Heidi B. Hammel joined The Planetary Society's Board of Directors in 2005. Heidi is the Executive Vice President of AURA, Inc (Washington, DC). AURA is a non-profit consortium of universities and institutions that manages and operates astronomical facilities, including the Hubble Space Telescope.
She received her undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982 and her Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Hawaii in 1988. After a post-doctoral position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California), Heidi returned to MIT, where she spent nearly nine years as a Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
Heidi primarily studies outer planets and their satellites, with a focus on observational techniques. For the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in July 1994, Heidi led the Hubble Space Telescope Team that investigated Jupiter's atmospheric response to the collisions. An expert on the planet Neptune, she was a member of the Imaging Science Team for the Voyager 2 encounter with the gas giant in 1989. Her latest research involves studies of Neptune and Uranus with Hubble and other Earth-based observatories. Heidi is also an Interdisciplinary Scientist for Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled for launch in 2018.
Heidi received the 2002 American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (AAS/DPS) Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public.
Twenty-five years ago, multiple fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter, changing the face of the planet and the course of planetary science.
Heidi Hammel, the Chair of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Science, reacts to the recent budget news and the uncertain future for planetary science at NASA.
Preliminary estimates show that the meteoroid was 15 meters wide and weighed roughly 8000 tons. The resulting airburst would have the equivalent yield of about a 1/2 megaton explosion.
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Astronomer Heidi Hammel on the New Jupiter Impact