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Awesome spiral galaxy many light years far from the Earth. Elements furnished by NASA

It’s very common for a person will reach out via e-mail to share details about a topic that we discuss on our show. Every once in a while, the person who reaches out in an actual expert on the topic. In this case, the person is an astrophysicist.

Rob Zellem is an exoplanet astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Why he listens to our show, we have no idea!

On Monday, January 16th, Rob join us for The Space Cowboy. Scroll through a few facts we dug up about Preston & Steve’s favorite NASA employee, then watch the interview below.

  • Rob's job description (according to NASA)

    via NASA.org: Rob is an exoplanet astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on ground- and space-based observations of the atmospheres of exoplanets, planets outside of our Solar System. Rob is a member of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope’s Coronograph Instrument (CGI; an instrument that will directly-image exoplanets) Project Science Team and is the lead of developing its Science Calibration Plan. He is the JPL Commissioning Lead of NESSI, a new multi-object spectrograph at Palomar Observatory that will study tens of these alien worlds. He has been involved in benchmarking the performance through simulations of NASA and ESA exoplanet-dedicated missions such as CASE, the NASA contribution to ESA’s ARIEL mission, and the Astro2020 missions Origins Space Telescope and HabEx. He is also the Project Lead of Exoplanet Watch, a citizen science project that will aid in the characterization of exoplanets.

  • Local Ties to Philadelphia:

    Rob was born at Lankenau Hospital while his mom was attending Villanova. He grew up in Hendersonville, TN, then traveled back to Villanova for his undergrad. That’s when he discovered The Preston & Steve Show. After that he brought the show along during his studies at University College London in England the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Fun facts: When he’s not observing exoplanets, he enjoys jazz piano, cooking, trying not to kill all his plants, brewing beer, playing ice hockey, and fantasizing about retiring to work at Disney. (via NASA.org

  • NASA Was Not His Dream Job

  • He is a mentor to young scientists:

  • ...and scientists of all ages:

  • He's looking for your help (yes, you!)

  • Here's How to Get involved:

  • Watch Rob Zellem on The Preston & Steve Show: