Jane Luu was born in South Vietnam in 1963. When the North Vietnamese Army arrived in Saigon in 1975, Luu and her family had to flee the country because her father had been an interpreter for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Arriving in the United States as refugees, the Luus ended up with relatives in Kentucky. Luu excelled at science in school and won a scholarship to study physics at Stanford University.
Graduating in 1984, she spent the summer before starting post-graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Inspired by the pictures of planets on the walls taken by the Voyager probes, she resolved to study planetary astronomy. After Berkeley, she moved to the Massachusetts Institute for Technology and it was there, while working on her doctorate, that she teamed up with David Jewitt on the Slow-Moving Objects survey of the outer solar system. Luu won her doctorate in 1990, and then moved on to a job at Harvard University's Center for Astrophysics and later to the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. On returning to the United States, Luu took a break from observational astronomy and now works on instrumentation at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, which seeks technological solutions to problems of national security.
In 1991, the American Astronomical Society awarded Luu the Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy. Asteroid 5430 Luu is named in her honor.