Introducing Henry Throop

Henry Throop is a planetary astronomer based in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the outer solar system, and he has published over 40 articles in scientific journals, on topics ranging from to rings of Saturn and Jupiter, to planet and star formation, to astrobiology and the origins of life, to searching for (and co-discovering) Pluto’s smallest moon, Styx, in 2012. Throop is member of the science team for NASA’s New Horizons mission, and was involved in its historic flyby of Pluto in 2015 and Ultima Thule in 2019. He received a PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Colorado, in 2000. Throop is a program officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, where he is a program manager for NASA’s planetary research program.

Throop has spent much of his career bringing astronomy to the developing world. While living for eight years in Africa, India, and Mexico, he worked extensively with schools and community groups, helping to develop their science programs and inspire the next generation of leaders. He has presented more than 150 lectures for science festivals, planetariums, school groups, and public events across the world. Throop’s work has been featured in Science, Nature, Time, The Washington Post, and on the History Channel and National Geographic TV, as well as dozens of newspapers from Pakistan to Hungary to Namibia.

Throop’s work has won him broad accolades. In 2017 he was awarded both the US State Department’s Avis Bohlen Award, and the American Astronomical Society’s Carl Sagan Medal, for his work in science communication and outreach to the public. Asteroid “193736 Henrythroop” was named in his honor.


Introducing Cathy Olkin

Cathy Olkin (@colkin) is a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. Her main topic of research is the outer solar system, specifically planetary atmospheres and surfaces.  She is the Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The New Horizons mission provided the first close-up images of Pluto and its moons in 2015. It is currently en route to encounter a close classical Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. She is also the Deputy Principal Investigator for NASA’s Lucy mission. The Lucy mission will be the first spacecraft to visit the Trojan asteroids. Cathy also carries out ground-based observations including stellar occultations to learn about the size and atmosphere of small worlds and is the current Chair of the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society.

In her free time, Cathy mentors FIRST robotics programs providing hands-on STEM education for students from 4th grade to 12th grade.

Introducing Simon Porter

Simon Porter (@ascendingnode) is a Research Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He is a Co-Investigator on NASA’s New Horizons extended mission to encounter the cold classical Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69. On the mission, he focuses on the small satellites of Pluto, determining the orbit of 2014 MU69, and the other KBOs that New Horizons is passing along the way. This summer, he is supporting the stellar occultations of MU69s, in South Africa, aboard SOFIA, and in Patagonia. In addition to mission work, he studies the orbital and tidal dynamics of other binary and triple KBOs and Centaurs.

Simon is originally from Burlington, Ontario, Canada, and grew up there, Oxfordshire, and Tennessee. He received a BS in Physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and was a undergrad Space Grant intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He received his PhD in Astrophysics from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and was a Predoctoral Fellow at Lowell Observatory. Simon enjoys hiking, aerospace history, and identifying obscure aircraft/rockets/spacecraft.