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The Hubble Heritage Team

Zolt Levay

Zolt Levay (PI)

Zolt was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, of Hungarian parents, came to the U.S. at the age of four, and grew up near Baltimore, Maryland. He became interested in astronomy in high school, being particularly fascinated by the magnificent photographs made with the world's great telescopes. Trying to make photos with his own home-built telescope helped fuel an avid interest in all things technical and a growing passion for photography.

He pursued astronomy at Indiana University in Bloomington, studies that also included heavy doses of math, physics, and computer science. He left college in 1975 with a degree in Astrophysics for graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University (Warner and Swasey Observatory) in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1978 he joined Computer Sciences Corporation at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he helped support a variety of space science missions, culminating with the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite.

He arrived at the newly-established Space Telescope Science Institute in 1983, still employed by CSC, to help design and implement software for astronomers to view and analyze data obtained by the not-yet-launched Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The next several years were a roller-coaster ride of anticipation, disappointment, and triumph, watching launch delays, the Challenger accident, deployment of the telescope, realization of serious problems, and finally the successful servicing of HST in 1993. Each subsequent servicing mission has greatly improved the capabilities of the telescope, and allowed it to produce better and more interesting images.
Zolt Levay

In 1993 he began to work in the Office of Public Outreach at STScI, now employed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). He started this phase of his career just when the first remarkable data emerged from the repaired telescope, and found himself helping to produce and distribute the first successful images. Ever since, he has been privileged to work with scientists and technical professionals here at STScI and around the world to assemble the observations into photos, illustrations, video and other products that we distribute to the public via the internet, news media, and educators.

Zolt is a member of the Hubble Heritage Team, which strives to showcase the finest images made by the Hubble Space Telescope. He has been fortunate to assemble and help publicize some of the most remarkable HST images, including the Orion Nebula, Whirlpool Galaxy, Helix Nebula, Hubble Deep Fields, Andromeda Galaxy Halo, and many others. Translating data intended for scientific analysis into photographs meaningful to many viewers turns out to be an interesting challenge. He has tried to apply lessons learned from the work of the greatest photographers to tease out as much beauty as possible from the wealth of information hiding in the exquisite data.

When he's not busy with Hubble photos and news, he enjoys his family and trying to make photographs with his earth-bound camera while traveling, hiking, camping, and canoeing. Occassionally, he gets his hands dirty from gardening, woodworking and keeping the house from falling apart.

     Watch Zolt Levay's Kansas City TEDx Talk

Roberto Avila

Roberto Avila

When Roberto turned 15 he received as a gift a small amateur telescope. He opened it with excitement and set it up in his family's backyard, waiting for the Sun to set. Early during twilight, a bright object appeared low on the horizon and he immediately pointed his new telescope in its direction. To his surprise, the object in the eyepiece was Saturn! Those beautiful rings were striking, and the entire scene looked made up. From that moment on he was hooked on astronomy.

He spent a lot of time as an amateur astronomer, honing his stargazing skills with a Dobsonian telescope. He was president of the astronomy club at his community college, lugging his telescope to different sites in Southern California. He moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to complete undergraduate studies at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. While there, Roberto became a stargazing volunteer at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, taking visitors on tours of the constellations and showing them the most pristine images visible through an eyepiece. He had the opportunity to use the university's 24-inch telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea to image some of his favorite deep-sky objects.

After graduating, Roberto spent time as a telescope operator at the Subaru Telescope. The telescopes he was using were getting bigger and bigger. He then locked himself up in an office for a few years, attending graduate school at New Mexico State University.   At the other end of that adventure he was able to secure a job at the Space Telescope Science Institute, working at the best observatory in the world Hubble. Most of his time is spent working on technical aspects of one of Hubble's imaging cameras, but he does get to spend a bit of time with the Heritage team, where he helps create the iconic images for which the the public has become familiar. He hopes these images inspire future generations, just as looking through that small amateur telescope did for him.

