John Zarnecki

PhD in X-ray astronomy

Prof. John Zarnecki did his undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Cambridge, England (1968-1971) before undertaking Ph.D. research in the Department of Physics and Astronomy (Mullard Space Science Laboratory) at University College London. He continued to work at UCL in the field of X-ray astronomy, developing instrumentation for sounding rocket and satellite payloads as well as analyzing flight data, specializing in the emission of x-rays from supernova remnants. He then moved to British Aerospace in Bristol to take responsibility for the low light level TV system, part of the Faint Object Camera, one of the five scientific instruments on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This was only recently de-commissioned after becoming the longest operating camera in space. He then moved to the University of Kent in 1981 as the Project Manager for the highly successful Dust Impact Detection System which flew on ESA's Giotto spacecraft to within a few hundred kilometers of the nucleus of Halley's Comet in 1986. He spent 19 years at the University of Kent becoming a Reader in Space Sciences. Subsequently he moved to the Open University with several colleagues from Kent to form the UK's largest research group in Planetary Sciences. Since 1990, he has been Principal Investigator on the Huygens mission, part of the ESA/NASA mission to the Saturnian system and Saturn's largest moon Titan. On 14 January 2005, Huygens touched down on the surface of Titan, by far the most distant landing ever achieved. His Surface Science Package produced over 3.5 hours of data in Titan's atmosphere and surface, currently under analysis. He is involved in a variety of national and international advisory bodies in the field of Space Research, and is also active in the field of the public understanding of science.

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