Two postdocs receive fellowships to study exoplanets

Peter Gao and Katherine de Kleer

Peter Gao and Katherine de Kleer are new 51 Pegasi b Fellows, named after the first exoplanet discovered around a star like the sun. Photos courtesy of Heising-Simons Foundation.

An incoming postdoc and a departing Ph.D. are among four new 51 Pegasi b Fellows announced this week by the Heising-Simons Foundation.

The fellowship, named after the first planet discovered around a star like our sun, supports postdoctoral researchers in the growing field of planetary astronomy, which focuses on celestial objects within and beyond our solar system.

Peter Gao, who received a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the California Institute of Technology last year, will collaborate with astronomy professor Imke de Pater on advanced computer models to study haze and cloud processes on other worlds.

Katherine de Kleer will receive her astronomy Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in May and begin a fellowship at Caltech. Under de Pater, she studied the composition of planets and moons, in particular Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io, to understand the relationship between their atmospheres, surfaces and interiors. She will continue her studies of Io and Jupiter’s other moons using ground-based infrared and millimeter telescope observations.

51 Pegasi b, orbiting a star in the constellation Pegasus, was discovered by Swiss astronomers in 1995 and confirmed a week later by UC Berkeley astronomers, setting off a gold rush to unearth new exoplanets and changing our view of the universe and the possibility of life on other planets.

Read more about the new postdoctoral fellows on the Heising-Simons Foundation website.

Foundation announcement