About

My book Catching Stardust: comets, asteroids and the birth of the Solar System will be published by Bloomsbury in the UK on March 8th 2018 and in the US on June 5th 2018. It’s available for pre-order now.

Catching Stardust book cover

Synopsis: Icy, rocky, sometimes dusty, always mysterious – comets and asteroids are among the Solar System’s very oldest inhabitants, formed within a swirling cloud of gas and dust in the area of space that eventually hosted the Sun and its planets. Locked within each of these extra-terrestrial objects is the 4.6-billion-year wisdom of Solar System events, and by studying them at close quarters using spacecraft we can coerce them into revealing their closely-guarded secrets. This offers us the chance to answer some fundamental questions about our planet and its inhabitants.

Exploring comets and asteroids also allows us to shape the story of Earth’s future, enabling us to protect our precious planet from the threat of a catastrophic impact from space, and maybe to even recover valuable raw materials from them. This cosmic bounty could be as useful in space as it is on Earth, providing the necessary fuel and supplies for humans as they voyage into deep space to explore more distant locations within the Solar System.

Catching Stardust tells the story of these enigmatic celestial objects, revealing how scientists are using them to help understand a crucial time in our history – the birth of the Solar System, and everything contained within it.

Reviews for Catching Stardust:

“Natalie Starkey has packed this book full of information on the minor bodies of our solar system, which are key to understanding how things got the way they are today – a must-have for anyone interested in where we came from.” –  Matt Taylor, ESA Rosetta Project Scientist. 

“A fast-paced journey through time and space, under the enthusiastic guidance of space geologist Natalie Starkey. Highly recommended.” Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary Sciences, The Open University.

“Catching Stardust describes humanity’s place in the universe, laying out the pivotal role asteroids and comets play in our origin. Dr. Starkey combines her breadth of knowledge and a keen ability to present and interconnect concepts including Earth’s geology, planetary exploration, and the compositional insights hidden in samples of small bodies. Catching Stardust builds a strong case why continuing to explore small bodies is so important to understanding our past and in shaping our future.” Jessica Sunshine, Professor of Astronomy, University of Maryland.

“Kudos for Catching Stardust, an enjoyably engaging recount of the role that comets and  asteroids play in teaching us how our Solar System formed and evolved over more than 4.5 billion years. The focus is on advances in the past 25 years and includes current thinking and unanswered questions that is both expertly and accurately written.  It reads like an adventure tale.” Lucy McFadden, Emerita at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

 

Photo credit: Elizabeth Mason

Welcome to my website and blog. I’m currently based in California where I work as a science writer and a teacher. However, my academic background is in geology, geochemistry and cosmochemistry.  I’ve studied ancient volcanoes in the Arctic, active volcanoes in Iceland and the Caribbean, and more recently I’ve analysed specks of space dust from comets and asteroids to find out about the early days of the Solar System. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with NASA on samples collected by the Stardust mission to Comet Wild2, and with JAXA on asteroid samples returned by the Hayabusa mission to Itokawa. I was also involved with the Ptolemy instrument on the ESA Rosetta comet lander.

 

You can find out more about some of my more recent research here.

 

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