Carol Christian

Carol Christian

Carol’s interest in astronomy and physics likely had early roots in growing up in a dark suburb of Cincinatti, Ohio, where the summer nights unveiled the rich tapestry of stars overhead. She was not a child telescope operator however, as her fundamental orientation is to bright sun and hot weather best enjoyed on the shores of an ocean or bouncing off a diving board into a blue pool.

She grew to like sciences as her favorite subjects--opening new ways to view the world around us. In her teens and in college, being in science was also fairly radical, set one apart, and cultivated deeper and more analytic thought patterns in those rebel years. Being involved in physical sciences was quite different from the mainstream studies of even the most rogueish students in the 60's and 70's.

Her professional interest in astronomy and physics became more focused and formal in graduate school at Boston University. One has to make a choice and narrow down what to study, and the combination of the two slightly different physical science disciplines was attractive, although biology and physics as a combined thread of endeavor was a strong pull. Her expertise is in stellar populations, to study star clusters such as the globular clusters and the rich clusters in the companion galaxy to our own, M33. But astronomical research is only a piece; the building and bringing to operation instrumentation, that is, "getting one's hands dirty," was also an interest for her. She worked in the physics research laboratories all through undergraduate school, but her greatest opportunity to participate in instrumentation was at the national observatories in Arizona and also in Hawaii.
Carol Christian

Carol has a strong interest in information technology, the effectiveness of social media and, in general, all things new and inventive. She has had a variety of positions at STScI, including the Head of the Outreach Office, the Deputy of Community Missions where she worked on proposals for future missions, and a stint as the leader of a group looking at innovative ways to improve our systems for our users.

She was a Science Fellow Advisor at the Department of State for three very interesting years. Currently Carol is the Hubble Space Telescope Outreach Project Scientist. She has a hand in strategizing how to best present the science from HST in the news and outreach materials we produce. She also is interested in finding inventive ways to present our plans for new missions upcoming including the James Webb Telescope and WFIRST.

The rest of her life, filled with flying, aerobatics, skydiving, scuba, climbing, myriad other activities, and a love of dogs (she means big dogs!) allows her to view the planet from unusual perspectives including in free fall and upside down. She would not have it any other way.

Joel Green

Lisa Frattare

Lisa has been working at STScI since 1996 and started on the Hubble Heritage Project in early 1997. Her titles with the team include Image Processor and Project Coordinator, and she keeps up with the monthly schedule of releases, planning future observations, hiring and training interns, and keeping other team members busy. Working on the Heritage Project, she has had the pleasure of being awestruck by some of the most moving images that Hubble has taken.

Her earliest memories of astronomy are precious: the "Goodnight Moon" book; having her mom rinse her hair saying "Look up at the moon..."; someone pointing to an early evening planet saying it was "The Star of Bethlehem." She loved staying up late, having the shades open at night to watch the stars and moon traverse her bedroom window. One of her most vivid memories of the cosmos was not at night but during the day, with the shade pulled down in her room. Tiny pinprick holes in the shade made up little constellations, and she remembers contemplating that perhaps real stars were pinpricks on what would evolve into a celestial sphere shade. Who put them there, and why?

Lisa Frattare

She took astronomy as a college elective, and fell in love with it. Stepping out on the roof overlooking Lake Ontario for her first astronomy lab class in Oswego, NY, seeing first the sunset over the lake, and then the crescent moon and several planets lined up across the sky, she felt she had never seen such a beautiful sight. She was mesmerized by the phenomenal display before her eyes. It had always been there, but this was the first time she was “seeing” it.

Lisa studied astronomy in college for 11 years, at Oswego State, Arizona State University, and Wesleyan University. She must say she loves observing the most: observing at Kitt Peak, Cerro Tololo, Flagstaff, Keck, and of course with Hubble, are now at the top of the her list for precious astronomical memories.

