After 20 years at the helm, our friend and colleague Mat Kaplan is retiring as the host of Planetary Radio — a show he started from scratch that now reaches more than 2.5 million listeners each year in more than 40 countries.
It is a bittersweet moment. Many people make podcasts, but Mat has built something truly beloved, which is pretty impossible to quantify. But if we were to try, it doesn’t hurt to note that Planetary Radio is in the top 0.5% of all science podcasts — a testament to Mat’s radio magic.
The good news is our show will be in excellent hands after Mat’s departure. We can finally announce Planetary Radio’s new host.
We’re delighted to introduce you to Sarah Al-Ahmed.
Sarah is a talented science communicator informed by an educational background in astronomy and astrophysics. She decided to pursue a career in space when she was just six years old after her teacher brought in a news clipping of an exoplanet discovery.
“I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” she said. “I told my mom that night, ‘This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’”
Sarah followed her dreams.
After high school, Sarah attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a degree in astrophysics. In 2015, she started working at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, giving science lectures on the floor, guiding school field trips, and writing for its magazine. She became a show producer for Griffith’s monthly show and webcast “All Space Considered,” where she eventually served as their citizen science correspondent.
About three years ago, Mat was invited onto “All Space Considered” as a guest. According to Mat, an “enthusiastic young woman” named Sarah sat down next to his wife, Adrienne, and explained that she was an Observatory employee who had helped produce that night's show.
“Adrienne told me when I came off the stage that I had to meet her,” he recalled. “I'll be forever grateful for that delightful introduction. Sarah had my deep love for all things cosmic, but she also had a degree in astrophysics and has spent time in the field.”
Sometime after that meeting, Sarah applied to work at The Planetary Society, where she was hired as our Digital Community Manager. For the last two years, she’s brought science to the public as the lead voice of our social media channels and has developed new ways to engage with our members.
When Mat announced his retirement from the show earlier this year, The Planetary Society set out on an extensive search for a new host. Hundreds of people applied. Sarah’s gift for finding and communicating the most compelling stories and insights from the space community to the public made her the clear choice. She is very excited to get to know you all, and we are excited for you to get to know her.
“There are so few people in this world who are not only given the opportunity to work a job they enjoy, but to work a dream job,” she said. “It feels cosmically lucky that of all the people in the universe, I could be given a job like this.”
As for Mat, he couldn’t be happier for Sarah or the show.
“The loyal Planetary Radio audience is about to discover someone who loves to share the PB&J of space — the passion, beauty, and joy — as much as I do,” he said. “I can't wait to see where she and our colleagues take us in this new era.”
You’ll be hearing more from Mat and Sarah over the next few months. Sarah will officially start as Planetary Radio’s primary host on Jan. 4. Mat will continue to participate in The Planetary Society’s work after he hangs up his headphones on Dec. 30.
For now, we hope you’ll join us in congratulating both Mat and Sarah on their new adventures.