Dr. Alberto ContiAlberto Conti, Ph.D. is one of the creators of the GoogleSky concept. He is also the Innovation Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s premier space observatory of the next decade.
He was previously Archive Scientist for the Multimission Archive at Space Telescope, the NASA UV, and Optical data archive. And before that he was Development Manager at the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Community Missions Office (CMO). CMO serves as the conduit between mission teams and STScI personnel to ensure support for mission science operations, data archiving, grants administration, peer review, and education/outreach.
He earned his laurea degree in physics from the University of Trieste, Italy, with a thesis titled “Binary Galaxies in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) Redshift Survey”. During the following two years, he worked on the largest sample (at the time) of optical rotation curves of galaxies at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), in Trieste. There he developed algorithms to automate the extraction of physical parameters from galactic rotation curves, paving the way for the analysis of much larger samples. He has since specialized in statistical methods, computational astrophysics, and large datasets.
In 2000 Alberto graduated from the Ohio State University with his Ph.D. thesis Interpreting the Properties of Galaxies which was about correlating galactic properties with the physics of galaxy formation. He then became a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Pittsburgh.
In 2003, Alberto joined the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) to co-lead the development of a new archive for the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX). He integrated this effort with work on the National Virtual Observatory.
In January 2005, he became Branch Manager for the Astronomy Tools and Applications (ASTTA) branch at STScI’s Engineering System and Software Division. ASTTA develops some of the best-known software products for the astronomical community, such as Astronomer Proposal Tool, PyRAF, and Multidrizzle.
At the 15th annual ADASS conference in October 2005, Alberto became interested in the Google Earth software that allows anyone to browse earth with a simple point-and-click interface. Back at STScI he sent a proposal to John Hanke, the Head of Google Earth and Google Maps, to extend the Google Earth interface to space-based data. John Hanke agreed to have Brian McClendon establish a project plan for such a product, called GoogleSky. The project, co-led with Dr. Carol Christian, started on April 11, 2006 at Google with this tech talk.
Alberto coauthored Sky in Google Earth: The Next Frontier in Astronomical Data Discovery and Visualization, Statistical Properties of the GALEX/SDSS matched source catalogs, and classification of the UV sources, The Multimission Archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute in the context of VO activities, Globular Cluster Systems As Distance Indicators: Metallicity Effects On The Luminosity Function, Quasar Candidates in the Hubble Deep Field, The Star Formation History of Galaxies Measured from Individual Pixels. I. The Hubble Deep Field North, and From Correlations of Galaxy Properties to the Physics of Galaxy Formation: A Theoretical Framework.
Watch New Frontiers in Astronomy: Hubble and Beyond. Read his blog.