Inspired by the bizarre volcanic activity on Jupiter’s moon Io, Katherine de Kleer studies the composition of planets and moons—including the relationships between their atmospheres, surfaces, and interiors. She tracks the evolution of Io’s powerful volcanic eruptions through high-resolution telescope images in order to investigate the satellite’s heat flow and interior. She also conducts advanced studies of the atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune to gain insight into their circulation and cloud activity. Her work is bringing new understanding of the extraordinary diversity of these places and shedding light on the processes that shape our solar system.

During her fellowship, Katherine will expand her observational work on Io’s geological activity, and will study the other Galilean satellites—Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Through collaboration with Caltech scientists and novel experiments at the Keck, Subaru, and ALMA telescopes, she will pursue a deeper understanding of the interplay between these moons’ surfaces and interiors. This work builds on Katherine’s forward-looking investigations that leverage data from the world’s leading observatories to study the fundamental physics of planetary bodies, setting the stage for future explorations of geological and biological activity on exoplanets. Katherine received a Ph.D. in astrophysics from University of California, Berkeley in May 2017, and held an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship there starting in 2013.

“The first time I looked at Io with the Keck telescope, I was hooked. It still amazes me that we can use telescopes on Earth to image the heat coming off of individual volcanoes on a moon hundreds of millions of kilometers away.”