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May 9, 2005

Astronomer Andrea Ghez will give the annual Halliday Lecture on May 17

By Tim Stephens

Renowned astronomer Andrea Ghez will describe how she showed that our galaxy revolves around a supermassive black hole when she gives the annual Halliday Lecture at UCSC on Tuesday, May 17.

Andrea Ghez

Andrea Ghez's lecture is being held in conjunction with the dedication of UCSC's Laboratory for Adaptive Optics.

Photo: Todd Cheney/UCLA

Ghez's talk, "Unveiling a Supermassive Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy," will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Media Theater on the UCSC campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Ghez is a professor of astronomy at UCLA and one of the world's leading observational astrophysicists. Her research focuses on the origin and early life of stars and planets, as well as the distribution and nature of the matter at the center of our galaxy. Her observations have helped to resolve an issue explored by astronomers over many decades--whether or not there is a black hole at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

From her measurements of the orbital dynamics of stars near the galactic center, Ghez demonstrated the existence of a central, dark concentration of mass with a density more than 10 million times larger than the largest earlier estimates. The only explanation consistent with these observations is the existence of a supermassive black hole, with a mass more than 4 million times that of the Sun.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Ghez is also affiliated with the Center for Adaptive Optics based at UCSC. Her lecture is being held in conjunction with the dedication of UCSC's Laboratory for Adaptive Optics, a new facility for developing innovative instrumentation for adaptive optics applications in astronomy.

Ghez has received numerous awards and honors, including the 2004 Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences, the Newton Lacy Pierce and Annie J. Cannon Prizes of the American Astronomical Society, and the Maria Goeppert-Mayer award of the American Physical Society. She was named one of the top 20 scientists in the country under age 40 in Discover magazine's 20th anniversary issue.

The Halliday Lecture Series is sponsored by UCSC's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the UC Observatories/Lick Observatory. It is made possible by the generous support of John Halliday, a trustee of the UC Santa Cruz Foundation, to promote public awareness and appreciation for astronomy and astrophysics.

For more information about this event, please call (831) 459-1438.

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