Introducing Jonathan Fortney

Jonathan Fortney is a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He focuses on understanding the atmospheres, interiors, and composition of planets in our solar system and “exoplanets” around other stars. He was on the science team for NASA’s Kepler and Cassini Missions, and is currently on the Juno science team. He is the director of the Other Worlds Laboratory (OWL) at UC Santa Cruz, which hosts an exoplanet summer program each year. Jonathan’s research focuses on theory and modeling efforts, from giant planets down to terrestrial-mass worlds. He is on the Steering Committee for the Astro2020 Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz, Jonathan did a postdoc at NASA Ames, PhD at University of Arizona, and BS at Iowa State University.


Re-introducing Sarah McIntyre

I’m Sarah McIntyre (@ExoBioExplorer) a PhD student at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University.

My current research aims to examine the effect that a diverse range of astronomical and planetary parameters have on an exoplanet’s ability to sustain liquid water. I spend most of my time working on exoplanet models and simulations and doing lab experiments. Long term research plans include helping determine optimal targets for near-future ground- and space-based observations of planetary atmospheres and the potential detection of life in space.

When not exploring exoplanets I read (lately mainly about AI/machine learning), compose, play piano (or violin) and travel.

Reintroducing Jonathan Fortney

Jonathan Fortney is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, and the director of their Other Worlds Laboratory ( He received his PhD in Planetary Sciences in 2004 from the University of Arizona and was a postdoc for 4 years at NASA Ames Research Center before starting at UC Santa Cruz in 2008.

Jonathan’s major fields of interest are the atmospheres, interiors, spectra, composition, and evolution of planets, both inside and outside the solar system.  He focuses on modeling and theory of these objects, with targets that range from terrestrial planets to brown dwarfs.  He was a member of the Kepler Science Team during its prime mission and is currently a member of the Cassini Science Team.

Introducing Mark Marley

Mark Marley is a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View California and also a Consulting Professor at Stanford University, where he teaches classes on planetary and exoplanet science. As a theoretician his research primarily focuses on the atmospheres of solar and extrasolar giant planets and brown dwarfs. Specifically he aims to interpret the spectra of these objects to help understand their composition, cloud and thermal structures, and ultimately their origin and evolution through time. As a member of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey team he recently helped to interpret the first planet discovered by this ground based coronagraphic imaging camera, 51 Eridani b. He has served on a variety of NASA committees, including both the Terrestrial Planet Finder-Coronagraph and the Exo-C space telescope Science and Technology Definition Teams. Beyond planetary and brown dwarf atmospheric modeling his research interests include giant planet seismology and atmospheric variability in a variety of substellar atmospheres.

A third generation Arizonan, Mark grew up in Phoenix, attended Caltech where he majored in Geophysics and Planetary Science, and then moved back home to attend graduate school in Planetary Science at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. His thesis work with Bill Hubbard and Carolyn Porco explored how perturbations in Saturn’s gravity field induced by planetary oscillation modes of the planet might create gaps and waves in the rings. The predictions of this work were ultimately confirmed, 25 years later, by the Cassini mission to Saturn. After graduate school he held a NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship under the late Jim Pollack, where he studied the atmospheric structure of ice giant planets. In 1993 he accepted a faculty position in the Astronomy Department of New Mexico State University where he stayed until 2000, at which time he moved back to NASA Ames as a civil servant scientist. When not modeling exoplanet atmospheres Mark enjoys hiking and exploring with his wife of 25 years, Mars scientist Ginny Gulick, his two daughters, and intrepid dog Pepsi.

Introducing Jo Barstow

Jo is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford. She studies the atmospheres of planets both inside and outside the solar system. Clouds on these planets tend to get in the way of finding out other things about their atmospheres, so she has decided to embrace this fact by taking a particular interest in modelling clouds. Jo is also a keen science outreacher and one of her favourite activities is making model comets out of dry ice.

Jo studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge before crossing to the dark blue side for her DPhil (Oxford’s fancy name for a PhD). She has been working in Oxford since the completion of her doctorate in 2011. When she’s not doing science, she loves reading, singing and taking part in/watching musical theatre — in April she’ll be getting her habit on for an amateur production of Sister Act! She usually tweets about science and singing from @DrJoVian.

Introducing Jayne Birkby

This week features Jayne Birkby, a NASA Carl Sagan postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) at Harvard University. Jayne’s research focuses on determining the chemical make up of exoplanet atmospheres in order to understand how and where such planets are born and evolve. Ultimately, she aims to use her observing techniques in the future on extremely large telescopes to identify signs of life (biomarkers) on Earth-like planets elsewhere in the Milky Way.
Jayne grew up in England and studied at Durham University for her Masters in Physics and Astronomy. She then moved to the University of Cambridge where she undertook her PhD studying the smallest stars in our galaxy, the M-dwarfs, and looking for their companion exoplanets. Afterwards, Jayne headed over to Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands for her first postdoc to study exoplanet atmospheres. After three years surrounded by canals, bicycles, and stroopwafels, Jayne departed Leiden in June this year and followed in the path of the pilgrims over to Boston to begin as a fellow at the CfA. One of the favourite parts of Jayne’s work is when she goes to telescopes to collect data and gets to watch the sun set and rise over some breathtakingly beautiful and remote locations. She hopes one day we will do this on other planets too. You can find Jayne over at @jaynebirkby during the rest of the year.

Introducing Sarah Hörst

This week, February 17-22, 2014, features  Sarah Hörst. Sarah is currently a National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow working in the research group of Dr. Margaret Tolbert at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Sarah considers herself to be a planetary atmospheric chemist interested in any atmosphere besides present day Earth’s (although that is changing too!). Sarah spends most of her time studying the complex chemistry that leads to the formation of a thick organic haze layer in the atmosphere of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Sarah is trying to understand the processes that lead to the formation of haze, the composition of Titan’s haze, and what all of those things mean for chemistry that leads to the origin of life on Earth or elsewhere in the Universe. To do this, Sarah runs experimental simulations of haze formation in the laboratory in addition to computer modeling of planetary atmospheres. Sarah also works with K12 teachers to help them use planetary science in their classroom because planetary science can be used as a gateway to so many other STEM fields. In September, Sarah will be starting as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.The other 51 weeks of the year, you can find Sarah at   @PlanetDr.