Jessie Christiansen

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Jessie Christiansen
Jessie Christiansen at Palomar Observatory.jpg
Christiansen at Palomar Observatory in 2018
Alma mater
Known forExoplanets
Scientific career
ThesisA tale of two surveys: searching for extrasolar planets from Australia and Antarctica (2007)
Doctoral advisorMichael Ashley

Jessie Christiansen is an Australian astrophysicist working at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). She won the 2018 NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal for her work on the Kepler planet sample.


In 2002 Jessie Christiansen completed a Bachelor of Science (Advanced Studies) in physics and mathematics at Griffith University, Brisbane. She then continued her studies to receive a BSc first class honours in Astronomy at the Australian National University, Canberra.[1] She completed a PhD at the University of New South Wales in 2007, under the supervision of Michael Ashley.[2][3] Her PhD required observations at the Automated Patrol Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.[4]


After Christiansen's PhD, she worked as Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.[5] Christiansen works on the NASA Kepler mission, cataloguing the exoplanets within the Kepler field.[6] As a member of the Kepler Science Team, she won the NASA Group Achievement Award in 2010. She is involved in the planning for the upcoming NASA TESS mission, which will search the whole sky for the nearest planets to Earth.[5]

Christiansen uses Citizen Science and the Zooniverse to help in her quest for exoplanets using the Kepler Space Telescope K2 dataset.[7][8] She worked with Professor Ian Crossfield at MIT to ensure the K2 data was made public, and in January 2018 announced the discovery of 5 massive exoplanets orbiting the sun-like star K2-138.[9][10][11][12][13] The exoplanets make up the longest chain of synchronised exoplanets ever discovered, orbiting in near-perfect resonance to their star.[14][15] In an interview with the BBC, Christiansen spoke about the importance of crowdsourcing research projects "people anywhere can log on and learn what real signals from exoplanets look like, and then look through actual data collected from the Kepler telescope to vote on whether or not to classify a given signal as a transit, or just noise".[16]

Alongside being the plenary speaker at academic conferences, Christiansen gives public talks about her research.[17][18] She has returned to her alma mater, ANU, to discuss her research "Characterising the Kepler Survey Completeness".[19] In July 2018 Christiansen won the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal for her work on the Kepler planet sample.[20]

Public engagement[edit]

Christiansen appeared on the Discovery Science program NASA's Unexplained Files.[21] She recorded a panel discussion at Caltech, talking about the science behind Syfy's The Expanse.[22] In 2018 she will appear in Ali Alvarez's documentary Under The Same Stars, about American women astrophysicists. She also discusses exoplanets and the Kepler mission on popular science podcasts.[23][24]

Her writing has appeared on popular science websites, including the New Scientist,[25] Smithsonian Magazine,[26] and BBC News.[27] In 2015 Christiansen joined 278 other scientists in a letter to the New York Times to object to their article that minimized the trauma of people who accused Professor Geoff Marcy of sexual advances.[28][29]


  1. ^ "Introducing Jessie Christiansen". astrotweeps. 4 April 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Michael Ashley". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  3. ^ A tale of two surveys: searching for extrasolar planets from Australia and Antarctica (PhD thesis). University of New South Wales. 2007.
  4. ^ Hidas, Marton; Webb, John; Ashley, Michael; Phillips, Andre; Christiansen, Jesse; Hamacher, Duane Willis; Curran, Stephen; Irwin, M.; Agrain, S. (2007). "The University of New South Wales Extrasolar Planet Search". Transiting Extrapolar Planets Workshop: 45–50.
  5. ^ a b "Our Home, the Milky Way Galaxy". Universe of Learning. Archived from the original on 27 December 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  6. ^ "SEMINAR: Jessie Christiansen [IPAC Caltech]". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Zooniverse". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  8. ^ "New Features | Zooniverse". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Five-Planet System Found: K2-138 | Astronomy |". Breaking Science News | Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  10. ^ Greicius, Tony (11 January 2018). "Multi-planet System Found Through Crowdsourcing". NASA. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Multi-planet System Found Through Crowdsourcing". NASA/JPL. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  12. ^ Dvorsky, George. "Star System With Five Rocky Planets Discovered by Amateur Astronomers". Gizmodo. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Citizen Scientists Discover Five-Planet System | Caltech". The California Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on 9 September 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Music of the spheres: chain of planets rotates at "perfect | Cosmos". Archived from the original on 6 April 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  15. ^ Christiansen, Jessie L.; Crossfield, Ian J. M.; Barentsen, Geert; Lintott, Chris J.; Barclay, Thomas; Simmons, Brooke D.; Petigura, Erik; Schlieder, Joshua E.; Dressing, Courtney D. (11 January 2018). "The K2-138 System: A Near-Resonant Chain of Five Sub-Neptune Planets Discovered by Citizen Scientists". The Astronomical Journal. 155 (2): 57. arXiv:1801.03874. Bibcode:2018AJ....155...57C. doi:10.3847/1538-3881/aa9be0. S2CID 52971376.
  16. ^ Rincon, Paul (2018). "Citizen science bags five-planet haul". BBC News. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Exoplanets I Pre-registered Participants | Exoplanets I Conference". Archived from the original on 17 January 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Jessie Christiansen". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  19. ^ Director, RSAA; (13 August 2013). "Colloquia Recordings". Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  20. ^ Mohon, Lee (5 July 2017). "2017 Agency Honor Awards". NASA. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  21. ^ "Is There Life On Kepler-186f? - NASA's Unexplained Files | Science". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  22. ^ caltech (3 February 2017), The Science Behind "The Expanse" - 1/25/17, retrieved 16 January 2018
  23. ^ Jessie Christiansen and the hedonic treadmill of planets., retrieved 16 January 2018
  24. ^ "Episode 42: Finding exoplanets with Dr. Christiansen". Spacepod. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  25. ^ "Superfast spinning stars cause strangest weather in the universe". New Scientist. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  26. ^ Redd, Nola Taylor. "How a Young Jupiter Acted as Both Protector and Destroyer". Smithsonian. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  27. ^ Webb, Jonathan (2016). "Star clumps 'good bet for alien life'". BBC News. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  28. ^ Overbye, Dennis (10 October 2015). "Geoffrey Marcy, Astronomer at Berkeley, Apologizes for Behavior". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  29. ^ "Letter to NY Times". Retrieved 16 January 2018.

External links[edit]