Rachael Roettenbacher first caught a glimpse of spots on a star’s surface as an undergraduate researcher, and she hasn’t stopped looking at them since. An expert in capturing images and defining the features of stars, Rachael uses an observational method called interferometry, in which she combines light from a spread of telescopes to create a virtual telescope as big as the distance between the two furthest telescopes. Rachael pushes the boundaries of this technique to generate maps of starspots, and also to discern how stellar signals can mimic and dwarf indications of a nearby planet’s presence.

In her fellowship, Rachael will examine a sample of Sun-like stars in unparalleled detail to provide a stronger foundation for extricating signals. Her research program aims to optimize exoplanet detections for upcoming ground-based observatories and space missions, while informing the wider astronomy field on the structure and evolution of stars. In 2016, Rachael received a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Michigan. Prior to starting her 51 Pegasi b Fellowship, Rachael was a Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics Prize Postdoctoral Fellow.

“I arrived at graduate school at exactly the right time to work with exactly the right person with the right resources to make the research I wanted to do possible. It was like all the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly.”