Being as connected to geek culture as I am, when I went to meet Christopher Moore at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA), I was expecting someone reminiscent of the characters from The Big Bang Theory. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he doesn’t collect light sabers and does not have a World of Warcraft account-although I was somewhat disappointed that we weren’t going to bond over a mutual enthusiasm for Marvel.
Chris hadn’t thought about being an astronomy major in high school, but after stopping by a college fair following football practice one day, he saw that physics and astronomy were possible career paths and decided to give it a go.
“I did not know much about them. All I knew was astronomy dealt with stars and I like stars. So it was kind of a leap of faith.”
That leap of faith paid off, and after years of hard work and practically living in the math lab to get his math and physics skills up to par, he is now a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow (NSTRF) collaborating with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) with a successful future ahead of him.
Half of Chris’s PhD dissertation is a project with NASA JPL, which is comprised of developing highly reflective UV coatings to protect the mirrors on future satellite missions. Newly deposited metallic reflective coatings oxidize if left unprotected, degrading their performance. This decreases the amount of light that satellite mirrors can collect from astrophysical objects, diminishing the quality of the collected data. To protect the reflective coatings, a transmissive layer is placed on top. In a novel approach, Chris, his advisor Kevin France, and NASA JPL are depositing the coatings one atom at a time until they are 1-2 nanometers thick.
He is also working with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) on designing the Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer MinXSS CubeSat –a baby satellite- set to launch this summer from the International Space Station (ISS) to orbit the Earth for six months. Chris will help test the performance of the x-ray detector on the satellite. The MinXSS will count how many x-ray photons come from the Sun’s corona and the energy of each photon. Additionally, Chris will use MinXSS to study solar flares. This research has exciting implications for the scientific understanding of the evolution of the universe.
Outside of astronomy, Chris is also interested in geography, which fuels his desire to travel the world someday. Happily, traveling for conferences is one benefit from his fellowship at JPL. He has visited Hawaii three times, gone to Montreal, Canada, and was in Orlando, Florida for the final space shuttle launch.
To get away from the lab, Chris plays for CU’s competitive intramural basketball team, and he hopes for championship glory this season. He also enjoys lifting weights, sprinting on the track, and doing plyometrics. Patronizing the local clubs in Boulder and Denver to dance is another hobby he indulges in during his limited free time.
He recently started learning how to play piano, and particularly enjoys playing “When the Saints Go Marching In”, “Jingle Bells”, “Jolly Good Fellow”, “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers and “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.
Chris hopes to continue his scientific career by designing, building, testing, and analyzing the scientific data from satellites that observe astrophysical objects, and wants to be a Principal Investigator (PI) for future satellite projects.
By Jenna Ryder