Presented by the Department of Physics & Astronomy, professor Sandra Faber of the University of California will speak on "Modern Gensis: The Amazing Story of our Cosmic Origins". Less than one hundred years ago, astronomers did not know about galaxies or that the Milky Way is a galaxy in a vast, frothy sea of galaxies. Today, astronomers have made remarkable progress in understanding how galaxies form in our expanding universe and the crucial role that they play in how the elements we are made of were built, and even how our planets and our solar system came to be. This lecture will distill a century of dramatic cosmic discoveries to present a comprehensive yet digestible account of why we are here and where we are going...cosmically speaking.
Sandra Faber is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Interim Director of the UCO/Lick Observatory. She is an observational astronomer with primary research interests in cosmology and galaxy formation. Some of her major discoveries include the first structural scaling law for galaxies (called the Faber-Jackson relation), the discovery of large-scale flow perturbations in the expansion of the universe, and the ubiquity of massive black holes at the centers of galaxies. In 1984, she and three colleagues presented the first detailed treatment of galaxy formation based on “cold dark matter,” which has since become the standard paradigm for galaxy formation in the universe. Faber was one of three astronomers who diagnosed the optical flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope, and she played a major role in its repair. From 1994-2005 she was Principal Investigator of the DEIMOS spectrograph, a large optical multi-object spectrograph for the Keck telescope that is the most powerful instrument of its kind in the world. She and colleagues used DEIMOS to conduct the DEEP redshift survey of the distant universe, which collected spectra of 50,000 distant galaxies and exploited the immense power of Keck to see and study galaxy formation 10 billion years back in time. She now leads the CANDELS project, the largest project in the history of the Hubble Space Telescope, to extend our view of galaxy formation back nearly to the Big Bang. In 2009, she was awarded the Bower Award for Achievement in Science from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and in 2012 she received the Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the Russell Prize of the American Astronomical Society, both for lifetime scientific achievement. Most recently, she received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in February 2013.