Heather Campbell

Favourite Thing: Being the first person to discover what a new object is, e.g. taking a spectrum and working out that the object is an explosion of a star, called a supernova.



PhD in Supernovae Cosmology from University of Portsmouth, MPhys from University of Sussex, Weald of Kent School, Capel Primary School



Work History:

Post Doc at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

Current Job:

Researcher in Astronomy


University of Cambridge

Me and my work

I search for new supernovae using the Gaia Satellite Mission.

The Gaia Satellite Mission is scanning the whole sky many times to map position and motions of the billion brightest stars in the Galaxy. But because it looks at the whole sky many times we can search for transient objects, things which change in brightness, like explosions of stars. However, once Gaia finds a new source it might not look at it again for a month, and thats too late! So I’m spending a lot of time at the moment going to telescopes around the world getting more information of these objects, taking spectra to find out what they are and images to  see how they change in brightness. But we (astronomers) can’t get enough telescope time to get enough information on all the objects Gaia will find, about 3 Supernovae per day, so we need schools to help! You can use robotic telescopes (e.g. the Faulkes telescopes) from your classroom to observe the new sources, help work out what they are and contribute to real scientific discoveries.

I’m also involved in outreach of the Gaia satellite, this included taking a stand about the satellite to shows around the country, visiting astronomy societies, and schools, teacher training events and helping make these animations

My Typical Day

Use computers to analysis data from supernovae and discuss science ideas with colleagues.

What I'd do with the money

Arrange for the schools involved in I’m a scientist to visit the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge.

I’d like  to arrange a day when the school classes which were involoed in this project, particularly those interested in participating in observing the Gaia alerts using Robotic telescopes could visit the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge. There you would be able to look at some of the amazing old telescopes we have and met some of the other researchers involved in the Gaia satellite mission. Some of my colleagues and I would talk about the Gaia Mission and what new things we are discovering, as well and explaining practically how you can be involved.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, driven, bubbly.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Changes all the time, but a singer I always love is Nina Simone.

What's your favourite food?

Chocolate, couldn’t live with out it!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Walked on the Great Wall of China

What did you want to be after you left school?

An astronomer, never thought I actually get to be one though!

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not really, I loved school, always wanted to learn more, and still do today.

What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Used some amazing telescope around the world, Chile was one of the best!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My physics teacher, documentaries and work experience at the Royal Observatory.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Not sure, work in science outreach or communications.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I had more time using telescopes, clearer skies (I’m writing this while at a telescope in Italy which we cant use due to lots of cloud) and I had more confidence.

Tell us a joke.

How do astronomers see in the dark? They use standard candles

Other stuff

Work photos: