University of Texas
Heather Flewelling



Heather Flewelling


Heather Flewelling got her BS from the University of Texas in 2001. She earned a PhD from the University of Michigan.

Her ham call letters, WH6FTQ,

Dr. Heather A. Flewelling, works for the Institute for Astronomy, which is part of the University of Hawaii. Dr. Flewelling has a PhD in Physics from the University of Michigan.

She is currently working on ATLAS, Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, ATLAS is an asteroid impact early warning system being developed by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA. It consists of two telescopes, 100 miles apart, which automatically scan the whole sky several times every night looking for moving objects. Heather has a very cool job title "Planetary Defense Researcher".

ATLAS ( , is a set of 0.5 meter telescopes, one on Haleakala, Maui, one on Maunaloa, Hawaii. Atlas has discovered 283 Near-Earth Asteroids, 31 Potentially hazardous asteroids, 16 comets and 3082 supernovas.


Heather was at work on the morning of discovery. “Each morning, we look through the previous night's data to search for and report new asteroids. Occasionally we find comets and artificial satellites.”

Dr. Flewelling stated "to report the comet, I noted that it had a tail, measured it (the size, brightness, and position), compared it to nearby stars, and submitted the observations to the Minor Planet Center with a message that I detected cometary activity. Once submitted, it was listed on the Potential Comet Confirmation Page, and other astronomers did follow up observations to confirm.”


Camera photo of Flewelling Comet.


Another really cool thing she was a huge part of that happened this year was releasing the world's largest astronomical database: .

This database, called Pan-STARRS DR2, has been referred to the size of taking 2 billion selfies or 15 times of the volume of the Library of Congress.

Heather is very active in Hawaii in amateur radio; she is a NCS for a nightly net, involved in Simplex nets as well as Hiking and activating mountaintops for SOTA. She has been an NCS for Skywarn several times, starting with Hurricane Lane in 2018.

She got her license on May 8, 2018 and upgraded to Extra on Field Day 2018.

Comet Flewelling (Comet 2019 D1) discovered in Hawaii.

The International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center named the comet on 21 March 2019. The comet was named “Comet Flewelling”,(Comet 2019 D1).

Heather said she enjoys everything about ham radio. Especially anything with simplex, hiking, or trying to make long distance contacts.

When asked why she got an amateur radio license? Heather replied “I got an SDR radio as an impulse item last year. These are the ones you can get for about $10, plug into your computer, and pick up FM radio stations. I discovered the ham bands and a few other bands. It was fascinating, and I couldn't stop exploring the bands. Once I found out the ham bands were quite active in Honolulu, I got my license as fast as possible. I assumed I would immediately jump into HF. It turns out it was quite out of my budget as well as somewhat difficult to do in a condo. Instead, I discovered how much fun VHF/UHF is! I particularly like simplex and summits on the air (SOTA), but I also really like how welcoming and friendly the ham community is. Ham radio is something I should have gotten into a long time ago. I'm trying to make up for lost time now!”