Paul Dalba has felt that planetary astronomy offers the perfect balance of familiarity and imagination, from the time he peered through a telescope in his youth to viewing freshly captured images from the Cassini spacecraft at NASA. Paul works at the overlap of theory and observation to discover the unknown in his niche: exoplanets akin to Jupiter and Saturn that orbit their host stars over long time periods. Paul leads the Giant Outer Transiting Exoplanet Mass Survey (GOT ’EM), a fruitful program at Keck Observatory and Lick Observatory to determine the masses of his targets. He also coordinates intercontinental campaigns that enlist community scientists in days-long observations of exoplanets slowly passing in front of their host stars. Paul’s endeavors to characterize relatively unexplored worlds expand the boundaries of observable objects and place our solar system in sharper perspective.

In his fellowship, Paul will advance his GOT ’EM findings to characterize a valuable set of giant exoplanets. After calculating the mass of each planet, he will investigate the planets’ metal compositions to tell a complete story about their interiors and atmospheres. This work will help answer essential questions on how planetary systems come to be and prepare a selection for examination with JWST. Paul will also work with the SETI Institute to conduct exoplanet observations with the global Unistellar Network of community scientists. Paul received a Ph.D. in astronomy from Boston University in Fall 2018. Prior to starting his 51 Pegasi b Fellowship, Paul was an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Riverside.

“When I’m at an observatory, it’s the closest I get to interacting with the subject of my research. Exoplanets provide a wonderful discovery space because there is still so much to learn.”