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Dr. Tamara Payne

AO_Tamara_AboutDr. Tamara (Mara) Whitacre Payne grew up in Kansas City and her father, a watchmaker, got her interested in the Apollo Space Program and Astronomy. She graduated from University of Kansas with a Master’s degree in Computational Physics and Astronomy. While there she was the president of the local amateur astronomy club, the Astronomy Associates of Lawrence. At this club, she learned about the night sky, observing techniques, and operating and maintaining telescopes and observatories, star parties, and public lectures. She also directed summer workshops for elementary students in Physics and Astronomy, and was the lead instructor for the KU Summer Astronomy Camp for high school students. She was granted the N. Wyman Storer award for Outstanding Public Service in Astronomy and the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. For her master’s thesis work, she observed with the .9-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Observatory in Chile and studied the pre-Main Sequence population of the open cluster NGC3293.

Mara then went to New Mexico State University for her doctorate work. Her research explorations included astrometry and planetary atmospheres, and class projects using the 1-meter telescope at the Blue Mesa Observatory. After a summer research position at the National Solar Observatory, she decided to pursue the study of solar energetic phenomena in the chromosphere and photosphere for her dissertation. She was awarded an Air Force Palace Knight position to complete her research and study space weather and solar energetic activity prediction methods, which launched her career as an Air Force civilian. She was part of the Air Force Laboratory Star Team awarded for research in solar environmental disturbances. She completed her dissertation work in 1993. It involved a coordinated observations campaign of a selected solar active region in three major wavelength regimes: soft x-rays, visible, and radio; using a space-based telescope (YOHKOH), the Vacuum Tower Telescope at Sunspot, New Mexico, and the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope near Socorro, New Mexico.

After graduation, she moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and then Maui, Hawaii, to participate in research efforts to explore the spectral characteristics of satellites using the skills she developed in multiwavelength analysis. She has worked in this field for fourteen years during which, she’s had observing experience on the several Air Force telescopes. While in Albuquerque, she was a research associate for the University of New Mexico Institute for Astrophysics. She taught introductory astronomy and observed with the UNM Capilla Peak Observatory’s 1.2-meter telescope.

She moved to Dayton, Ohio to continue this research with her colleague, Dr. Anil Chaudhary at Applied Optimization, Inc.. As part of her responsibilities, she leads the development of two telescope systems, one of which is located at John Bryan Observatory. This research supports the global and national need to track and monitor all man-made objects in space in order to protect human life and billions of dollars of assets world-wide.

Dr. Payne’s specialties and expertise are as follows:

  • Astronomy

  • Physics

  • Systems Engineering

  • Image Processing

  • Research & Development

  • Mathematical Modeling and Simulations

  • Space Objects Characterization

  • Space Situational Awareness

  • Project Management

  • Teaching/Mentoring

  • Public Outreach