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UT astronomer selected as member of elite NASA group focused on cosmic origins

A University of Toledo astronomer who specializes in the formation of stars and planets has been named to a 12-member NASA advisory group.

Dr. Tom Megeath, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was selected to serve a three-year term as a member of the Executive Committee for NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group.

Dr. Tom Megeath, shown here with the APEX telescope at an altitude of 16,750 feet on the Llano de Chajnantor in the Atacama Desert in Chile, has been selected to serve a three-year term as a member of the Executive Committee for NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group.

Dr. Tom Megeath, shown here with the APEX telescope at an altitude of 16,750 feet on the Llano de Chajnantor in the Atacama Desert in Chile, has been selected to serve a three-year term as a member of the Executive Committee for NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group.

“His appointment is yet another national recognition of the astrophysics expertise at UT,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy. “This means that he and UT will have significant input on the science and technology priority decisions for NASA’s future directions.”

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. Megeath’s program studied the creation of stars by combining data from Herschel and several other space telescopes.  

He has used the Herschel, Spitzer and Hubble Space telescopes throughout his career. He also observed Orion from a flight from Canada to the Pacific Ocean on a NASA airplane called the SOFIA.

“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.”

Megeath’s term on the NASA executive committee began in November and ends in November 2019.

Other members are from Arizona State University, California Institute of Technology, University of Maryland, NASA’s Goddard Flight Space Center, Johns Hopkins University, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ball Aerospace, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Saint Michael College, University of Minnesota and University of Washington.

In a letter to Megeath, Mario Perez, executive secretary of the committee and scientist in the Cosmic Origins Program, wrote, “Over the rest of the decade the [Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group] will play an important role in the future of NASA’s investment in cosmic origins science.”

Megeath is the first UT faculty member to serve on this advisory group.

“Cosmic origins covers everything from the Big Bang to the origin of our world and others,” Megeath said. “The goal is to understand the entire sequence of events that led to us.”

Dr. JD Smith, UT associate professor of astronomy, is the chair of the NASA Far Infrared Science Interest Group.

Dr. Adolf Witt, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, served on the NASA Universe Working Group from 2005 to 2008.