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

Miller Fellow for Basic Reseach in Science, 1984-86, University of California, Berkeley


  • 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 more than 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, and a Miller Senior Fellow in the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science (UC Berkeley). His accomplishments, documented in about 900 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). In 2017, he was selected for the Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award. 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 about 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, snorkeler, and scuba diver, he enjoys world travel and is addicted to observing total solar eclipses (16 so far, all successful).

Alex's future public talks:

(1) Saturday, April 21, 2018, 1:00-2:45 pm: Cal Day, UC Berkeley: "A Universe of Universes? Reflections on Life and the Cosmos." 2050 Valley Life Sciences Building. See .

(2) Saturday, April 21, 2018, 8-9:30 pm: Astronomy Nights on Mt. Tamalpais: "A Universe of Universes?" See and .

(3)  Tuesday, April 24, 2018, 7:30-9:30 pm: Taste of Science, and Astronomy on Tap: "The Expansion of the Universe: Dark Energy and a New Twist." DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., San Francisco, CA 94110. See .

(4) Thursday, May 3, 2018, 7:30-8:30 pm (followed by stargazing, 8:30-10 pm, for those who want to stay): Astro Night, UC Berkeley: "Einstein Triumphs: The Magnificent Detection of Gravitational Waves." 131 Campbell Hall, UC Berkeley. See .

(3) Sunday, May 6, 2018, 11-11:45 am: Sonoma Valley Authors Festival. "Einstein's Biggest Blunder? Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe." See


View Alex Filippenko's Full Publications List


Other Publications Of Interest

Video courses:

(1) Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy


(2) Black Holes Explained


(3) Skywatching: Seeing and Understanding Cosmic Wonders