Astronomer

"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough." - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Posts by Marja Seidel

Marja Seidel

Learning about astronomy is like stepping into a different world - almost literally. Already as a child I was blown away by this “new reality”, by images of planetary nebulae taken by the Hubble Space Telescope or trying to read and understand Stephen Hawking’s "A brief history of time". While at school I started going to “astronomical youth camps” - they are fantastic! So go if you are still young enough.

Now I am a staff scientist at IPAC/Caltech in Pasadena, California, working on the NASA Universe of Learning as an outreach scientist. That means that I combine my scientific research activities with a lot of science outreach work. Here at IPAC, we focus on video productions for NASA which I find very exciting! I have always loved cross-disciplinary teams, and developing projects together with some of the best multi-media artists and graphic designers that bring far-away exoplanet systems to life, is incredible.

For my research, I focus on galaxy evolution and the influence of dark matter. Combining observations and simulations, we try to decipher how the multitude of galaxies assembled and evolved over the course of the Universe. By observing interactions of luminous material, we also try to better understand the invisible, but very massive component, called dark matter. I was very lucky to take a lot of my observational data on one of the best telescopes on our planet at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.  And if you ever wondered how the skies look like at an observatory, here is a video I made during my observation runs.


However, I am not only passionate about my research and communication work at my workplace, but also outside of it. Together with my project partners, we have been focusing on bringing astronomy to very remote communities all around the globe, but also try to reach local communities and schools at our doorstep. For that, I have co-founded the initiative Cielo y Tierra, which are education expeditions to remote areas with sustainable transportation to share visions of the cosmos. We usually try to work with an all-female team to empower girls through science and adventure. Apart from Cielo y Tierra, I am a member of GalileoMobile and collaborate with many other outreach organizations and endeavors.  

To me, astronomy is one of the most exciting sciences, which can blow your mind every single day. Also, it really illustrates how significant and insignificant - at the same time - we are as humans on our shared spaceship, the Earth. At this point, I invite you to listen to Carl Sagan: The Pale Blue Dot.