Astronomy Program News & Events

see also: McDonald Observatory press room / archive

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Skies Over McDonald Observatory Brightening, Slowly

Austin-American Statesman

19 December 2007

The McDonald Observatory, perched atop the Davis mountains, is the darkest spot in North America suitable for astronomical research. But despite staff efforts to dim the lights in nearby towns, the night skies over McDonald Observatory, which is owned and operated by the University of Texas, are developing a form of pollution more familiar to city-dwellers: Man-made light outshines the stars.

Jeong, Salviander, Strong, Johnson, and Ramirez Win Board of Visitors Graduate Student Awards

17 December 2007

For outstanding research defense, the 2nd Year Defense Award for 2007 has been given to Donghui Jeong. For exemplary service as graduate students, the Fred T. Goetting, Jr. Scholarship has been awarded to Sarah Salviander and Shay Strong. For scientific accomplishment in the field of early stars and galaxies, and their impact on the subsequent history of the universe, Jarrett Johnson has received the Frank N. Edmonds, Jr. Fellowship. Recently recognized for work contributing to new ways of thinking about the sun, Ivan Ramirez has won the David Alan Benfield Scholarship for most accomplished senior graduate student.

Going the distance in space

Los Angeles Times

In the vastness of space, how far is far? That question has simmered in G. Fritz Benedict's mind since he was 8, when a family friend took him into the backyard of his home and pointed to the constellation Orion. "Something in my brain went 'snap,'" said Benedict, an astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin. The experience set him on a lifelong quest to answer one of the most arcane questions in astronomy: How exactly do you measure the universe?

Astronomy Undergraduate Selected as Rhodes Scholar

20 November 2007

Astronomy undergraduate Sarah Miller has been selected as one of 32 Rhodes Scholars from the United States for 2008. The winners were chosen from 764 applicants. The scholarship selects outstanding students, on the basis of character, academic achievement and leadership potential, to study at Oxford University for up to three years. Previous Rhodes Scholars include Edwin Hubble and U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Sarah is a Dean's Scholar pursuing Honors degrees in Astronomy and Physics.

Public Lecture: From the Farm to the Nobel Prize - Deciphering the Big Bang

3 October 2007

John C. Mather, co-winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, will present the public lecture "From the Farm to the Nobel Prize: Deciphering the Big Bang," Thursday, October 11, at 4 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, ACES 2.302 (map). Dr. Mather is the twelfth recipient of the Antoinette de Vaucouleurs Memorial Lectureship and Medal, for his contributions in advancing our understanding of the early Universe. In addition to his role as Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, Dr. Mather is also Head of the Office of the Chief Scientist at NASA. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Frank N. Bash Symposium 2007 - New Horizons in Astronomy

1 October 2007

The second biennial symposium in honor of Dr. Frank Bash, New Horizons in Astronomy, will be held on the University of Texas at Austin campus, October 14-16, in ACES (map). The symposium brings together excellent young researchers to exchange ideas, experiences and visions for the future. Scheduled talks include Instrumentation in the Extremely Large Telescope Era, Exoplanets and Young Stars, High Redshift Galaxies, Supernovae, Gamma-ray Bursts and Astrobiology.

UT Astronomers Find Exceedingly Powerful Supernova to Defy Explanation

New York Times (registration)

7 May 2007

Kaboom, indeed. In a cascade of superlatives that belies the traditional cerebral reserve of their profession, astronomers reported today that they had seen the brightest and most powerful stellar explosion ever recorded. The cataclysm -- a monster more than a hundred times as energetic as the typical supernova in which the more massive stars end their lives -- might be an example of a completely new type of explosion, astronomers said.

Astronomy Undergraduates Win Awards Across the University

4 May 2007

The Department of Astronomy has awarded Alexander Fry, Sarah Miller and Ross Falcon the Karl G. Henize endowed scholarship for academic excellence, the Board of Visitors scholarship for overall performance and the Outstanding Senior award for overall performance, respectively. Sarah Miller and Kyle Penner were awarded best oral presentation at the College of Natural Sciences research forum, by a panel of non-astronomy faculty and industry scientists. Kyle Penner has also won the R.W. and Kathleen Lindsey Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship from the University of Texas.

Public Lecture: The Origin of the Universe

27 March 2007

Dr. Steven Weinberg will deliver the 2007 Harry Middleton Lecture, "The Origin of the Universe," Tuesday, March 27 at 6:00 PM in the Lone Star Room of the Frank Erwin Center (map). Free tickets for limited seating can be found at the LBJ Library and the Texas Union (UNB) room 4.300 (map). Dr. Weinberg is considered by many to be the world's preeminent theoretical physicist. The Middleton Lecture is hosted by the LBJ Foundation and the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum. Past speakers include former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Public Lecture: A Tale of Two Telescopes or Dancing with the Stars

29 January 2007

Dr. Fritz Benedict, head of the Space Astrometry group at the University of Texas, will present the public lecture "A Tale of Two Telescopes or Dancing with the Stars," Saturday, February 3, 2007, from 1:00-2:00 PM in ACES 2.302 (map). Using the world's largest and highest telescopes, Dr. Benedict calculates the mass of extrasolar planets by detecting the tiny wiggle of stars. How tiny? The width of a quarter at 800 miles. The talk is part of the Great Lectures in Astronomy series, sponsored by the Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory Board of Visitors.

Public Lecture: The View from the Center of the Universe

21 January 2007

Prof. Joel Primack, Univ. of California Santa Cruz, a cosmologist and specialist in the theory of cold Dark Matter, and Nancy Abrams, author of the history and philosophy of science, will present the public lecture, "The View from the Center of the Universe," Friday, January 26 at 7:30 P.M. in RLM 4.102 (map). The couple's co-authored book of the same title has enjoyed recommendations by many respected publications, and was included in National Public Radio's list of ten summer reading selections for 2006, a rare science addition.