Lisa’s “day" job involves being an image processor with the STScI News Office. Their weekly schedule of releases keeps Hubble in the forefront of scientific discovery. Working on the Hubble Heritage Team, she satisfies other needs - to find beauty in science, to share it with others, to help others be inspired, and enable them to see something wonderful. In her non-professional time, she loves to investigate her family genealogy (on one side she has gotten back to the 11th century and has relatives that knocked off a king!). She also enjoys parenting (table for 5 please!), reading, and gardening. And her love of  logic puzzles has gotten her to appreciate puzzle gaming apps on her phone like Fixum, 2048, Word Solitaire. It is her mental downtime and stress reliever. If only for three minutes at a time.

Joel Green

Joel Green

When he was a kid, Joel used to read books like Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, and watch a lot of Star Trek. There was a particular episode that caught his attention where Captain Picard tries to explain to a less advanced culture that technology may seem indistinguishable from magic, but it was actually developed by people just like them. Could human civilization be like that?

Of course if you watch Star Trek, you'd think that EVERY planet in the galaxy was teeming with aliens. But if you look around our own Solar System, you see one blasted hellscape after the next -- Venus is hundreds of degrees and rains acid; Mercury is a thousand degrees on one side and freezing on the other; Mars has no air and global duststorms; Jupiter doesn't even have a surface! So he always wondered -- which is right? Are there habitable worlds around the universe for us to explore, or are we alone? Thanks to telescopes like the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes, Joel can help answer that question. And more.

Joel grew up in northern Westchester County, New York, first in a 200-year old farmhouse, then in an ultramodern cube-shaped building constructed right across the street. The 500-foot move was tragic and difficult, but he found new friends on the other side of the street in due course. Even though he is occasionally mistaken as a non-nerd, two minutes of conversation will dispel this illusion. While his family moved into midtown Manhattan after he graduated high school, Joel went off to do undergraduate work at Cornell University, followed by a doctoral thesis from the University of Rochester where he studied the exchange between young stars and their birth clouds, in the form of infall (accretion disks, envelopes), and ejecta (outflows/jets). He later became a Research Associate at the University of Texas at Austin.
Joel Green

Over the years, Joel has had the distinct pleasure of working on projects that involve state-of-the-art data analysis using the most sensitive infrared space telescopes ever developed -- the Spitzer Space Telescope (NASA), the Herschel Space Observatory (ESA), and the SOFIA  Airborne Observatory (NASA). He is now the principal investigator of a quartet of projects to observe dramatic flaring events in protostars as well as the Project Scientist in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

While he has many interests, music and softball are two prominent favorites. Joel was a principal oboist of the University of Rochester Chamber Orchestra from 2000-2008 (URCO). During his time in Austin he had been a member of a large number of community groups: the University of Texas University Orchestra (UTUO), the Balcones Community Orchestra, the Austin Philharmonic, the Austin Symphonic Band, and various smaller ensembles. He also dabbles in clarinet and alto saxophone and appears on studio albums as an oboist, clarinetist, alto saxophonist, and "man choir"! He is even (technically) a Grammy-nominated artist. On the softball front, he was a member of several intramural softball teams at Rochester, including Captain of the newly formed Quantum Fielders and is now a co-founder of the UT astronomy department softball team, the Ultra Deep Fielders.

Jennifer Mack

Jennifer Mack

Jennifer Mack is a Research and Instrument Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute where she is actively involved in both science research and instrument calibration for Hubble. Growing up under the dark skies of southern Colorado sparked her initial interest in astronomy. In high school, she was inspired by the simple beauty of physics and the power of mathematics in describing the universe around her.

Jennifer received her Bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Denver in 1993 and her Master's in astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 1996. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Maryland for an opportunity to work with the awe-inspiring images of the Hubble Telescope. She is currently a member of the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument team where she works on flat fielding and photometric calibration of the detectors.

Outside of astronomy, Jennifer enjoys being a mom to a rambunctious toddler, playing her guitar, camping, and nature photography.

Catherine Martlin

Catherine Martlin

Catherine graduated in 2015 from Swarthmore College with a Bachelor's degree in Astronomy and Classical Studies. While she hasn't found much obvious use for Latin in her astronomical studies (besides cringing when people pronounce constellation names incorrectly) she does believe that her interest in comets in the Augustan and Neronian ages may come in handy someday! Just you wait until we need to predict human events based on various celestial events.

