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AAS Names 29 NASA-Affiliated Legacy Fellows

ByDave Stopher

May 19, 2020

Twenty-nine scientists working at or affiliated with NASA have been named Fellows of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the major organization of professional astronomers in North America.

The AAS Fellows program was established in 2019 to honor members for their contributions toward the AAS mission of enhancing and sharing humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Being named a Fellow honors members for extraordinary achievement and service. AAS Fellows will be recognized for original research and publication, innovative contributions to astronomical techniques or instrumentation, significant contributions to education and public outreach, and noteworthy service to astronomy and to the Society itself.

The AAS Board of Trustees has designated an initial group of more than 200 Legacy Fellows. These include past recipients of certain awards from the AAS or its topical Divisions, distinguished AAS elected leaders and volunteer committee members, and previously unrecognized individuals with long histories of outstanding research, teaching, mentoring, and service. The scientists include:

Louis Allamandola, now semi-retired, founded the Astrophysics & Astrochemistry Laboratory at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. He came to Ames in 1983 to develop the Ames Astrochemistry Laboratory to continue studying analogs of cosmic ices and organics to support the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO). Since then, he and his team have done pioneering work in the fields of laboratory astrophysics, astrochemistry and astrobiology.

Spiro Antiochos is the Senior Scientist for Space Weather and Chief Scientist for the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He is an internationally recognized authority on space physics and plasma physics. His research is distinguished by the development of innovative models to explain major observational problems. He has made many fundamental advances to our understanding of the Sun and the heliosphere, the bubble surrounding our solar system’s planets and solar wind.

Natalie Batalha is an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She formerly worked at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley as the project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission, which ended in 2018. Kepler has demonstrated that Earth-size planets abound in the galaxy, and that there are more planets than stars. In 2015, she joined the leadership team of NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science Coalition, an initiative dedicated to the search for evidence of life beyond the solar system.

William Borucki was the principal investigator for Kepler and a space scientist at NASA Ames. When he began at Ames in 1962, he first worked to determine the plasma properties of hypervelocity shock waves to support the development of the heat shield for the Apollo Mission. After the successful Moon landings, he investigated lightning activity in planetary atmospheres and developed mathematical models to predict the effects of nitric oxides and chlorofluoromethanes on Earth’s ozone layer. He retired in 2015. In 2020, Borucki was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Edward Cheng, was formerly an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard, and is now Senior Partner and founder of Conceptual Analytics, LLC. Formerly the NASA Hubble Space Telescope Development project scientist, he provided scientific and technical leadership for Hubble, from deployment through the optical aberration recovery and ending with Servicing Mission 3B. He led the repair teams for Hubble’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer and Advanced Camera for Surveys instruments, as well as serving as the first Instrument Scientist for the Wide-Field Camera 3.

Dale Cruikshank is an astronomer and planetary scientist in the Astrophysics Branch at NASA Ames. His research specialties include using spectroscopic observations made with ground-based and space-based telescopes, as well as interplanetary spacecraft, to identify and study the ices, minerals and organic materials that compose the surfaces of planets and small bodies in the solar system. Using the Cassini spacecraft, he and his colleagues found hydrocarbons on several of Saturn’s satellites.

L. Drake Deming is a planetary scientist and infrared astronomer at the University of Maryland in College Park. He retired from NASA Goddard. His research focuses on characterization of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets using transit and eclipse techniques. He observes transiting exoplanetary systems using the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, and also using ground-based telescopes. He is a co-investigator for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), and is currently the Chair of the Atmospheric Characterization Working Group for TESS.

​Steven Dick served as the NASA Chief Historian and Director of the NASA History Office from 2003 to 2009 and, prior to that, as an astronomer and historian of science at the U.S. Naval Observatory for more than two decades. He was the 2014 Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology at the Library of Congress’s John W. Kluge Center, and in 2013 testified before the United States Congress on the subject of astrobiology. From 2011 to 2012 he held the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum.

Gerald “Jerry” Fishman is an emeritus scientist specializing in gamma-ray astronomy at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He joined NASA in 1974 and became principal investigator for the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) an extremely sensitive gamma-ray burst detector which flew on NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory from 1991-2000. He was also co-investigator on the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor, a key instrument aboard the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which was launched in 2008 and is still in operation.

