Ray Jayawardhana is an astronomer at the University of Toronto, where he holds a Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics, and an award-winning science writer. His primary research areas include the formation and early evolution of stars, brown dwarfs and planets.
As a graduate student at Harvard, he led one of the two teams that discovered a dusty disk around the young star HR 4796A with a large inner hole, possibly carved out by planet formation processes. His group has played a key role in establishing that young brown dwarfs undergo a T Tauri phase, similar to young Sun-like stars, with evidence for dusty disks and signatures of disk accretion and outflow. Disks have now also been found around sub-brown dwarfs or planemos. In September 2008, he and his collaborators reported the first direct image and spectroscopy of a likely extra-solar planet around a normal star.
Jayawardhana is the author of Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe, Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond our Solar System and Star Factories: The Birth of Stars and Planets. His popular articles have appeared in many publications, including The Economist, The New York Times, Scientific American, New Scientist, Sky and Telescope, Muse, Science and the Times Higher Education Supplement. He is also known for organizing innovative science outreach programs such as the CoolCosmos astronomy poster campaign on the Toronto Transit Commission.