Interview with Heidi Hammel  

Vice President for Science of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and interdisciplinary scientist in the James Webb Telescope Project

Heidi Hammel 

Vice President for Science of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and interdisciplinary scientist in the James Webb Telescope Project

Heidi Hammel is Vice President for Science at the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and an interdisciplinary scientist at the James Webb Telescope Project, a space observatory built and operated by the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and NASA. 

She will also be a featured speaker at the Vicuña World Astrotourism Summit 2023 (CMAT). She will participate in the panel "New discoveries that contribute to tourism development" that will take place on Thursday, September 7 at 11 am at the Municipal Theater of Vicuña with the conduction of the National Director of Sernatur Cristóbal Benítez. 

From Washington, Heidi Hammel spoke with the CMAT organization about her work at the James Webb Space Telescope, her participation in the event to be held in the commune of Vicuña, and the relevance of astrotourism for the scientific community and people in general.

What do you think about the fact that a small town like Vicuña is organizing a World Astrotourism Summit of this magnitude?

I think it's wonderful that Vicuña and Chile are organizing this activity, it's a recognition of the quality of its skies, and a great opportunity for all of us - scientists and the community in general - to get together to talk about the skies and science. I'm really excited about coming to Chile, and I'm sure we're going to be entertained. 

What message are you coming to this Summit with? 

The central message I want to convey to the community is that we all have the capacity and we can all explore the universe, from telescopes like the James Webb, the telescopes installed in Chile like the Tololo and Gemini, or an astro-tourism telescope.  

Exploring allows us to know who we are, where we come from, and what is our place in the universe, and not only for professional astronomers, but also for those who enjoy astrotourism. 

He will participate in the panel "New astronomical discoveries that contribute to the development of tourism" What are those questions that the scientific community is asking today? 

Every time new tools are built, the frontiers of research are expanded. The James Webb Space Telescope has a small field of research, but it is very deep, and that allows it to address certain issues and answer specific questions. 

But at the same time it needs other telescopes to complement the research. In this sense, the Vera Rubin Observatory, which is in the commune of Vicuña, will see the entire southern hemisphere in 3 days, complementing the James Webb, and observing large-scale changes.

23-08 Programa Cumbre Mundial de Astroturismo Vicuña 2023 Inglés.pdf

What is the goal of your research on the James Webb? 

The James Webb Space Telescope was designed and built to see the earliest galaxies that have formed in the universe. We have theories of how they formed but this tool is able to see and test if our theories are correct. 

More than 25 years ago I believed that if we could see the most distant galaxies in our universe, we could see things better here in our solar system. So I wanted to use this telescope to study our local planets like Uranus and Neptune, to study the moons of Jupiter and also the asteroids; today my team is using the James Webb telescope to study everything nearby. 

What is the importance of astrotourism for the scientific community and for people in general? 

Astrotourism makes astronomy real, and closer, to the common citizen. Many years ago I was doing research with the Hubble space telescope and I saw the collision of a comet with Jupiter. 

At the end of the week I saw a person watching on a small telescope, and I lined up to see it from there. It was much more exciting to see it from an astro-tourism telescope than from a screen showing incredible images. This is the importance of astro-tourism.

Pictures of the city of Vicuña (Chile)

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services and to analyze traffic. Information about your use of this site is shared with Google. By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies.