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The James Webb Space Telescope with Dr. Amber Straughn

Episode #1052 Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Geek Out with a real astrophysicist! Carl and Richard get giddy geeky with the amazing Dr. Amber Straughn who is part of the Project Science team for the James Webb Space Telescope. Considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, Amber talks about how the JWST is bigger and different - with a six meter reflector and orbiting 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. The conversation digs into why the JWST is looking into the infrared spectrum, what the cosmological red shift is all about and a whole ton of other amazing concepts around what it means to look back in time to near the beginning of the universe!


Amber Straughn

Dr. Amber Straughn is an Astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and serves as the Deputy Project Scientist for James Webb Space Telescope Science Communications. Follow her on Twitter: @astraughnomer

Amber grew up in the small farming town of Bee Branch, Arkansas, where her fascination with astronomy began under beautifully dark, rural skies. She obtained her B.S. in Physics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2002, and completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics at Arizona State University in 2008. Amber has been at Goddard full time since 2008; prior to her current role, she held a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellowship. She has been involved in NASA programs since her undergrad years, beginning with flying an experiment on NASA’s microgravity KC-135 plane (the “vomit comet”) in 2001. During graduate school at Arizona State, Amber received the NASA Space Grant Fellowship for summer studies, and in 2005 was awarded the 3-year NASA Harriett Jenkins Predoctoral Fellowship.

Amber’s research focuses on interacting and star-forming galaxies in the context of galaxy assembly, where she uses imaging and infrared spectroscopic data mostly from the Hubble Space Telescope. Her broad research interests include galaxy formation and evolution, galaxy mergers and interactions, physical processes induced by galaxy interactions including star formation and black hole growth, and emission-line galaxies.

In addition to research, Amber’s role with the James Webb Space Telescope project science team involves working with Communications and Outreach activities. She participates in various public outreach efforts, and has spoken at numerous schools, astronomy clubs, museums, and research societies locally in the DC area and nationwide. Amber is also interacts frequently with the media, having done numerous live television interviews, media features for NASA (see http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/webb-faqs.html), and has appeared on the History Channel, Spike TV, and in the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon's "Hubble Gotchu" segment. She very much enjoys interacting with the public.

Amber lives in Glenn Dale, MD., with her husband Matt and her two Great Danes and one cat. Her love of all things air and space prompted her to become a pilot; she earned her Private Pilot's license in early 2013. She has been an active yoga practitioner for years, and teaches a volunteer yoga class weekly. Amber is very involved in community and volunteer work, and loves to cook.


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