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NASA Scientists Named AAS 2022 Fellows

American Astronomical Society 2022 Fellow Awardees with NASA affiliations. From top left, Judith T Karpen, Farid Salama, top right, Lucy McFadden, bottom left, and George Helou, bottom right.
American Astronomical Society 2022 Fellow Awardees with NASA affiliations. From top left, Judith T Karpen, Farid Salama, top right, Lucy McFadden, bottom left, and George Helou, bottom right.

Four individuals with NASA affiliations have been named 2022 Fellows by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). AAS is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers.

NASA awardees from NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California are among the 23 members being recognized for extraordinary achievement and service. They are being recognized for original research and publications, innovative contributions to astronomical techniques or instrumentation, significant contributions to education and public outreach, and noteworthy service to astronomy and to the Society itself.  

Farid Salama of NASA Ames was recognized for his significant contributions to scientific advances in astrophysics and astrochemistry, and for his service to the community through the creation of the Laboratory Astrophysics Division of the AAS.

Salama pioneered the study of interstellar and planetary molecules in the lab by recreating astrophysical environments in special facilities developed to support NASA space missions. He couples his work in laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry with astronomical observations to survey and identify new molecular species in space. He has also contributed to exposure experiments on the International Space Station to study how laboratory analogs of interstellar and planetary materials change under near-Earth irradiation.  

Salama joined NASA in 1988 and today leads the Cosmic Simulation Chamber facility at Ames, which uses state-of-the-art instruments to simulate and monitor space conditions in the lab. He has made a key contribution to the recognition of his field around the world through the creation of the Laboratory Astrophysics Division of the AAS and the Laboratory Astrophysics Commission of the International Astronomical Union.  

Judith T Karpen of NASA Goddard was honored for her sustained contributions to understanding the formation and dynamics of the solar corona and wind.

Karpen is a research astrophysicist and Chief of the Space Weather Laboratory in the Heliophysics Division. She received her Bachelors of Science in Physics (Honors) from the University of Michigan in 1973 and her PhD in Astronomy from University of Maryland in 1980, followed by a postdoctoral position with the Solar Physics Branch, Space Science Division, NRL. From October 1982 until September 1984, she was a staff scientist with Berkeley Research Associates, working at the Laboratory for Computational Physics, NRL. From October 1984 to July 2008 she was a research physicist in the Solar-Terrestrial Relationships Branch of the Space Science Division of the Naval Research Laboratory. She joined the Space Weather Laboratory in July 2008.

Her primary research interests include analytical and numerical modeling of dynamic solar and heliospheric phenomena, and applications of plasma physics and magnetohydrodynamics to solar and heliospheric activity. Her current research is focused on solar prominences, coronal mass ejections/eruptive flares, and magnetic reconnection.

Lucy A. McFadden, retired from NASA Goddard, was awarded the honor for her research incorporating both ground- and space-based observations of near-Earth asteroids and comets; her long service to the AAS; and her commitment to the organization of educational opportunities in science and technology.

McFadden worked on space missions dedicated to asteroid and comet studies. From 1992-2010, McFadden was a research professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she conducted research related to small bodies in the solar system. She became a co-investigator on NASA’s Dawn mission to asteroid 4 Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres; NASA’s Deep Impact and its extended mission EPOXI (Deep Impact Extended Investigation), which successfully encountered comets Tempel 1 and Hartley 2. Prior to that, McFadden was a member of the science team for NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission, which orbited the Earth-approaching asteroid named 433 Eros and landed a spacecraft on its surface in 2001.

In 2010, McFadden came to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to lead the center’s higher education and university programs. While at Goddard, McFadden supported the development of future solar system missions. In August 2015 she was elected as the Vice-Chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences and served as it Chair the following year. McFadden assumed emerita status in January 2017.

George Helou of Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. He received the recognition for significant contributions to our understanding of the infrared universe and enabling community access to data from Spitzer, Herschel, Planck, and other missions. Since 1983, Helou has worked at Caltech and with NASA. Currently, he is the executive director of IPAC and a research professor of physics at Caltech.

Helou’s first NASA mission was the pioneering Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), which became the first space telescope to map nearly the whole sky at infrared wavelengths. As deputy director of the Spitzer Science Center, Helou designed science operations for Spitzer. The Spitzer team at IPAC played a key role in the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star, some of which may have liquid water and conditions hospitable to life. Other highlights of Helou’s long and impactful career include being the first to describe the infrared colors of galaxies and explain them as the result of emission from populations of interstellar dust warmed up by stars. His research has also elucidated critical aspects of the physics behind the formation of galaxies and their evolution over billions of years.

The 2022 AAS Fellows now represent the third class recognized for enhancing and sharing humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe through personal achievement and extraordinary service to the astronomical sciences and to the AAS.

The American Astronomical Society, established in 1899, is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers. Its membership of approximately 8,000 also includes physicists, geologists, engineers, and others whose interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising the astronomical sciences. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community, which it achieves through publishing, meetings, science advocacy, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

For more information, see the AAS Fellows page, the AAS Fellows FAQ page, and the inaugural Fellows class press release.

For more about AAS Fellows, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

Rob Gutro, 
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center