy makers on the state and federal level and to also convey the importance (and excitement!) of basic and applied scientific research to the public. He also serves as president of the WVU Graduate and Professional Student Senate (@WVUGPSS), a group dedicated to keeping graduate students part of the larger campus conversation at WVU.

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.

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 Daniel Majaess

Daniel Majaess’ primary research interest pertains to improving the reliability of the cosmic distance scale. Establishing a reliable distance scale is crucial for determining the expansion rate of the Universe, the age of the Universe, and facilitating efforts to delineate the structure of our Milky Way galaxy. Dan presently divides his time between research as a member of ESO’s VVV survey, and instructing astronomy and physics at Saint Mary’s University and Mount Saint Vincent University. He likewise enjoys contributing articles to Universe Today news site, which was started by fellow Canadian Fraser Cain. Regarding the structure of our Milky Way galaxy, Dan remarks that unfortunately our presence within the plane of the Galaxy hampers efforts to map its structure. Indeed, there is currently no consensus on the number or nature of the Galaxy’s spiral arms and its central structure. Dan Majaess is a Canadian astronomer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Introducing Abhijeet Borkar

I did my B.Sc. from the Fergusson College, Pune, India in 2010, M.Sc. in Physics from the University of Pune, Pune, India, with specialization in Quantum Field Theory. After that I went for PhD at the University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany, as a part of the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR). I recently completed my PhD in November 2015, and will soon start my first post-doc position at the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic.

For my masters’ thesis, I worked on the modelling of the gas distribution in local dwarf galaxies and relating the star formation rates with the gas distribution. My PhD thesis was about the observations of the Galactic Center at 3 mm to study the flaring activity of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and the study of the stellar SiO maser sources in the central parsec region. My research interests include the Galactic Center region, the AGN-host relation & Evolution, Cosmic Archaeology, Formation of first objects in the Universe (First Stars, First Galaxies, First Black Holes), Radio Interferometry etc.

I am also fairly active in public outreach in India, where I have been involved with the Astro Club at the Fergusson College, Pune. Currently involved in activities related to improving science awareness among students in parts of rural India.

You can find me on Twitter at @borkarabhijeet

Introducing Rachael Livermore

Rachael is a British astronomer working at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her Bachelors in Mathematics and Physics with Astrophysics from King’s College London, her Masters in Astronomy from the University of Sussex and her PhD from Durham University before moving to Texas as a postdoc.
Her research focuses on the most distant galaxies, trying to understand how the earliest galaxies formed and the effect they had on the reionization of the Universe in its first billion years. Her specialty is gravitational lensing, whereby galaxies that are seen behind massive galaxy clusters appear magnified.
She is also heavily involved in public outreach as the co-founder and host of Astronomy on Tap ATX (@AoTATX), a series of free astronomy talks held in a bar in Austin. She will be hosting this event for the last time this week.
Rachael usually tweets as @rhaegal.