By Erika, age 12
Ashley Pagnotta is an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). I nicknamed her “Eos Kablammo” after Eos, the Greek Goddess of the Stars, and the fact that she studies stars that explode.
Why do you think STEM is important?
Ashley: STEM is important because it affects so much of our lives. It is so important for people to understand why we do things like research science, why we have medical research, why it’s important for us to understand how things work and how it affects their lives. There are all these random ways STEM affects our lives that we don’t always think about and it’s good for people to be aware that that’s out there.
How did you get into astrophysics?
Ashley: I’ve been interested in astronomy since I was three years old. I grew up in Houston, Texas which is the home to one of the NASA space centers so I always heard about NASA. I would go on field trips with my school and I always thought it was really interesting. I was always fascinated by space. I just wanted to be an astronaut and study the stars. I just never out grew my three-year-old dreams of studying space.
Do you have a favorite star or galaxy to look at for astronomy purposes?
Ashley: I really love to show people Saturn and to look at a star called Alberio that is the head of Cignus the Swan. It is a double star and the stars are two different temperatures. One cool thing about stars is that we see different colors because of the temperatures. The hotter the star is, the bluer it looks, which is backwards from what we usually think. Water taps are one example. They have red for hot and blue for cold water. In Alberio the stars are different colors, so by being next to each other, the color is even more enhanced. One is purple, and the other one is goldish-yellow. I think it is just very cool to see them.
If there was a super hero based on stars, what powers do you think they would have?
Ashley: They would probably have some sort of energy-generating power because that is what stars do. I could see them shooting lightning out of their fingertips. They could send energy to other places and I could see them being good or evil.
You can see some of Ashley Pagnotta’s work in AMNH’S Shelf Life: How to Time Travel to a Star and on her website.