The 51 Pegasi b Fellowship provides exceptional postdoctoral scientists with the opportunity to conduct theoretical, observational, and experimental research in planetary astronomy.

Established in 2017, The Heising-Simons Foundation 51 Pegasi b Fellowship is named for the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star. The growing field of planetary astronomy studies celestial objects both within and beyond our solar system, bridging planetary science and astronomy. From accelerating understanding of planetary system formation and evolution, to advancing new technologies for detecting Earth-like worlds, 51 Pegasi b Fellows make unique contributions to the field.


Why did you create the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship?

Planetary astronomy is a growing field attracting many young creative scientists. By supporting postdoctoral researchers, we hope to enhance and accelerate scientific progress, including the discovery of exoplanets, the characterization of exoplanets in habitable zones, and the understanding of our solar system’s formation and evolution.

What do you hope to achieve through the fellowship program?

We hope to create a community among these talented fellows, enabling them to exchange and elevate ideas, gain access to other senior leaders in the field, and advance their careers.

Who is eligible for nomination?

Some 10-15 select universities are invited to participate in the nomination process each year, with the ability to each nominate up to two individuals. These individuals must be recent Ph.D. graduates or postdoctoral researchers.

Can I apply for the fellowship directly?

No, candidates are nominated by universities participating in the fellowship program. There is not a form or process for direct application.

Do the fellowships support research related only to exoplanets, or is more general planetary astronomy research permitted?

The fellowship supports research that broadly fits within the field of planetary astronomy, which also includes general solar system formation and evolution, and planetary atmospheres.

How and when are decisions made?

Completed applications are reviewed by experts in the field and by the Foundation’s Science program staff, who will recommend candidates to the Foundation’s Board for approval. Recipients of the fellowship will be notified in November. The corresponding department chair and faculty sponsor for each fellow are also personally notified.

How many fellowships will you award this year?

Depending on the quality of submissions and availability of funds, the Foundation anticipates awarding up to eight fellowships annually.

Does the Foundation make other grants or support other programs in astronomy?

Yes, the Foundation’s Science program funds general astronomy to enhance and accelerate new scientific discoveries that illuminate basic understanding of the universe and its celestial objects and processes. This includes grants that support the development of instruments that enhance research.

More Information

The 51 Pegasi b Fellowship provides:

  • Up to $375,000 of support for independent research over three years.
  • Time and space to establish distinction and leadership in the field.
  • Mentorship by an established faculty member at the host institution.
  • An annual summit to develop professional networks, exchange information and ideas, and foster collaboration.
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