Current Faculty

Photo of Alex Filippenko

Alex Filippenko

Professor of Astronomy


  • 255 Campbell Hall


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 was a member of both teams that discovered (in 1998) the accelerating expansion of the Universe, probably driven by "dark energy"; this discovery 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) at Lick Observatory, which is conducting one of the world's most successful searches for relatively nearby supernovae.


Alex Filippenko is the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences. His accomplishments, documented in about 750 research papers, have been recognized by several major prizes, and he is one of the world's most highly cited astronomers. In 2009 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and he shared part of the Gruber Cosmology Prize in 2007. He has won the top teaching awards at UC Berkeley and has been voted the "Best Professor" on campus a record 9 times. In 2006 he was selected as the Carnegie/CASE National Professor of the Year among doctoral institutions, and in 2010 he won the ASP's Emmons Award for undergraduate teaching. He has produced five astronomy video courses with "The Great Courses," coauthored an award-winning textbook, and appears in numerous TV documentaries including about 40 episodes of "The Universe" series. An avid tennis player, hiker, snorkeler, and skier, he enjoys world travel and is addicted to observing total solar eclipses (13 so far).