Dawn Gelino is the Deputy Director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at IPAC on the Caltech campus in Pasadena, California. Her main research includes characterizing exoplanets and finding masses of compact objects in binary systems.  Since 2014, she has also been a lead for NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanetary System Science (NExSS) initiative, a research coordination network that spans all four Science Mission Directorate Divisions at NASA Headquarters.

Alice Harding has been an astrophysicist in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard since 1980. Her research interests have focused on the theory of high-energy particle acceleration and radiation processes in pulsars, highly magnetized neutron stars (magnetars), gamma-ray bursts and supernova remnants. She has been modeling gamma-ray pulsars for over 30 years and wrote one of the first papers in this field. Presently she is a member of the science team for NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) and the collaboration for Fermi.

Mike Hauser is an emeritus astronomer. He joined NASA in 1974 to start an Infrared Astrophysics program at NASA Goddard. Hauser worked on the Cosmic Background Explorer mission, which mapped and measured the oldest light in the universe. He retired from NASA in 1995 to become Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. He held this position from October 1995 until October 2009. He retired from STScI in December 2010, and is no longer active in research. He occasionally serves STScI in an advisory capacity.

Patricia Knezek is a Senior Advisor in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF).  She is currently on a three-year detail as a Program Scientist to the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. She joined the NSF in March 2013. Prior to that she had been with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory as a staff scientist. Her research has focused on the impact of star formation on the evolution of galaxies.  She has actively served the astronomical community in a number of ways, including being elected as a Councilor for the American Astronomical Society.

Chryssa Kouveliotou is a professor at George Washington University and the recently elected Physics Department Chair. She was formerly the Senior Technologist in High Energy Astrophysics at NASA Marshall. Her research has expanded our scientific understanding of fleeting, transient gamma-ray phenomena in the Milky Way galaxy and throughout the high-energy universe. She and her team made the first confirmed detection of neutron stars with extremely powerful magnetic fields, called magnetars – the cinders of stars left over after a supernova explosion. As a NASA scientist from 2004 to 2015 she worked on numerous astrophysics missions.

Jack Lissauer is a space scientist in the Planetary Systems Branch at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, where he conducts theoretical research on planet formation and planetary dynamics, as well as analysis of the architectures of exoplanet systems. He has authored numerous scientific technical papers, as well as two advanced planetary sciences textbooks. He has served as a scientific co-investigator for NASA’s Kepler and TESS spacecraft missions to discover transiting exoplanets.

Sangeeta Malhotra studies the nature of galaxies and their surroundings, from the most distant galaxies to our own cosmic backyard, at NASA Goddard. She is particularly interested in spectral line emission from galaxies.  She has led three major Hubble Space Telescope surveys that obtained slitless spectra of some of the most distant galaxies known. She also leads surveys at major ground-based telescopes, and projects on the Herschel, Spitzer, and Chandra space observatories. She is also currently a deputy project scientist on NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

Maxim Markevitch is an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard. His main interest is clusters of galaxies. He uses X-ray data to study cluster mergers, shock fronts and cold fronts, as well as properties of dark matter using clusters. He has worked on data from many X-ray missions, including Russa’s Granat Observatory, Chandra, NASA/ESA’s XMM-Newton Observatory, and Japan’s Hitomi Observatory, and participated in operations of some of them. He came to NASA Goddard after over 10 years working on Chandra calibration at the Chandra X-ray Center, and is currently involved in design and preparation of several new X-ray missions and concepts.

Stephen Maran, a senior advisor with the American Astronomical Society, is an astronomer and author with a long experience in the space program. The author or editor of twelve books and of over 100 popular articles on astronomy and space exploration, and many more scientific publications, he retired from NASA on October 1, 2004 after more than 35 years with the agency.  He worked at NASA Goddard from 1969 to 2004. His most recent position at Goddard was as Assistant Director of Space Sciences for Information and Outreach.

John Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard. He is also the senior project scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope. His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. As winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics, chosen by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Mather shares the prize with George F. Smoot of the University of California for their work using the COBE satellite to measure the heat radiation left over from the Big Bang.

