Astronomy of the 21st Century Distinguished Speaker Series
Andrea Ghez, University of California at Los Angeles
1800 Dow Chemistry Building, 930 N. University Ave.
Friday, February 20, at 7:30 p.m.
More than a quarter century ago, it was suggested that galaxies such as our own Milky Way may harbor massive, though possibly dormant, central black holes. Definitive proof, for or against, the existence of a massive central black hole lies in the assessment of the distribution of matter in the center of the Galaxy. The motion of the stars in the vicinity of a black hole offers a way to determine this distribution. Based on 14 years of high resolution imaging, Dr. Ghez's team has moved the case for a supermassive black hole at the Galactic Center from a possibility to a certainty. Additionally, spectroscopy has revealed that the stars orbiting in such close proximity are apparently massive and young; the origin of these stars is difficult to explain, given the strong tidal forces, and may provide key insight into the growth of the central black hole.
Dr. Andrea Ghez, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA, has been named a 2008 MacArthur Fellow for her work pioneering techniques in high-resolution imaging. She was named in Discover magazine's 20th anniversary issue (October 2000) as one of the top 20 scientists in the country under 40, who "have demonstrated once-in-a-generation insight" and "will likely change our fundamental understanding of the world and our place in it." Her research focuses on the origin and early life of stars and planets, and the distribution and nature of the matter at the center of our galaxy. She has demonstrated the existence of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, with a mass 3 million times that of our sun. Her honors and awards include the Amelia Earhart Award, a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, the Annie Jump Cannon Award, a Sloan Fellowship, a Packard Fellowship, the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize from the American Astronomical Society, the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award from the American Physical Society, and, most recently, election to the National Academy of Sciences as well as the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Ghez earned her Ph.D. from Caltech, her B.S. from MIT, and was a Hubble Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Arizona's Steward Observatory. She joined UCLA's faculty in 1994.Presented by the Department of Astronomy, the Exhibit Museum of Natural History, and the Student Astronomical Society, and sponsored by the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics, the University Activities Center, and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.