Welcome to Dr. Jarita Holbrook’s Site

This site is a reflection of my exploration of the relationship between people and the sky.


My astrophysical career included studying gas and dust in space. For my undergraduate and masters theses I focused on the structure and composition of planetary nebulae NGC 6572 and NGC 6543. Between my masters and doctorate I worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center focusing on the nuclei of nearby starburst galaxies. My doctoral research was studying the structure and composition of massive star formation regions in our galaxy (Orion BN-KL, GL 2136).. My astrophysics papers can be found via ADS (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/).

I’m now a cultural astronomer, a social scientist, studying people rather than distant celestial objects. I love to travel and my research carries me to locations around the world. As an astronomer, I rarely viewed the sky without the aid of a telescope. Now I primarily do what is called ‘naked-eye’ observing that means going outside and looking up! Though for several of my projects I study astrophysicists, the other people I study do not use telescopes or other equipment, just their knowledge of the night sky.

When I am studying astrophysicists I am interested in identifying the practices of exclusion that perpetuates the lack of ethnic diversity. My documentary films feature astrophysicists from diverse ethnic backgrounds. My films are meant to be tools of cultural change within the astrophysics community. My research on people outside of astrophysics community is to understand contemporary people’s relationship to the sky. I have studied how people use the stars for navigation, their celestial myths, and their celebrations connected to the sky.

I have taken a leadership role in the cultural astronomy community by starting the African Cultural Astronomy conferences and co-founding the African Cultural Astronomy Network. I was elected to the vice presidency of the European Cultural Society (SEAC www.archeoastronomy.org) and was appointed secretary of the International Society for Archeaoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture (ISAAC www.archaeoastronomy.org).

How can you get involved? Please take the Sky in Our Lives Survey which adds to our understanding of what people around the world know about the sky and how they learned it (https://sites.google.com/site/skylivesbeta/). You can support the documentary film “Black Sun” by making a charitable donation via the Austin Film Society website (https://www.austinfilm.org/film-black-sun).

You are invited to learn more about my projects by using the navigation buttons.

Jarita Holbrook

Hubble’s Diverse Universe

NASA used to have a great program for scientists to bring their research to the public. I had the idea to use that mechanism to make a film featuring only underrepresented astrophysicists that would showcase their research. The scientific focus of the film was on what many consider to be the greatest telescope ever made: the Hubble Space Telescope. My goal was to introduce the world to our fantastic African American and Hispanic American astrophysicists. The result is the documentary film “Hubble’s Diverse Universe.” The film is currently going through a festival run with great reviews.