California Institute of Technology
Jon Swift

Jon Swift

Website: http://www.astro.caltech.edu/~jswift/

I find all facets of astronomy fascinating and have had the pleasure of participating in several areas of research. However, I've done a lot of thinking about the formation of stars, and the bulk of my time in astronomy has been spent using telescopes that operate at wavelengths from the near infrared (┬Ám) to radio (cm).

In an analogous way that one might look to the details of a storm to understand an ocean swell, I've looked at molecular clouds in the Galaxy to gain insight into how stars form. I find the observational technique of interferometry and aperture synthesis particularly useful in this endeavor.

In the past few years I have spent some time developing numerical experiments, the results of which have a direct bearing on the way molecular cloud data are interpreted. These analyses will be useful for the new generation of mm and sub-mm telescopes coming online soon.

A related field I've also thought about recently is that of circumstellar disks. Disks are a natural occurring feature around forming stars, and they are known to be the birth places of planets. My past studies have involved using the spectral energy distributions from circumstellar disks to infer the dominant mechanisms of disk evolution.

This has led to my newest venture in astronomy: the formation and evolution of planetary systems. I will be using the groundbreaking data from the Kepler mission and observations with other facilities including Keck and CARMA to approach open questions about how extrasolar planets form and evolve.

Lastly, I am also be serving as project manager for the Minerva telescope array. Minerva is an observatory to be placed on Palomar Mountain designed to find the nearest and lowest mass exoplanets using relatively inexpensive, commercial components.