Peter Gao, Ph.D.

Ph.D., Planetary Sciences, Caltech (California Institute of Technology)

Research: Gaining fresh knowledge of clouds and hazes to understand the atmospheres and origins of new worlds.
Host University: University of California, Berkeley, Department of Astronomy
Year Awarded: 2017

Peter Gao combines his love of astronomy and Earth sciences to explore the behaviors of clouds and hazes that enshroud distant worlds. From the acid clouds of Venus to the hazes covering Pluto, Peter creates and applies innovative models to understand planetary atmospheres. He is energized by the interdisciplinary nature of the planetary astronomy field and its astounding possibilities to bring new understanding of our place in the cosmos.

In this fellowship, Peter will apply his advanced computer modeling in tandem with the powerful observational capabilities at Berkeley. This work will elevate the study of haze and cloud processes on multiple worlds. Understanding the behavior and role of clouds and hazes in planetary atmospheres is instrumental to understanding atmospheres as a whole, including Earth’s atmosphere. Defining the chemical make-up of clouds and hazes also provides a pathway of insight into the composition and origins of planets and exoplanets. This work can greatly contribute to our hunt for planets beyond our solar system that support life. Peter received a Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from Caltech (California Institute of Technology) in 2016. That same year he was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center.

View Peter’s CV.

“Carl Sagan said that ‘Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.’ Given our ability with probes, spacecraft, and other technologies, something truly amazing is being found every day. This is a very fruitful time.”