ESA Distinguished Lectures at STScI

In 2021, the ESA Office at STScI announce the creation of a new lecture series: ESA Distinguished Lectures.

The series, to be held at STScI in Baltimore USA, aims at showcasing science from ESA missions, recognizing leading European astronomers, and fostering collaborations in the broader international community.

Typically, each lecture will be accompanied by a two day visit to STScI, in which the Distinguished Lecturer will have the opportunity to meet with staff, students and postdocs. The lecture itself will be broadcast online for the widest possible visibility.


2023 ESA Distinguished Lecture - Dr Aurora Simionescu


11am EDT (17h CEST) on Thursday June 15, 2023

Dr Aurora Simionescu is an astrophysicist at the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) through the Women in Science Excel (WISE) Fellowship program of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). She is also a visiting scientist at Leiden University, and an affiliate member of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Prior to her current appointments, she spent five years at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and four years as an Einstein Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University. She completed her PhD research at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany. Her main research interests are related to the physics of the hot plasma in clusters of galaxies, the large virialized objects in the universe.


2022 ESA Distinguished Lecture - Prof MONIKA LENDL 


Professor Monika Lendl obtained her PhD from the University of Geneva in 2014. After a postdoc at the University of Liège in Belgium, she spent several years as a project leader at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. She returned to the University of Geneva in 2019 and has been an assistant professor since 2021. She holds an Eccellenza Professorial Fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation to study the climates of highly-irradiated planets.

Professor Lendl specializes in the discovery and characterization of exoplanets through the use of high-precision photometry and low- to moderate-resolution spectroscopy. She is a science team associate on CHEOPS, the first ESA space telescope dedicated to exoplanets, and serves as the coordinator of the consortium atmospheric characterization working group. In her research she focuses on the detection of characterizable long-period planets from current surveys (NGTS, TESS) and the detectability of exo-Earths with the upcoming PLATO mission.


2021 ESA Distinguished Lecture - Dr Teresa Antoja


Dr. Teresa Antoja obtained her PhD from the Universitat de Barcelona in 2010. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Groningen, with Prof. Amina Helmi, and then an ESA Research Fellow at ESTEC (2013-2016.) Dr. Teresa Antoja was then a Marie Curie Skłodowska Fellow at the Institut de Ciències del Cosmos at the Universitat de Barcelona, where she is now a tenured professor. Dr. Antoja works in Galactic Dynamics and Galaxy Formation. She is a member of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) and has led or contributed to approximately 50 research publications using GAIA data. In addition to the GAIA DPAC, she is a consortium member for the state-of-the-art spectroscopic survey projects RAVE and WEAVE.

Dr. Antoja used GAIA DR2 data to study the phase space distribution of stars in the disk of the Milky Way, discovering a variety of new substructures with morphologies never observed before, such as snail shells and ridges. The nature of these new substructures implies that the disk is phase mixing from an out of equilibrium state, and that it is strongly affected by the Galactic bar and/or spiral structure. This result challenges the most basic premise in stellar dynamics of dynamical equilibrium, and shows that modelling the Galactic disk as a time-independent axisymmetric component is definitively incorrect. Dr. Antoja and collaborators infer that the disk was perturbed between 300 and 900 Myr ago, matching current estimations of the previous pericentric passage of the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, which is in the process of merging with the Milky Way.

This discovery demonstrates that mergers with satellites have had a profound impact on the structure and dynamics of the Milky Way Galaxy. It also shows how GAIA reveals the signatures of such events in the positions and velocities of stars in the solar neighborhood with exquisite precision.

Dr. Antoja’s discovery paper (Nature 2018) has been referred to as “one of the most important discoveries to emerge from the ESA Gaia astrometric survey” and “a groundbreaking paper.”

Dr. Antoja’s seminal paper gathered almost 200 citations in 2 years, and has inspired many follow-up investigations and publications.