Planet Advocate for Neptune
Prof. Hammel was a principal force in planning Hubble's studies of the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter, but has recently been concentrating on Neptune. Like our other Advocates, she is committed to involving the general public in cutting-edge astronomy, and believes the Internet can provide unique access. She sits on the Time Allocation Committee of STScI, and is very much involved in Hubble logistics.
In answer to the question, What made me want to become an astronomer anyway? Prof. Hammel says:
I think there's two things that I remember from when I was a kid that most interested me in astronomy ...I was not an amateur astronomer as a child. The two things: one is that I used to get car sick, and my parents used to take us on trips a lot in the car and so I had to lie on the back seat being sick, and the only thing I could do was look out the window and see the stars. And so I learned the constellations, I learned what the bright stars were, and so that's what kept me going on those long car trips.
And the second thing I remember, when I was a kid, is going to a planetarium, and they would do a star show about what the stars were looking like and what was "up" -- the planets -- and that was all kind of boring, but then at some point during the show a comet would streak across the sky with flames and a roar that was really loud, and you never knew when it was going to happen, and it was really exciting. And I would go back to the planetarium again and again and again just to wait for that comet to come. And I think I probably picked up a little astronomy along the way when I was doing that.
And then when I got into college I took an astronomy course that was just so much fun. I loved working with telescopes, I loved taking pictures of things, taking data, and I just stuck with it.