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Karla Peterson

picture of Karla Peterson

My Field Journals


Program Coordinator (PC)

My job is to help the astronomers who have been given time on HST to plan and execute their observations. (Just like Tony Roman is doing for the LFH observations.) My specialty is the GHRS (Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph). There are 15 PCs altogether and each one helps about 30-40 scientists each year.

Heidi Hammel's discussion of what was needed to do the LFH observation of Neptune shows how comfortable she is with the various abilities and limitations of HST. See her journals.

Many observers are using HST for the first time, or doing something they have never done before. They may need help understanding or just navigating the voluminous documentation there is for HST. This means we get lots of e-mail and phone calls with questions and concerns.

We mainly answer technical questions, the scientific questions are fielded by our partners the Contact Scientists. When the programs are written, we prepare them to be executed on HST. Many times this involves troubleshooting software problems, or making changes to programs to work around a spacecraft limitation.

No one starts out planning on a job as specific as helping use the Hubble Space Telescope. I had a general interest in science but was not focused on any one field. In high school I participated in a variety of activities, some technical (like the computer science and math teams), some not (like the a capella choir). I went to a small science and engineering college and eventually settled on geophysics as a major.

When I first got out of college I had a hard time finding a job and did various things including working for the Baltimore City Police Department Crime Lab. (I was actually working there when the guy who wrote the book "Homicide" was following around the homicide detectives!)

Then I got a job at Goddard Space Flight Center doing orbit determination for various earth orbiting satellites including HST. A few years later I was able to get a job here at STScI (which is walking distance from where I live). My first job here was helping plan and prepare the calibration programs that executed just after the highly successful servicing mission. What an uplifting time to be at STScI!

I really enjoy this job. It is varied and can be quite exciting at times. I like answering questions and working with people. I really enjoy trouble shooting problems (except on those days when there are so many that I can't keep up). I also get to help the software developers improve the programs that the PCs and the observers use. This can be frustrating at times because you work hard to help design a program that is user friendly and then you get lots of feedback about how confusing it is to use. It is very difficult to make software that is intuitive for everyone.

On the personal side, I was born in Boxborough, MA in 1963, grew up in Warwick, RI and went to college in Pasadena, CA. I've lived in Baltimore, MD ever since college.

I'm married and my husband is an astronomer. We went to high school and college together. My husband works just across the street in the Physics and Astronomy Department of Johns Hopkins University. He is working on a future NASA mission called FUSE (Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) which is scheduled to launch in late 1998.

My hobbies include working on my genealogy (I'm a bit of a mutt: some English, German, French, Canadian, Swedish, and Norwegian), and collecting breakfast cereal boxes (I try to buy - and eat - all the different kinds of cereal there are - and I can hardly keep up with all the new ones coming out).


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