Senate Faculty

Photo of Alex Filippenko

Alex Filippenko

Professor of Astronomy

BA, 1979, Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara

PhD, 1984, Astronomy, California Institute of Technology


  • 501 Campbell Hall


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Specialty Areas

Supernovae, active galaxies, black holes, gamma-ray bursts, and the expansion of the Universe

Research Interests

Alex Filippenko and his collaborators are determining the nature of the progenitor stars and the explosion mechanisms of different types of supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. He is also using supernovae as cosmological distance indicators, and he was a member of both teams that discovered (in 1998) the accelerating expansion of the Universe, probably driven by "dark energy" -- a discovery that was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to the teams' leaders. He also works on quantifying the physical properties of quasars and active galaxies, and he searches for black holes in both X-ray binary stars and nearby galactic nuclei. His group has developed the 0.76-meter Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT), which is conducting one of the world's most successful searches for relatively nearby supernovae, having discovered about 1000 of them. He is a frequent user of Lick Observatory, the 10-meter Keck telescopes, and the Hubble Space Telescope.


Alex Filippenko is the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences. His accomplishments, documented in more than 800 research papers, have been recognized by several major prizes, including a share of both the Gruber Cosmology Prize (2007) and the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2015). One of the world's most highly cited astronomers, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (2009) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2015). He has won the most prestigious teaching awards at UC Berkeley and has also been voted the "Best Professor" on campus a record 9 times. Selected in 2006 as the Carnegie/CASE National Professor of the Year among doctoral institutions, he has also received the Richard H. Emmons Award for undergraduate teaching (2010). He produced five astronomy video courses with "The Great Courses" (see below), coauthored an award-winning astronomy textbook, and appears in more than 100 TV documentaries, including about 50 episodes of "The Universe" series. He has given nearly 1000 public lectures or other presentations, and he was awarded the 2004 Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization. An avid tennis player, hiker, skier, whitewater rafter, snorkler, and scuba diver, he enjoys world travel and is addicted to observing total solar eclipses (15 so far, all successful).

Note: If you are interested in possibly joining Alex on his next trip to view a total solar eclipse (August 21, 2017), please see .

Alex's future public talks: (1) Monday, August 1, 8-9:30 am, Project Fibonacci 2016 Annual STEAM Conference, Rome, New York, on "The Birth and Early Evolution of the Universe"; (2) Monday, August 1, 6-7:30 pm, Project Fibonacci 2016 Annual STEAM Conference, Rome, New York, on "Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe"; (3) Tuesday, August 30, 2016, Singularity University's Global Summit, San Francisco, CA; (4) Tuesday, September 20, 2016, 6-7:30 pm, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA, part of the "What Light Can Do: Views on Photography" series; (5) Wednesday, September 21, 2016, DENT:SPACE, San Francisco, CA; (6) Friday, September 30, 2016, 5-6 pm, UC Berkeley Homecoming, on "The Glorious All-American Total Solar Eclipse of August 2017!"


View Alex Filippenko's Full Publications List