This Week | Dr. Karen J. Meech

Victoria Adelaide: On October 2017, you got the phone call astronomers dream about. NASA had spotted ‘Oumuamua, the very first visitor from another solar system. Can you tell us about that, as well as what ‘Oumuamua stands for?
Dr. Karen J. Meech: We asked some local Hawaiians to suggest a name. They came up with ‘Oumuamua, which means “messenger or distant scout from afar reaching out to us.” We thought this was a nice name for the first interstellar visitor discovered in our solar system. I had just returned from our main annual meeting on planetary sciences on October 21st, 2017. I had been working around the clock for months without a day off, so I was looking forward to doing absolutely nothing on Sunday. That’s when the PI (principal investigator) of the Pan-STARRS survey called me at home and said, “Karen, I think the object that we discovered on October 19th looks like it has an orbit; that means it’s coming from outside the solar system.” At first, I thought, “Did this have to happen today, on Sunday?” (laughs) But then I got excited! We had to move very quickly on this before other people found out about it. We needed to get telescope time so we could put as many telescopes as possible on it to understand what it was, as these things move very quickly with respect to the earth and the sun. Because they shine as a result of light that’s reflected from their surface, the further away they get from you, the fainter they become…

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Victoria Adelaide: What inspires you to choose a role?
Craig Braun: Usually it’s something that frightens me. It’s a role with a challenge. I’m not interested in doing roles where I can phone them in or just walk through. And because I came very late to acting and because television and cinema have melded, one or the other is the same in America, this hurt me a great deal when actors who are names, suddenly made themselves available for television…

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