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The Department of Astronomy offers undergraduate and graduate instruction in a wide variety of fields, including theoretical and observational astrophysics; infrared, optical, and radio astronomy; galactic structure and dynamics of stellar systems; high-energy astrophysics and cosmology; and spectroscopy. A considerable amount of research and teaching related to astronomy is done in other units at Berkeley, including the Space Science Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and the Physics Department. Various professors in the Chemistry, Earth and Planetary Science, Mathematics, Statistics, and Engineering departments have an active interest in astronomy and are available for consultation.

Many instruments are available to students and staff, including two 10-meter telescopes at the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, 30-inch, 40-inch and 120-inch telescopes at Lick Observatory, a 16-element millimeter-wave interferometer in Southern California, the PAPER Array in South Africa, and a 30-inch telescope at Leuschner Observatory (near the campus). Laboratories are available for the development of radio, infrared, and optical instruments, and for the precise measurement of images and spectra.


Astronomy C12 - The Planets
Summer Session Course begins May 27th

This 3 unit course fulfills the L&S breadth requirements for Physical Science. Please see this flyer for details.

Professor Eugene Chiang Receives 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award

On March 13th 2014, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced faculty member Dr. Eugene Chiang as a recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award. Dr. Chiang has been a professor with the Astronomy department since 2001 and currently serves as director of the Berkeley Center for Integrative Planetary Science. His research focuses on theoretical astrophysics, with an emphasis on understanding the origin of planetary systems, both extra-solar and solar. Dr. Chiang is an active member within the campus community: In addition to acting as head Graduate Advisor for the Astronomy Department, he serves on multiple committees which include the Berkeley Committee on Undergraduate Scholarships, Honors, and Financial Aid and is the Astronomy Liaison and Co-I for the Berkeley Science and Diversity program. On April 23rd the campus honored Dr. Chiang's excellence in teaching with a public ceremony: in attendance were members of the chancellor's office, the department, Dr. Chiang's family and colleagues, and many of his undergraduate and graduate students.





Raymond & Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Astronomy
David Spergel, Princeton University

What happened during the first moments of the big bang? What is the dark energy? What were the properties of the first stars? In this free public lecture held last October 16, Dr. Spergel discussed the role of ongoing and future CMB observations and described how the combination of large-scale structure, supernova and CMB data could be used to address these key cosmological questions.



2013 Winning T-Shirt Design

The Annual Departmental T-Shirt Design Contest continues to provide distraction from the rigors of astrophysics and an opportunity to explore hidden artistic and creative talents.

This year's winner was "Baseball," submitted by graduate student, Adam Morgan. His design, as well as previous designs, are all available for purchase online.

2013 Shirts: $16 plus shipping
Shirts prior to 2013: $14 plus shipping

The T-shirt design contest is held each year at the start of the Spring Semester, with the winning design selected and printed in time for Cal Day in April. All Astronomy Department students, staff, faculty, postdocs, and researchers are welcome to submit their designs for consideration. The winning design is determined by departmental vote. The new contest will launch in January 2014 -- stay tuned for more information.



Kinematic SZ effect observation highlighted by Physics World

Nick Hand from the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues at the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) and the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) were named by Physics World as one of the top 10 breakthroughs in 2012 for being the first to detect the large-scale motion of galaxy clusters.

The motions of distant galaxy clusters tell us much about how the universe formed and sheds light on the mysterious dark matter and dark energy. Some 40 years ago, the Russian physicists Rashid Sunyaev and Yakov Zel'dovich discovered that this motion could be observed by measuring a slight temperature shift in the cosmic-microwave-background (CMB) radiation. Now, in a triumph of precision cosmology, Nick Hand and colleagues at ACT and BOSS have produced the first ever observation of the kinematic Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect.


Professor Geoff Marcy receives a Templeton Award
When science borders on science fiction

Prof. Marcy

Astronomer Geoff Marcy and cosmologist and string theorist Raphael Bousso are among 20 scientists awarded research grants to explore innovative and edgy areas of science. In the case of Marcy and Bousso, these areas are on the border between science and science fiction.


Professor Alex Filippenko flies with the Blue Angels
Astronomer jets up, up and away with Blue Angels

Prof. Filippenko in jet.

Astronomy faculty member, Alex Filippenko, had the thrill of being taken for a ride in one of the Navy's elite Blue Angels jet fighters during Fleet Week. Filippenko flew as part of the Blue Angels' Key Influencers program, in part because of Filippenko's role in the research that led to last year's Nobel Prize in physics. Filippenko's jet was piloted by Navy Lt. Mark Tedrow, who took Berkeley’s well-known black hole expert through rolls and turns where he felt the effects of 6.2 Gs — more than six times the force of gravity — as well as weightlessness at 0 G and even negative Gs, all perfect conditions for experiments that will wow his Astro 10 students.



Professor Quataert receives $500,000+ as new 2012 Simons Investigator

Eliot Quataert, Astronomy Professor and Director of the Theoretical Astrophysics Center at Berkeley, was recently selected as a 2012 Simons Investigator. Quataert was among 21 mathematicians, theoretical physicists and theoretical computer scientists across the country chosen for this prestigious award. Each award recipient will receive $100,000 per year for five to ten years to pursue whatever research they want.

This is the inaugural year for the Simons Investigator Program. It was established by the Simons Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to advancing the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. The goal of this new program is to provide a stable base of support for outstanding scientists in their most productive years, enabling them to undertake long-term study of fundamental questions.

Quataert specializes in modeling gas clouds, in particular clouds of ionized gas called plasma, and how this gas behaves in stars, galaxies and even close to black holes. Using approaches that range from pencil and paper calculations to simulations on some of the world's largest supercomputers, he can calculate the intensity and frequency of radiation produced to compare it with what astronomers observe. According to Quataert, "This kind of support is critical for pursuing problems where you don't necessarily know what you're doing; they're just interesting."

For more information, please visit the news center post.



The Campbell Hall demolition party was a success. After presenting the demoltion plans and the construction schedule for New Campbell, our department chair, Imke de Pater took down one of the last remaining pieces of drywall.

Imke, Eliot, and Carl celebrate a successful demolition. Additional photos.





Following on from the Astronomy Department's successful celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, volunteers and speakers from the department are taking part in a series of talks and other activities which celebrate the breadth of scientific research, including astronomy, taking place at UC Berkeley. For more details, visit the Science@Cal Lecture Series website.