Anna Frebel, 36
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Anna Frebel can’t explain her fascination with the stars. It’d be like explaining why “berry purple-pink” is one of her favorite colors. “They are just a part of me,” says Frebel, an astronomer at MIT. “What’s going on with them and what they can tell us — there is something magical.”
Frebel’s fascination has led to the discovery of at least three record-breaking stars. Dating back roughly 13 billion years, the stars — all within the Milky Way galaxy — might be elders from the second generation of stars ever formed in the universe. She has also found that one of the tiny galaxies flitting around outside the Milky Way might be a fossil that has survived from not long after the Big Bang. The light from these ancient relics encodes stories about the birth of the first stars, the assembling of galaxies and the origin of elements essential to creating planets and life as we know it.
“Anna has a really good track record of finding these amazing things,” says Alexander Ji, one of the three graduate students Frebel mentors at MIT. “She’s always finding things that change our understanding of the universe.”
[Stars] are just a part of me. What’s going on with them and what they can tell us — there is something magical.
— Anna Frebel