Throughout her youth she was an avid reader of fantasy novels and was certain she wanted to be a Knight. Perhaps that is what drew her to fence sabre for four years through college. It's definitely what eventually drew her to the field of astronomy when it became obvious that the adventure and wonder found within the novels was best lived through exploring what lay between the darkness in the night sky.

Interestingly, she had no idea she wanted to be an astronomer until she was around 19 years old; she first entered college believing she wanted to major in physics and philosophy and took a year or so to learn the truth.
Catherine Martlin

Catherine's research experiences include working with a medical physics team at the University of Pennsylvania on a solid phantom prototype to help test a non-invasive laser system to monitor the development of breast tumors during chemotherapy; working with a sample of nearby, very young M-dwarf stars to measure their rotational velocities; and creating a data pipeline for 12 years of Chandra-telescope X-Ray data on M51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy).

Joining the Research and Instrument Analyst Branch at Space Telescope, and soon after the Hubble Heritage team, are mere steps in her attempts to figure out what sort of work she enjoys doing and how to trick people into paying her to do that work everyday. (So far, it's been working, and she is quite pleased.)

No longer being a 24-hour student, she has discovered that she has free time outside of work and is currently exploring hobbies such as crafting, baking, reading and discussing how exactly to be an adult with like-minded individuals. She hopes to dive back into schooling of some sort in the near future, but needs to learn to drive before she will be able to transport herself to classes.

Shelly Meyett

Shelly Meyett

Shelly Meyett has been employed at the Space Telescope Science Institute since 2000 as a Program Coordinator. She works with the development and implementation of Phase II observing programs. These are the programs that help coordinate sending computer code to the Hubble Space Telescope to point at, and observe, objects that are of interest to Hubble astronomers.

In November 2013, she joined the Hubble Heritage team in assisting with the proposal preparation, implementation and scheduling of a small allotment of orbits on Hubble. The past few years have kept her busy with planning observations for Hubble's 24th anniversary image of NGC 2174, a Mars-Comet Encounter, Jupiter and its Moons, three Hubble 25th anniversary images: Veil Nebula, Eagle Nebula, and Westerlund 2, the Hubble 26th anniversary image of the Bubble Nebula, and the Mars 2016 Opposition.

When not working, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband and two children.

Mutchler with Astronauts

Max Mutchler

Just two and a half weeks after being offered a job at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in April 1990, Max was sitting in the “VIP” grandstand at the Kennedy Space Center witnessing the launch of Hubble by the Space Shuttle Discovery. This launched his career into a series of fascinating events that he could not have imagined or believed when his interest in space exploration began in elementary school in Wisconsin.

Most of Max’s work has involved Hubble's workhorse cameras - calibrating them, and designing observation and data reduction strategies. Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) was installed by astronauts during Hubble’s first Space Shuttle servicing mission in 1993, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS, installed in 2002), and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3, installed in 2009). In addition to producing a wealth of breakthrough science results, these cameras have produced the iconic images that have made Hubble famous.

In addition to designing Hubble observations and reducing the resulting images for the Heritage Team, Max is involved in a wide range of Hubble science observations. His primary emphasis is on small Solar System objects such as asteroids, comets, and dwarf planets. He has also been involved in Hubble observations to support planetary missions - most recently including Dawn, Rosetta, and New Horizons. Max was a part of the team that discovered Pluto’s small moons with Hubble, and was a member of the Pluto Encounter Science Team for the New Horizons flyby in July 2015.
Max as Student

Max is currently the head of the Research and Instrument Analysis Branch at STScI. He has been focused on hiring, training, and managing a large and diverse group of analysts who support the scientific instruments for Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope, and future space-astronomy missions in development such as WFIRST.

