Meet the Curator
Assistant Curator, Division of Physical Sciences
Dr. Oppenheimer is a comparative exoplanetary scientist: he studies planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. This nascent field is so young that much of the work involves developing the techniques needed to see these planets, so that their light can be dissected and analyzed. His optics laboratory in the Rose Center is the birthplace of a number of new astronomical instruments designed to tackle this problem. In March 2004, Dr. Oppenheimer deployed the world's most sensitive coronagraph at the AEOS Telescope in Maui. He designed and built this coronagraph in his AMNH lab. See lyot.org for more information.
Dr. Oppenheimer also works on faint white dwarfs, the remnants of normal stars, and brown dwarfs, star-like objects that are too small to be stars but too large to be called planets. He is the co-discoverer of the first brown dwarf, called Gliese 229B, and was the first scientist to study the atmospheric composition, chemistry and physics of a sub-stellar object outside our solar system.
Dr. Oppenheimer is part of an advisory team setting the scientific goals of some of NASA's most ambitious new space missions, including the search for planets like Earth but orbiting nearby stars. His team at AMNH is also an integral member of the International Gemini Observatory's Planet Imager project.