To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first discovery of exoplanets - planets around other sun-like stars - the Carnegie Institution for Science and the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program are hosting a special program, highlighting prominent scientists connected to the discovery and our understanding of exoplanets.
Dr. Natalie Batalha is a research astronomer in the Space Sciences Division of NASA Ames Research Center and the Kepler Mission Scientist. Dr. Batalha started her career as a stellar spectroscopist studying young, sun-like stars. She holds a bachelor degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, a doctorate in astrophysics from UC Santa Cruz, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Inspired by the growing number of exoplanet discoveries she joined the team led by William Borucki at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., working on transit photometry -- an emerging technology for finding exoplanets.
Dr. Batalha has been involved with the Kepler Mission since the proposal stage, and as one of the original Co-Investigators was responsible for the selection of the more than 150,000 stars the spacecraft monitors. She works closely with team members at Ames to identify viable planet candidates from Kepler photometry. She led the analysis that yielded the discovery in 2011 of Kepler-10b - the first confirmed rocky planet outside our solar system.
Her contributions to the Kepler team efforts are central to the Kepler discoveries that humans, prior, have left to the imagination and the realms of science fiction.
Alan Boss is an astrophysicist and a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and a member of its Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, where he does research on planetary and stellar formation.
He is also a member of the Science Working Group for NASA's Kepler Mission to determine the frequency of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way Galaxy and serves on the Kepler Science council, the group that will oversee Kepler's planet discoveries. One of the world's leading authorities on the formation of stars and planets, he has been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
UC Berkeley's Center for Integrative Planetary Science's professor Geoff Marcy writes, "Rarely is the history of science so accurately told as in this lively and authoritative book. Alan Boss offers insights about our terrestrial origins, our extraterrestrial brethren, and our destiny in the Galaxy, placing our Earth in the cosmic context for the first time."
R. Paul Butler
Dr. R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Washington, D.C., Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, and his colleagues are pioneers in the search for extrasolar planets. Butler, and his associate Dr. Geoffrey Marcy, developed the most sensitive and widely used planet-detection technique and have discovered most of the known planets, including the first multiple-planet system, the only planet thus far found to transit a host star and two sub-Saturn mass planets.
Butler was born in San Diego, California. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics and chemistry as well as a master's in physics from San Francisco State University. He received a doctorate in astronomy at the University of Maryland in 1993. In 2001, Butler was awarded the prestigious Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Other recent honors include being named an American Astronomical Society Centennial Lecturer in 2000 and receiving the inaugural University of Maryland College of Physical Sciences Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2001.
Butler served as a research scientist at San Francisco State University and a visiting research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1993 to 1997. From 1997 through 1999 he was a staff astronomer at the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Australia, where he initiated the Anglo-Australian Planet Search. Butler's current work focuses on improving the sensitivity of the precision velocity planet search technique to detect smaller-mass and more-distant planets, and on expanding the ongoing planet survey to all 2,000 nearby Sun-like stars out to 150 light-years.