UChicago Postdoctoral Scholar named 51 Pegasi b Fellow by the Heising-Simons Foundation

University of Chicago scientist Thaddeus Komacek is one of eight postdoctoral scholars to be selected for the 2018 class of the prestigious Heising-Simons Foundation 51 Pegasi b Fellowship.

Established in 2017 and named for the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star, the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship provides exceptional postdoctoral scientists with the opportunity to conduct theoretical, observational and experimental research in planetary astronomy – the study of celestial objects both within and beyond our solar system. The fellowship provides three years of financial support for independent research, as well as mentorship and an annual summit to develop professional networks.

Komacek’s work focuses on simulating the climate and cloud behavior of exoplanet atmospheres. He conducts 3-D simulations to model the atmospheric dynamics and climates of exoplanets; his research on the underlying mechanics of gas giant exoplanets with orbits close to their stars has helped inform current and future observations of these planets.

“Astronomers are on the verge of being able to study terrestrial planets outside of our solar system, and in the coming decades we will gain a better understanding of exactly how special Earth is. I’m excited to see what possibilities the next generation of telescopes will bring,” said Komacek, who will arrive at the Geophysical Sciences department this year after graduating from the University of Arizona.

“It’s time to start focusing on terrestrial planets and see what kind of science we can do to determine whether or not they are habitable,” he said. “Understanding how clouds impact observation is necessary to grasp the full picture.”

Over the course of his fellowship, Komacek will examine the atmospheres of Earth-like planets, using simulations to explore the effect of cloud behavior on climate across a wide range of possible terrestrial exoplanets. These steps will in turn support the field in understanding the existence of habitable climates and emergence of life on planets around other stars.

Learn more about the fellowship and the fellows at www.51pegasib.org.

About the Heising-Simons Foundation

The Heising-Simons Foundation is a family foundation based in Los Altos, California. The Foundation works with its many partners to advance sustainable solutions in climate and clean energy, enable groundbreaking research in science, enhance the education of our youngest learners, and support human rights for all people. Learn more at www.hsfoundation.org