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Raghvendra Sahai

Raghvendra Sahai

(Jet Propulsion Lab)

Dr. Raghvendra Sahai is Principal Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. He came to JPL in 1992 as a Senior Resident Research Associate of the National Research Council, and joined the JPL permanent staff in 1995.

Sahai obtained his Ph.D. from Caltech in 1984 with a detailed millimeter-wave and infrared spectroscopic study of the most famous mass-losing carbon star, IRC +10216. After a 2-year postdoc at the University of Texas in Austin, Sahai went to the University of Gothenburg/ Chalmers Instutute of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. While continuing his work on the mass-loss envelopes of dying stars like IRC+10216, and teaching graduate and undergraduate courses and supervising student research, Sahai began to study molecular gas in planetary nebulae, using the then newly constructed Swedish-ESO- Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) in La Silla, Chile.

After almost 6 years in Sweden, Sahai returned to the US in 1992. He became a member of HST's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 Science Team at JPL in 1994, and started using HST to carry out imaging surveys of pre-planetary and planetary nebulae. Not only have the beautiful images (examples) obtained from this work significantly revised our ideas of how planetary nebulae are shaped, but they have also captured the attention of the public at large. One of these, the Hourglass Nebula was selected to grace the cover of National Geographic (April 1997) and another, the Egg Nebula is featured on a US postage stamp.

Aside from dying stars, Sahai's interests include young stellar objects (e.g., ballistic stellar interlopers and interstellar bullet engines), brown dwarfs and extrasolar giant planets (EGPs), and Seyfert galaxies. He has also participated in several studies related to the development and use of a coronagraphic camera in space to find EGPs around nearby stars.

Sahai describes his journey from a star-struck youngster to a professional astronomer:

"If I had to choose one experience most responsible for my life-long fascination with astronomy, it would be -- (as a young boy) going to sleep on the roof of our house during the hot summer nights, watching the star-studded beauty of the Milky Way house wheel across a pitch- black sky. During my last year in high school (St. Joseph's Academy, Dehradun, India), I was all set to follow in my elder brother's footsteps and choose Electronics Engineering as my major in college. My parents, aware of my strong interest in science, encouraged me to consider Physics instead - since at the same time I also won a competitive science scholarship covering all my college expenses at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT/K), I elected Physics as my major. I applied for graduate study in Physics at Caltech, got accepted, and had decided to study elementary particles. But, during my last semester at IIT/K, we were offered a new elective course, entitled Radio Astronomy. Our lecturer, Dr. N.C. Mathur, cleverly baited us by offering a free tour of India's astronomy facilities! I took the bait, and got hooked onto astronomy for good."


John Trauger

John Trauger

(Jet Propulsion Lab)

Dr. John Trauger is a Senior Research Scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He received his B.A. in physics from Oberlin College, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Trauger is the Principal Investigator for the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) on the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1985, WFPC2 was conceived as a wide-field photometric camera to replace the WF/PC originally launched with the telescope in 1990. In June 1990, following analysis of the first images from Hubble, he proposed to NASA to correct for Hubble's spherical aberration by refiguring small mirrors within WFPC2, a solution which ultimately delivered fully restored imaging.

In 1994 he was awarded NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal for his work with the WFPC2 science program. In 1997 he received the Masursky Award for service to planetary science from the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Science.

Trauger is currently developing highly corrected optical instrumentation for space astronomy. His research interests center on the origins and nature of solar-system objects, with focus on the atmospheres and magnetospheres of the outer planets and implications for planetary evolution. He is a member of the NASA science working groups currently working on the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) instrument to be installed in the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004, and the Next Generation Space Telescope scheduled for launch in 2009.