Celebrating astronomical success at UC Santa Cruz

The 2012 Founders Celebration is a time to recognize extraordinary individuals and their outstanding contributions.

During this year's celebration, two major events—the Foundation Forum, featuring Martin Rees, United Kingdom's Astronomer Royal, and the 12th annual Sidhartha Maitra Memorial Lecture, featuring Sandra Faber, University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics professor at UCSC, will put astronomy studies in the spotlight.

UC Santa Cruz is the perfect place to host these high-profile events, considering its eminent status in this field. UCSC is one of the world's leading centers for both observational and theoretical research in astronomy and astrophysics.

Areas of special interest at UCSC include the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies, planet formation and extrasolar planets, cosmology (the origin and evolution of the universe), high-energy astrophysics, black holes, supernovae, and all aspects of observational optical and infrared astronomy.

Highlights of the program include:

Sky-high ranking: UCSC has been ranked first in the nation for research impact in both astronomy (2008) and physics (2007), based on how often our faculty's published research in these fields is cited by other scientists.

Observatory base: Headquartered on the UCSC campus is the University of California Observatories (UCO), which operates the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton near San Jose and oversees UC's participation in the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. UCSC astronomers have been integrally involved in the design, construction, and use of the Keck Observatory since the project's inception. UCO also is the center for UC participation in the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) project.

Cosmic contributions: UCSC astronomers and physicists have been involved in the design and construction of many other major telescopes and astronomical instruments. Physicists at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) played a leading role in the development of the main instrument on NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Instrumental facilities: Most of the instruments for the Lick and Keck Observatories are designed and fabricated at UCO's technical facilities at UCSC and UCLA. The UCSC facilities include an optical lab and shops, an engineering lab, an advanced detector lab, and the Laboratory for Adaptive Optics, established with a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Sharper image: UCSC astronomers have been pioneers in the development of adaptive optics technology, which removes the blurring of telescope images caused by turbulence in the atmosphere.

Star-studded department: UCSC's award-winning astronomers and astrophysicists include Sandra Faber, renowned for her work on galaxy formation and evolution; Jerry Nelson, a pioneer in telescope design; Stan Woosley, a leading authority on supernovae and gamma-ray bursts; Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, a rising star in the field of high-energy astrophysics; planetary scientist Jonathan Fortney, a member of the science team for NASA's Kepler Mission; planet hunter Steve Vogt; and adaptive optics pioneer Claire Max, among many others.

Dark matter distinction: UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal is also an eminent astronomer and collaborated with Faber, UCSC physicist Joel Primack, and Foundation Forum speaker Lord Martin Rees on groundbreaking research in the 1980s that established the role of dark matter in the formation of galaxies.

Supercomputing: Also based at UCSC is the UC High-Performance AstroComputing Center, directed by physicist Joel Primack and focusing on the use of supercomputers to explore fundamental questions in astrophysics.

The Founders Celebration gala dinner will honor several individuals who have made outstanding contributions both to astronomy and astrophysics and other areas. For information, visit the Founders Celebration website.