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. 

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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.

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.