The 51 Pegasi b Fellowship provides exceptional postdoctoral scientists with the opportunity to conduct theoretical, observational, and experimental research in planetary astronomy.

The Heising-Simons Foundation announces the inaugural class of 51 Pegasi b Fellows, named for the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star. The growing field of planetary astronomy studies celestial objects both within and beyond our solar system, bridging planetary science and astronomy. From accelerating understanding of geological activity on Jupiter’s remarkable moon, Io, to advancing new technologies for detecting Earth-like planets, 51 Pegasi b Fellows make a unique contribution to the field of planetary astronomy.


Why did you create the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship?

Planetary Astronomy is a relatively new field, and a growing one. The creation of a new, prestigious fellowship for people early in their careers has the potential to significantly impact both new academics and the field.

What do you hope to achieve through this Fellowship?

We hope to create a community among these talented fellows, enabling them to exchange and elevate ideas, gain access to other senior leaders in the field, and advance their careers.

Who is eligible for nomination?

Some 15 to 20 select universities are invited to participate in the nomination process each year, with the ability to each nominate two individuals. The university departments contact the candidates, and they in turn work with the university on their respective proposals. An internal review committee at the Foundation then makes the final selection, with fellows announced early each year.

Can I apply for the fellowship directly?

Candidates are nominated by universities participating in the fellowship program. There is not a form or process for direct application.

Do the fellowships support research related only to exoplanets, or is more general planetary astronomy research permitted?

The fellowship supports research that broadly fits within the field of planetary astronomy, which also includes general solar system formation and evolution, and planetary atmospheres.

When are decisions made?

Typically, recipients of the fellowship are contacted between early December and mid-January. The corresponding department chair and faculty sponsor for each fellow are also personally notified.

How many fellowships will you award in 2018?

We will award up to eight fellowships in 2018.

What is your interest in the field of planetary astronomy?

By funding planetary astronomy, we hope to enhance and accelerate scientific progress, including the discovery of exoplanets, the characterization of exoplanets in habitable zones, and the understanding of our solar system’s formation and evolution. Planetary astronomy merges two fields that have a lot of synergies. We hope that by funding post-doctoral students performing research in these areas, we are advancing discovery and helping to build this field.

Is the Foundation making other grants or supporting other programs in planetary astronomy?

Yes, the Foundation’s Science program funds general astronomy to enhance and accelerate new scientific discoveries that illuminate basic understanding of the universe and its celestial objects and processes. This includes grants that support the development of instruments that enhance research.

More Information

The 51 Pegasi b Fellowship provides:

  • Up to $375,000 of support for independent research over three years.
  • Time and space to establish distinction and leadership in the field.
  • Mentorship by an established faculty member at the host institution.
  • An annual summit to develop professional networks, exchange information and ideas, and foster collaboration.
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