Three extraordinary planet-hunters have been recognized by TIME Magazine as this year’s top 100 most influential people: Natalie Batalha from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; Michael Gillon from the University of Liège in Belgium; and Guillem Anglada-Escudé from the Queen Mary University in London.
“It is truly exciting to see these planet-hunters among the other movers and the shakers of the world,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics division director at Headquarters in Washington. “These scientists have transformed the world’s understanding of our place in the universe, and NASA congratulates them for their well-deserved recognition.”
Natalie Batalha is the project scientist for NASA’s Kepler mission, the agency’s first dedicated planet-seeking mission tasked to determine whether worlds around other stars are common by looking for telltale dips in a star’s brightness caused by crossing, or transiting, planets. Thanks to Kepler, some scientists believe there is at least one world around every star in the sky. To date, Kepler has found more than 2500 planets, including a “bigger, older cousin” to Earth. In total, the Kepler spacecraft has found nearly 5100 possible planets. Batalha is the first woman at NASA to receive the Time 100 designation.