Melissa McGrath was the Chief Scientist at NASA Marshall from 2005 to 2015. Prior to that, at the Space Telescope Science Institute, she worked for 13 years on the Hubble Space Telescope project. After retiring from NASA she joined the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, where her primary focus is her work as a co-investigator on three instruments selected for the European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission to Ganymede, and the NASA Europa Clipper mission to Europa. Her research expertise includes planetary and satellites atmospheres and magnetospheres, particularly imaging and spectroscopic studies of Jupiter’s Galilean satellites.

Keith Noll is a planetary astronomer at NASA Goddard where he is the project scientist for the Lucy mission. The Lucy mission is scheduled to launch in 2021 and will be the first mission to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, flying by six Trojans over a nearly 12-year mission. Noll is also an active member of the International Astronomical Union where he serves as Vice Chair of the Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature — the body responsible for naming asteroids, comets, and Kuiper Belt objects.

William Pence joined the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC) at NASA Goddard in December 1990, and has concentrated on developing standard FITS file formats for data from current and past high-energy astronomy missions. HEASARC is the primary archive for NASA’s (and other space agencies’) missions studying electromagnetic radiation from extremely energetic cosmic phenomena ranging from black holes to the Big Bang. Most of his scientific research has been devoted to the study of the internal photometric and kinematic properties of nearby spiral galaxies.

Christina Richey is the Program Manager for the Solar System Exploration Science Research & Analysis Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. They are also a Project Staff Scientist on the Europa Clipper mission. Prior to joining NASA JPL in 2018, they worked at NASA HQ as a Program Officer and the Deputy Science Advisor for Research & Analysis. They are an accomplished leader and award winner in dealing with anti-harassment policies and procedures and has been cited by major news agencies for their efforts within the community to create safe, inclusive environments.

Tod Strohmayer is a Senior Astrophysicist in the X-ray Astrophysics Laboratory at NASA Goddard. His research interests in astrophysics center around the extreme physics and properties of compact stars, with particular emphasis on neutron stars, neutron star binaries, and black holes. Tod served as the project scientist for NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) for the final three years of the observatory’s mission, which ended in early 2012. He is presently working on neutron star and black hole physics with the new capabilities of the NICER mission.

Linda Sparke is the Explorers Program Scientist in the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. As a professor of astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she co-authored the advanced undergraduate textbook “Galaxies in the Universe: an Introduction” with her faculty colleague Jay Gallagher. Before joining NASA, she spent two years as a Program Officer in Astronomical Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Her astronomical research interests focus on the many ways that gravity can act to produce the observed patterns of stars and gas in galaxies.

Jean Hebb Swank works as the project scientist for RXTE at NASA Goddard. Swank is also the principal investigator for the Proportional Counter Array, one of the three science instruments on RXTE. In 1999, the Rossi Prize of the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) of the AAS was awarded to Swank and Hale Bradt for their key roles in the development of the RXTE, and for the resulting important discoveries related to high time-resolution observations of compact astrophysical objects.

John Trauger is a Senior Research Scientist in Astrophysics and Space Sciences at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He served as the principal investigator for Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 instrument, for which he was awarded NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal. Inspired by the unique advantages of the space observatory, he has developed mission concepts and key coronagraph and wavefront control technologies for the direct imaging of exoplanet systems. He contributes to the development of a coronagraph instrument for the WFIRST space observatory as well as follow-on space mission concepts.

Kimberly Weaver is an astrophysicist who works in the X-ray Astrophysics Branch, Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics at NASA Goddard. She is currently the U.S. project scientist for NASA/ESA’s XMM-Newton Observatory. She previously served as Program Scientist for the Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chief Scientist for NASA’s Beyond Einstein program. Her research areas and interests include active galactic nuclei, supermassive black holes, and starburst galaxies. Additionally, she participates in the development, planning, and implementation of future X-ray observatories, and seeks to promote engagement in STEM fields at all educational levels.

Colleen Wilson-Hodge first came to NASA Marshall as an undergraduate cooperative education student in 1989. She joined the Astrophysics Branch full-time in 1992. Her research interests have focused on accretion powered pulsars, the Crab Nebula, X-ray binaries, and gamma-ray bursts. In 2016 she became the principal investigator for the Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM). Presently she continues to coordinate gravitational wave counterpart searches as GBM principal investigator, studies accreting pulsars with GBM and NICER, and is the project scientist for the proposed LargE Area burst Polarimeter (LEAP) mission.

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