University of Toledo Astronomer appointed to NASA
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Tom Megeath, assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy, was chosen to serve a three-year term as a member of the executive committee for NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group. Megeath specializes in the formation of stars and planets.
“Their intent is to advise NASA on the directions they should go in terms of research about cosmic origins,” said Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, distinguished university professor of astronomy and Helen Luedtke Brooks endowed professor of astronomy. “It has to do with all the different kinds of science that NASA is interested in regarding the universe. It has to do with whether there are habitable planets round there around other stars.”
According to UT News, Megeath was the primary investigator for the Herschel Orion Protostar Survey, one of 21 competitively awarded Key Programs on the European Space Agency’s Herschel far-infrared space-based telescope. This program studied the creation of stars, particularly in the Orion nebula region of the sky, by combining data from Herschel and several other space telescopes.
“When it comes to allocating resources, NASA needs guidance from the astronomers who use its huge range of instruments to collect data,” Megeath said. “The work I do with the advisory group will influence and contribute to NASA missions 10, 20 years from now. This is a huge opportunity for us here at UT.”
According to Bjorkman, the Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group is comprised of many subcommittees. JD Smith, UT associate professor of astronomy, is the chair of the NASA Far-Infrared Science Interest Group, which works together with the Cosmic Origins group.
“I’m delighted that our astronomers are connected with this because it shows that we have really good scientists that are working here who are acknowledged national and internationally,” Bjorkman said.
Bjorkman described the involvement of UT astronomers as important because it gives UT a seat at the table in these conversations about the future of space science, astronomy research and things of that nature.
“We can make sure that we’re going to be engaged and our students are going to be engaged,” Bjorkman said, “and it helped us to think of what schools our students need to have as we go into the future, and the same skills that astronomers needed yesterday are not the ones that they need tomorrow.”