Introducing Cesare Grava

I am a Research Scientist at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. I got both my master’s degree and my PhD in Astronomy at the University of Padua, Italy, where Galileo discovered the Jovian moons and ushered the modern era of astronomy, with a thesis on (among other objects)… Io, one of the Galilean moons. I study the exospheres of airless bodies in the Solar System: the Moon, Io, Mercury… you name it. I combine Monte Carlo modeling with data analysis (spectroscopy), with data taken both from the ground and from space. I am deputy project scientist of LAMP, UV spectrograph on board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and I am on the team of Strofio, a mass spectrometer that is currently en route to Mercury on BepiColombo. You can find me on twitter at @cesaregrava

Besides astronomy (especially planetary science), my passions are (in no particular order): movies (including some blockbusters), geography, traveling, hiking, Queen, and photography.



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 Tim Holt

Tim Holt (@timholtastro )is an Australian PhD candidate at the Centre for Astrophysics, University of Southern Queensland. The commute is a bit far though, as he currently has an office at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO, USA. He is in his second year of a PhD working on the Taxonomy and Dynamics of small Solar system bodies, with a primary focus on the Jovian Trojan Asteroids. There are two aspects to this work, using n-body simulations to look at the dynamics of families, and borrowing a technique from biology, cladistics for the taxonomy.

In a previous life, Tim spent his undergraduate at the University of Queensland digging up Dinosaurs. There were some diversions in retail, and a stint as a high school science teacher, before eventually settling in Astronomy with Swinburne Astronomy Online.

Besides science, Tim enjoys Sci-fi in it’s many forms, especially Internet Spaceships (Eve Online), books, IT stuff, board games and traveling.

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!

Introducing Brian Jackson

Brian Jackson ( is an assistant professor teaching astronomy in the Physics Department at Boise State University. Before coming to Boise State, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington DC and before that, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD. He earned a PhD in Planetary Sciences from the University of Arizona‘s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson AZ and my BS in Physics from Georgia Tech in Atlanta GA. His research focuses primarily on orbital dynamics and transit observations of extrasolar planets, planets outside of our solar system. He also does some planetary science field work, notably on Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa ( and on terrestrial and Martian dust devils.

(Re)Introducing Michele Bannister

Dr Michele Bannister (@astrokiwi) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Director’s Outreach Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom. An expert in the discovery and characterization of minor planets in the Solar System, she has been involved in the discovery of more than eight hundred new minor planets that orbit beyond Neptune. Originally from New Zealand, Bannister has worked at institutes in Australia, the US, and Canada. She was honoured in 2017 by the International Astronomical Union with asteroid (10463) Bannister.

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 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 or @elakdawalla on Twitter.