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Astronomy & Astrophysics
201 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building (ISB)
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Phone: (831) 459-2844
Fax: (831) 459-5265
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About the Department
UCSC is one of the world's leading centers for both observational and
theoretical research in astronomy and astrophysics. The department
includes 24 faculty members, whose research interests range
from the Solar System and the Milky Way to the most distant galaxies
in the Universe and the most fundamental questions of cosmology. There
are typically over a dozen postdoctoral researchers in residence, as
well as a dedicated and skilled technical staff and a steady stream of
visiting scientists. The UCSC department was recently ranked first in
the country in research impact, based on citation studies.
UCSC is also a leader in astrophysics education. The department
currently enrolls about 40 graduate students working towards the
Ph.D. degree. Graduate students benefit from the low student-faculty
ratio and extensive research opportunities, as well as course
offerings that cover both theoretical and observational aspects of
astronomy. UCSC alumni hold positions at leading universities and
research institutes around the world. The department offers an
undergraduate minor in Astrophysics, and collaborates with the Physics
department to offer an undergraduate major in Astrophysics.
UCSC researchers have access to state-of-the-art facilities:
- Keck Observatory, Mauna Kea, HI. These twin 10-meter telescopes are the world's largest and
are jointly operated by the University of California, Caltech, and NASA. UC researchers receive 35% of the time.
The Keck's 36-segment mirror design originated at UC, and UC astronomers have built the majority of Keck instruments.
Keck data are widely used by the majority of UCSC observational students and postdocs.
- Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, CA. The Lick Observatory is owned and operated by the University
of California with headquarters at UCSC. Lick was the first mountain-top observatory,
built in 1888 with the 36-inch refractor, then the world's largest telescope. Current
telescopes include the 3-meter Shane reflector, the 1-meter Nickel reflector, and the
new 2.4-meter Automated Planet Finder dedicated to finding extrasolar planetary systems
(under construction). Lick is one of the world's best sites for high-resolution spectroscopy
and is a leader in developing adaptive optics. The facilities are utilized by faculty, students,
and postdoctoral fellows at all University of California astronomy campuses.
- University of California Observatories (UCO). UCO is a multi-campus research unit of
the University of California that manages UC participation in both the Keck and Lick Observatories.
Headquarters are on the UCSC campus. UCO astronomers hold joint appointments as professors in the
department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and conduct research and teach in the department.
The UCO Instrument Laboratories are recognized world leaders in astronomical instrumentation,
including optical design, fabrication, mechanical design, and instrument control software. Students
and postdocs in the Astronomy Department have access to UCO telescopes and are also welcome to
participate in projects in the UCO Instrument Laboratories.
- Gordon and Betty Moore Laboratory for Adaptive Optics: Located on the UCSC campus,
the Laboratory for Adaptive Optics enables hands-on exploratory research in the development of
adaptive optics technology which will benefit future implementations of adaptive optics systems
on astronomical telescopes. The LAO is managed jointly be the Center for Adaptive Optics and by UCO.
UCSC astronomy graduate students and postdocs participate freely in LAO research.
- Thirty-Meter Telescope Project. The Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) is
a future large segmented-mirror optical and infrared telescope, proposed and run by a
consortium made up by the University of California, Caltech, Associated Universities for
Research in Astronomy (AURA), and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in
Astronomy (ACURA). The telescope consists of 738 1.2-meter segments and, when working with
adaptive optics, will make images many times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. UCSC astronomers
and engineers are working on the telescope mechanical design, segment fabrication, segment
support and alignment, instrumentation, and adaptive optics. Completion is scheduled for 2015.
UCSC astronomy graduate students and postdocs can participate in the design of the telescope
and instrumentation construction.
- Theoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz (TASC) is a research unit spanning four affiliated departments: Astronomy & Astrophysics, Physics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Applied Mathematics. We work closely with each other and with experimentalists, instrumentalists, and observers at the University of California Observatories, the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics, the Center for Adaptive Optics, the Center for the Origin, Dynamics, and Evolution of Planets, and the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics.
TASC science tackles a wide range of problems, such as: How do stars and planets form, evolve, move, and die? Is Earth unique? How were the elements created? How do black holes impact the Universe? What is the nature of dark matter and dark energy? How do galaxies form and evolve? How did the Universe begin (and are there other universes)?
In addition to the University of California Observatories (UCO), the
Astronomy Department is also closely linked to several other astronomy research centers at UCSC:
- Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO). CfAO is an NSF Science and Technology Center dedicated to research in high-speed optical correction techniques for optical/infrared
telescopes and vision science. Based at UCSC, it involves nearly two dozen academic, governmental,
and industrial partners. UCSC astronomy graduate students and postdocs are active participants in
all aspects of CfAO research. CfAO also runs extensive programs in high school, undergraduate,
and graduate science teaching that offer unique teaching opportunities for astronomy grads and postdocs.
- The Center for the Origin, Dynamics, and Evolution of Planets (CODEP). CODEP is
part of the UCSC branch of the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP). It brings together
members of the Astronomy, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Applied Math, and Physics departments to study
planets in our Solar System and around other stars. UCSC is a world center for the doppler detection of
extrasolar planets, and active UCSC theoretical groups are modeling planet formation and the dynamical
evolution of planetary orbits. The Center for Adaptive Optics builds instrumentation for direct detection
of extrasolar planets via high-resolution imaging.
- Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP). SCIPP is an organized research unit
within the University of California specializing in experimental and theoretical particle physics and
particle astrophysics. SCIPP builds experiments for particle accelerators, including
the ATLAS detector at the LHC, and detectors for satellite observatories such as GLAST.
It is also pursuing applications to other scientific fields such as neurophysiology and
biomedicine. SCIPP is a recognized leader in the development of custom readout electronics and silicon
micro-strip sensors for state-of-the-art particle detection systems.
- Santa Cruz Theoretical Cosmology Group. The group is located in
the Physics Department but has close ties with Astronomy. The group specializes in
cosmological N-body and hydrodynamic simulations of galaxy formation and merging galaxies
and supplies major theoretical support for the DEEP Survey.
The UCSC campus consists of 2000 acres of meadows and redwood forests
on a dramatic site overlooking Monterey Bay and the city of Santa
Cruz. The Astronomy and Astrophysics department office, the UCO/Lick
administrative offices, and most faculty and student offices are in
the new Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, which is shared with
Physics and with Environmental Studies. Immediately adjacent is the
Center for Adaptive Optics headquarters, which includes meeting space,
visitor space, and additional faculty and student offices. Also nearby
are the Earth and Marine Sciences building and the science library.
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