Heidi B. Hammel
Heidi B. Hammel (Image courtesy: MSN.com)

March marks Women’s History Month, celebrating contributions to culture, history and society. To commemorate, Microsoft Network recognized 20 trailblazing women in astronomy and astrophysics, who have played crucial roles in advancing our understanding of the cosmos. Accolades among the honorees range from planet discovery to comet tracking.

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) alumna Heidi B. Hammel earned a spot on the distinguished list. The award-winning planetary scientist currently serves as an interdisciplinary scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s flagship exploration mission. It’s Hammel’s latest ground-based telescope mission which also includes previous planetary astronomy projects on Maunakea with Gemini Observatory and W.M. Keck Observatory.

Hammel earned a PhD in physics and astronomy from IfA in 1988. During graduate school, she conducted research on the UH 88-inch telescope atop Maunakea. In 1996, the American Astronomical Society awarded Hammel the Urey Prize for her outstanding achievement in planetary science, and the Sagan Medal in 2002 for effective communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public.

Heidi Hammel
Hammel as a grad student at the 88-inch telescope on Maunakea, circa 1986 (Image courtesy: D. Cruikshank)