Introducing Szilárd Gyalay

Szilárd Gyalay (@sgyalay) is currently a PhD student in the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Earth and Planetary Science department where he studies Saturn’s mid-sized icy moons. Using geophysical techniques, he infers which moons may have oceans beneath their ice shells.

Szilárd earned his bachelor’s at UCLA majoring in astrophysics and minoring in geophysics and planetary physics. There he researched the bulk infrared properties of the moon. In his spare time he rock climbs or plays video games and board games.

Introducing Beth Johnson

Beth Johnson is a graduate student in geology at San Jose State University in California. She is also the social media coordinator for the SETI Institute, where she shares not only the news, outreach, and photographs of the Institute’s work but curates a wide variety of astronomy, space, and planetary news from other sources. Her master’s research may be grounded in submarine volcanoes here on Earth, but she hopes to apply what she learns to cryovolcanoes in our solar system, particularly at Europa and Enceladus. Prior to her graduate studies, she completed her undergraduate work, also at SJSU, in physics with an emphasis in astrophysics. She worked on several research projects at the university, including looking for earthquake precursor signals in MgO and analyzing galactic evolution processes. She spent the summer of 2013 in an internship via CAMPARE (Cal Poly Pomona) at the SETI Institute, where she worked with Dr. Peter Jenniskens on NASA’s Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance project (CAMS). She analyzed the data for numerous meteor tracks and helped find several new meteor showers. She presented posters on her research at both winter and summer AAS conferences in 2014. In her personal life, she is the wife of a Canadian network engineer/hockey player, the mother of an almost-teenager, and the guardian of five cats. She is passionate about science communication and education and can be found on many social media sites as planetarypan. She volunteers with the local Astronomy on Tap group to publicize and help host their monthly events. She recently joined the Weekly Space Hangout Crew and will be a regular on the show starting in October. She has ambitious plans to launch her own Twitch stream later this year.

Introducing Paul Byrne

Paul Byrne (@ThePlanetaryGuy) is Assistant Professor of Planetary Science at North Carolina State University. He graduated with a Ph.D. in planetary geology from Trinity College Dublin in 2010 and participated in the MESSENGER mission as a postdoctoral fellow from 2011 to 2015 at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Through a combination of remotely sensed data, physical and numerical modeling, and fieldwork at analog sites, his research focuses on the links between surface and interior processes on rocky and icy bodies in this solar System and beyond.

Introducing Nick Attree

Nick Attree (@nick_attree) is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stirling in Scotland, working on thermal modelling in support of the InSight mission. InSight, which lands on Mars on the 26th November, will measure subsurface temperatures up to 5 m deep in order to determine the geothermal heat flow, as well as measuring Mars-quakes! The group at Stirling is interested in the physical and mechanical properties of the upper regolith layers, and how these affect the heat flow measurements.

Nick worked previously at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, in the south of France, on the MiARD (Multi Instrument Analysis of Rosetta Data) project, using modelling and data from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft to explore the physical and mechanical properties of comet 67P. In particular, he used OSIRIS camera images to analyse surface features, such as overhanging cliffs and fractures, to investigate the mechanical strength of the nucleus material, as well as navigation and position data, to measure the effects of outgassing on the comet’s orbit.

Nick completed his PhD at Queen Mary University of London, working with Cassini data on collisions in Saturn’s F ring. Before that, he obtained his MPhys degree in Physics with Planetary Science from Leicester University.

Outside of research, he enjoys football (watching and playing), walking, reading, sci-fi, music, coffee & cake, and exploring new places in Scotland!

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 Cayman Unterborn

I am a 5th year Ph.D Candidate at The Ohio State University working in the School of Earth Science. My research looks at what it takes to build a habitable planet from a geologic perspective rather than the more traditional definition of the “habitable zone”. My work blends astronomy, geology and physics to understand which planetary compositions produce a planet able to sustain liquid water on its surface as well as control the carbon content of the atmosphere. On the Earth, this regulation of water/carbon is a consequence of plate tectonics, which in turn is driven by compositional differences in the mantle and an internal heat budget great enough to support interior convection. My previous work has looked at some of the extremes of this “geologic habitable zone”, such as so called “diamond planets” as well as measuring stellar Thorium abundance as a proxy for extrasolar heat budgets. The end goal of my research is to understand just how special the Earth may be with regards to it being habitable, or perhaps there are a range of compositions, perhaps even very un-Earth-like ones, that are able to produce dynamic planets capable of sustaining surface water and maybe even conditions to support life.

Introducing Amy Barr

This week, May 26-31, 2014, features Amy Barr. Amy  is a planetary scientist who is interested in how the moons of gas giant planets accrete, evolve during their first billion years, and form the strange geology on their surfaces.  She has worked extensively on the geophysics of Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Enceladus. She is an alumna, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Summer Science Program, a summer enrichment program in astronomy for gifted high school students.  She holds a BS in planetary science from Caltech and a PhD in Astrophysics & Planetary Science from the University of Colorado.  After five years as a research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO, Amy joined the faculty of Brown University where she is an assistant professor.  In their off hours, Amy and her husband Vladan (a condensed matter physicist) enjoy skiing, doing more science, travel, and spending time on the New England coast.  The rest of the year, she tweets as @amytoast.