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November 14, 2005

Professor emeritus Donald Osterbrock updates classic astrophysics book

By Tim Stephens

Donald Osterbrock, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics, has produced a completely revised edition of his classic book Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei. Osterbrock collaborated with Gary Ferland of the University of Kentucky to update the book, which has been a standard reference book for astrophysicists for more than 30 years.

Book covef of Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae

The first edition of Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei was published in 1989 and was an expanded version of Osterbrock's earlier book, Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae (W. H. Freeman & Co., 1974). The new edition was just published by University Science Books.

Gaseous nebulae are the birthplaces of stars--clouds of gas and dust within galaxies where young stars are formed. Different kinds of nebulae are characterized by the radiation they emit. Active galactic nuclei, thought to be powered by supermassive black holes, emit tremendous amounts of energy from the central regions of galaxies.

Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei is a graduate-level text and reference book on gaseous nebulae, nova and supernova remnants, and the emission-line regions in Seyfert galaxies, radio galaxies, quasars, and other types of active galactic nuclei. Much of the new data and many of the new images are from the Hubble Space Telescope and some of the largest ground-based telescopes in the world. Two completely new chapters have been added, one on infrared astronomy and the other on x-ray astronomy, reflecting the great advances in these fields.

Osterbrock, a world-renowned research astrophysicist, came to UCSC in 1972 and served as director of Lick Observatory for eight years. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago at its Yerkes Observatory, was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, and was a faculty member at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A council member of the National Academy of Sciences, Osterbrock served as president of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) from 1988 to 1990 and was named its Henry Norris Russell lecturer, its highest honor, in 1991. He taught astronomy and astrophysics courses at Caltech, Wisconsin, and UCSC, and many of the current leaders of astrophysical research on nebulae and active galactic nuclei worked with him as graduate students or as postdoctoral research associates.

In addition to his research accomplishments, Osterbrock has written several books on the history of astronomy. In 2002, he received the AAS's LeRoy E. Doggett Prize in the History of Astronomy.

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