Press Release

Announcing the United States IYA 2009 Project Office Team

By SpaceRef Editor
April 7, 2008
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Announcing the United States IYA 2009 Project Office Team

The United States effort for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009) has established a core project staff to better engage the astronomical community and coordinate its volunteer efforts. Dr. Stephen Pompea is the US IYA 2009 project director and Dr. Andrea Schweitzer is the US project manager, assisted by Kristina Harding. Dr. Pamela L. Gay is the US IYA Web developer and New Media expert.

Stephen Pompea is an astronomer and the manager of science education at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, AZ. With the approval of the National Science Foundation, Steve will serve half-time as project director for the US IYA effort. Steve leads a dynamic team at NOAO that conducts programs in teacher professional development, optics education, astronomer-teacher research partnerships, programs with the Tohono O’odham Nation and other Native American groups in the region, and Spanish language education efforts in southern Arizona and Chile.

Before joining NOAO, Steve was an independent consultant working on a wide variety of instrumentation and national science education projects. Steve obtained a B.A. in physics, space physics, and astronomy at Rice University, a M.A.T. in teaching at Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Arizona, where he studied star formation in early-type galaxies. He is also known for his work on the optical properties of surfaces and stray light analysis of ground and space-based telescope systems. He has extensive public-school and planetarium education program experience.

Andrea Schweitzer is the US IYA project manager. Andrea received a BS in physics from Pomona College, CA, while a research assistant to the NASA Voyager program. After earning a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Andrea returned to her home state of Colorado for a position with Honeywell, where she received two years of engineering project management training.

Andrea now has her own consulting business, applying her expertise to managing multi-location project teams for clients including NASA, Boeing, the Southwest Research Institute, and the Space Science Institute. Andrea is a founding member of the Little Thompson Observatory (LTO), an all-volunteer community project, built at Berthoud High School in northern Colorado.

Kristina Harding grew up in Cripple Creek, CO, a tiny mountain town west of Colorado Springs. Kristina earned a B.S. degree in recreation management from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO. In 2005, she became the owner and publisher of a well-received regional magazine called the Northern Colorado Woman.

Pamela Gay is perhaps best known for her work on the “Astronomy Cast” and “Slacker Astronomy” podcasts. Combining a solid background in astronomy with a radio-friendly voice, Pamela is working to bring the cosmos to the masses one download at a time. She also writes the popular blog

With Astronomy Cast, Pamela has taken her research in new media in new directions, exploring the socio-economic backgrounds of podcast audiences, and exploring in detail what topics people want to hear. Pamela received a B.S. in Astrophysics from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Texas. Today, she teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her first research love was (and remains) variable stars, but she has also worked on galaxy evolution and the Butcher-Oemler Effect.

Further biographical details, along with email contacts and photos of the staff members, are available at the US IYA 2009 Web site:

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.

For more information, see the main IYA2009 Web site:

SpaceRef staff editor.