• Storms on Jupiter are disturbing the planet’s colorful belts

    August 22, 2019

    Storm clouds rooted deep in Jupiter’s atmosphere are affecting the planet’s white zones and colorful belts, creating disturbances in their flow and even changing their color. Thanks to coordinated observations of the planet in January 2017 by six ground-based optical and radio telescopes and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a University of California, Berkeley, astronomer and her colleagues have been able to track the effects of these storms — visible as bright plumes above the planet’s ammonia ice clouds — on the belts in which they appear. The observations will ultimately help planetary scientists understand the complex atmospheric dynamics on Jupiter,…

  • Milky Way’s central black hole puts Einstein’s theories to the test

    July 31, 2019

    University of California astronomers have tested Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity in the crucible of the monstrous black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy and found it rock solid. For now. The team, led by UCLA astronomer Andrea Ghez, and with key analyses by UC Berkeley’s Jessica Lu, an assistant professor of astronomy, followed a star orbiting so close to the black hole that the light it gives off is affected by the black hole’s intense gravity. The effect, a gravitational redshift, matched exactly what Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity predict. “The measurement of gravitational…

  • Jupiter-like exoplanets found in sweet spot in most planetary systems

    June 12, 2019

    As planets form in the swirling gas and dust around young stars, there seems to be a sweet spot where most of the large, Jupiter-like gas giants congregate, centered around the orbit where Jupiter sits today in our own solar system. The location of this sweet spot is between 3 and 10 times the distance Earth sits from our sun (3-10 astronomical units, or AU). Jupiter is 5.2 AU from our sun. That’s just one of the conclusions of an unprecedented analysis of 300 stars captured by the Gemini Planet Imager, or GPI, a sensitive infrared detector mounted on the…

  • Where do new stars form in galaxies?

    May 24, 2019

    Spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way are studded with cold clouds of hydrogen gas and dust, like chocolate chips in a loaded Toll House cookie. Astronomers have long focused on these so-called molecular clouds, suspecting that they are hotspots for star formation. But are they? After a thorough analysis of the molecular clouds in a nearby spiral galaxy, an international team of astronomers has found that, while star formation starts up rapidly in these clouds, the newly formed stars quickly disperse the cloud – in as little as a few million years – stopping further star formation. So while…

  • Uros Seljak is one of Eight Berkeley faculty elected to National Academy of Sciences

    April 30, 2019

    In recognition of their outstanding achievements in original research, eight UC Berkeley faculty have been elected members of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most distinguished scientific organizations in the country. The newly elected researchers include a neuroscientist, two physicists, two cellular biologists, a computer scientist, a chemist and an economist, and bring the total number of living UC Berkeley faculty who are members of the academy to 135. Martin Banks is a professor of optometry, vision science, neuroscience and psychology in the School of Optometry and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. His research explores how humans use multiple…

  • Astronomy Names Recipients for 2018-2019 Outstanding GSI Awards

    April 22, 2019

    The Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (OGSI) Award honors UC Berkeley GSIs each year for their outstanding work in the teaching of undergraduates. These OGSI recipients are nominated from within their teaching department.  Criteria includes the following: overall effectiveness as an instructor capacity to promote critical thinking skills in presenting course material utilization of pedagogically effective approaches, for example, collaborative learning, problem-based learning, or community-based learning skills in developing course materials that promote learning, for example, course syllabi, website, essay or exam questions, paper topics command of the subject area ability to motivate students engagement in departmental and campuswide activities that…

  • Professor Eugene Chiang Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Recipient of 2019 Noyce Prize

    April 18, 2019

    Nine UC Berkeley faculty have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a prestigious nonpartisan research center that convenes scholars and leaders in academic, business and government sectors, drawing expertise across disciplines, to address the most complex challenges of our time. Here are this year’s honorees: Judith Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory. Her work focuses on critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, as well as on comparative literature, philosophy and social and political thought. Eugene Chiang is a professor of astronomy and of earth and planetary science. A…

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  • 2019 Class of 51 Pegasi b Fellows Announced

    March 27, 2019

    The Heising-Simons Foundation is pleased to announce the 2019 recipients of the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship in planetary astronomy. Recipients are recognized for their outstanding research achievements, their creativity, and their great promise in tackling risky and novel ideas. Winners include Cheng Li, who is currently a NASA postdoctoral fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This fall, he will join the UC Berkeley astronomy department to conduct his postdoctoral studies. Cheng will use information recently collected from the Juno mission to challenge and refine theories about the atmospheres of giant planets. His work will include profiling exotic cloud-forming materials on distant…

  • UC Berkeley researchers discover farthest star ever observed, 9 billion light years away

    March 25, 2019

    The most distant star ever observed — at a distance of about nine billion light years — was captured using the Hubble Space Telescope by a group of researchers, including members of the UC Berkeley department of astronomy. The star, named MACS J1149 Lensed Star 1, or LS1, was observed in April 2016 when researchers were examining images of a distant supernova, according to campus astronomy professor Alex Filippenko. “For the first time ever we’re seeing an individual normal star — not a supernova, not a gamma ray burst, but a single stable star — at a distance of nine…