Keith Noll

Keith Noll

Keith is an astronomer. He is also a husband, father, step-father, son, and brother. He is even a basketball player, gardener, hiker, and photographer. So how did "astronomer" get to be a part of that list? Perhaps it was President Eisenhower's signature on Public Law 85-568 on the very day he was born, the law that created a civilian space agency called NASA. Or perhaps it was the emotion in Walter Cronkite's voice as he sat mesmerized while Neil Armstrong guided the Eagle to a safe landing in the Sea of Tranquility. Or Mr. Carpenter, his high-school physics teacher, who left his advanced physics class alone during tests, knowing they would discuss the problems and stick with their own solutions if they thought they were right. Or maybe it was Carl Sagan's books that inspired his best friend Joe Barone to defend robotic exploration when all he could think of were the difficulties of human flight.

Or maybe it was the cheerless faces of the physics grad students, toiling in the dreary cinder-block physics labs at the University of Illinois that convinced him to take a chance on astronomy despite the warnings of his advisor. But when asked to tell his story, he usually traces his astronomer roots all the way to a waiting room in the back of a Sears store where his mother took a class in decorating cakes when he was six. To help him pass the time she gave him a book on space, and his brother a book on dinosaurs. His brother became a geologist.

All of these factors and many more shaped his decisions over the years that have taken him to this particular place in our social universe. Similarly multiple and complex causes lie at the root of the Hubble Heritage project. His years as an instrument scientist with Hubble's main camera, a looming tenure decision, his ex-in-laws' fascination with the image of the Eagle nebula, conversations on airplanes with strangers awed by the universe, his desire to overcome the isolation of the sometimes monkish life of an astronomer, and his need to recover from the emotional blows of a miscarriage and the death of his father, all fed into the spark of a moment when the idea for Heritage was born in his mind. As it turned out, others, for their own reasons, had come to similar conclusions. The idea was ripe for picking and they plucked it.
Keith Noll

In his life as a serious scientist he studies planets and moons in our solar system, usually using spectrographs to sort out the molecular compositions of these complex objects. More recently he has begun to focus on brown dwarfs, those substellar objects lying beyond the solar system that share more in common with planets than with stars. He has always loved this branch of astronomy because he is attracted by the idea of the near and the accessible. He relishes the moments of surprise and discovery, the spine-tingling sensation of knowing something that has never been known by anyone before, even if it is a small and arcane bit of knowledge. He has the faith of scientists that truth is piled up grain by grain like the hills of a fire-ant colony.

However, for him, the Heritage project has always been more about beauty than truth. Beauty has its own form of truth, one that transcends barriers of language and education. It reaches closer to our hearts than to our heads. It is the antidote to the intellectualization of the universe that troubled Walt Whitman in his poem on astronomy. As Whitman said so beautifully, sometimes it is okay to leave the darkened lecture hall and simply look up in perfect silence at the stars.

Sophia Porter

Sophia Porter

Sophia is a physics major at Johns Hopkins University, located just across the street from Space Telescope Science Institute. She has been interested in science, and particularly in astronomy and astrophysics, since she was little. Hubble's photos of the cosmos, some of which the Heritage team released before she was born, made a huge impact on her during grade school. It's an honor to come full circle as a member of the Heritage team.

During her senior year of high school, she studied astrophotography under David Lane, a talented photographer from her home in Leawood, Kansas. As an art-minded scientist, she has a passion for chipping away at raw data to reveal the majesty of the universe; astrophotography is the perfect avenue.

In March 2015, she delivered the keynote speech at the National Space Club's Goddard Memorial Dinner in Washington, DC, where she spoke about the close ties between art and science. (A video of the speech is available at
Painted Van

The following summer she interned at STScI, where she worked on a Hubble instrumentation project and got acquainted with the Hubble Heritage team. Few things make her happier than working alongside Heritage to make Hubble's cutting edge science accessible in the form of stunning photocompositions. When she is not dreaming about space, she enjoys doodling, painting, and singing with Hopkins' oldest a cappella group, the Octopodes.

Portable Observatory Van Artwork by Sophia Porter

Astronomy Club of Kansas City Article by Sophia Porter