NASA Selects 2013 Carl Sagan Fellows

The 2013 Carl Sagan Fellows The 2013 Carl Sagan Fellows (left to right): Jared Males, University of Arizona, Tucson; Katja Poppenhaeger, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.; Jacob Simon, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas; Jennifer Yee, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.; Avi Shporer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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April 09, 2013

NASA has selected five planet hunters to receive the 2013 Carl Sagan Exoplanet Postdoctoral Fellowships. The fellowship, named for the late astronomer, was created to inspire the next generation of explorers seeking to learn more about planets, and possibly life, around other stars.

The primary goal of the fellowship program is to support outstanding recent postdoctoral scientists in conducting independent research related to the science goals of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program.

Significant discoveries have already been made by previous Sagan Fellows. One recent discovery found that the size and location of an asteroid belt may determine whether complex life will evolve on an Earth-like planet .

"In the past decade, astronomers have made incredible progress toward Carl Sagan's goal of understanding the existence of life, and ultimately, of intelligent life throughout the universe," said Charles Beichman, executive director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The young scientists named as this year's Sagan Fellows will help to make dramatic new progress toward this goal through their observational, theoretical and instrumental contributions."

The program, created in 2008, awards selected postdoctoral scientists with annual stipends of $65,500 for up to three years, plus an annual research budget of up to $16,000.

The 2013 Sagan Fellows are:

-- Jared Males, who will work at the University of Arizona, Tucson, to investigate exoplanetary habitability by perfecting instrumentation to image Jupiter- and Saturn-sized planets in the liquid- water habitable zone of nearby stars.

-- Katja Poppenhaeger, who will work at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass., to explore how stars and close-in planets influence each other's evolution over time.

-- Jacob Simon, who will work at the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, to understand the formation of planets out of gas and dust disks.

-- Jennifer Yee, who will work at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., to measure the frequency of massive planets around low mass stars using microlensing.

-- Avi Shporer, who will work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to find massive extrasolar planets that do not transit their parent stars.

NASA has two other astrophysics theme-based fellowship programs: the Einstein Fellowship Program, which supports research into the physics of the cosmos, and the Hubble Fellowship Program, which supports research into cosmic origins. The Sagan Fellowship Program is administered by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute as part of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program at JPL. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

A full description of the 2013 fellows and their projects, and other information about these programs is available at: http://nexsci.caltech.edu/sagan/2013postdocRecipients.shtml .

More information about the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute is available at: http://nexsci.caltech.edu .

More information about NASA's Astrophysics Division is at: http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics .

Elena Mejia (818) 393-5467
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Elena.mejia@jpl.nasa.gov

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