UCI Astrophysicists

Kevork N. Abazajian

So-called dark matter makes up more than 90% of the universe and exists in vast halos around galaxies, including our own. But it does not reflect visible light. In fact, no one has ever seen the stuff, and its nature is one of the most compelling mysteries in physics! Assistant professor Abazajian is on the hunt for the conspicuous dark matter. He studies the origin, structure and composition of the universe and the fundamental physics governing it. 

Aaron J. Barth

Black holes are among the strangest and most fascinating objects in the universe. Over the past decade, astronomers have determined that giant black holes, with masses millions of times the mass of the Sun, exist in the centers of most (and possibly all) large galaxies, including our own Milky Way! Examining the role that black holes play in the formation and evolution of galaxies is one of the most active fields of astrophysical research. Professor Barth studies the structure and dynamics of galaxies, the detection of supermassive black holes, and the properties of a active galactic nuclei and quasars. 

James S. Bullock

The Milky Way is so large that if it were shrunk down to the size of the Pacific Ocean, the solar system itself would be the size of a maple leaf. The Earth is microscopic on this scale.  Yet, confined to this microscopic planet, humans have mapped the ocean of stars to staggering precision. More than once we have been forced to accept a universe that defies Earth-bound notions of what is plausible: Our universe began with a Bang 13.7 billion years ago.  It is filled with dark matter, dark energy, and at least one planet with people who look up and ask why. Professor Bullock studies the process of galaxy formation, the nature of dark matter, and the assembly of the Milky Way galaxy. 

David A. Buote

When we gaze upon the night sky, we see bright stars by the thousands, and many millions or even billions more through telescopes. We can find gas clouds, planets, even whole galaxies glowing brightly. Professor Buote studies galaxy formation through X-ray observations to build a unified picture of how galaxies and systems of galaxies assemble and evolve into the structures that we see around us in the universe today.

Gary Chanan

Telescopes are a fundamental tool for viewing the sky and it’s imperative that telescopes offer reliable imaging and results. Professor Chanan studies through wavefront sensing how telescopes can be optimized to reduce distortion of images caused by the Earth's atmosphere and how segmented-mirror telescopes like the Keck 10-meter telescopes in Hawaii optimally align their individual mirror segments.

Michael C. Cooper

Because light travels at a finite speed, looking at distant galaxies allows us to travel back in time and see how they were at earlier times – it’s like a cosmic time machine! Professor Cooper studies galaxy evolution by measuring the properties of distant galaxies and he specializes in understanding how galaxy evolution varies depending on a galaxy's environment. 

Asantha R. Cooray

Professor Cooray is looking for the first galaxies that came to exist in the early universe. He seeks to identify them through very subtle differences from surrounding galaxies, like variations in their near infrared light emission. He also studies star formation in distant galaxies by examining the infrared light they emit past the surrounding dust clouds.

Manoj Kaplinghat

The physics of subatomic particles plays a large role in determining the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to the large-scale structures we see in the universe today. Professor Kaplinghat is a theoretical astrophysicist who specializes in the particle physics implications of astrophysical dark matter, dark energy, gravitational lensing and the Cosmic Microwave Background.

David P. Kirkby

Mapmaking is an ancient human enterprise -- one that attempts to describe our place in the world and illuminate the broader context of our surroundings. A new generation of telescopes and digital cameras is providing cosmic maps of unprecedented scope and detail. The new maps reach out to the edges of the observable universe, and add the elusive depth measurements needed for a truly three-dimensional view. Professor Kirkby studies observational cosmology and uses optical telescopes to map the influences of dark matter and dark energy on the Universe.

Tammy A. Smecker-Hane

In investigating the history of the formation and evolution of galaxies, astronomers are like cosmic archeologists looking at ancient remains. By measuring the distribution of the ages and chemical compostions of stars inside nearby galaxies, Professor Tammy Smecker-Hane can accurately measure the star formation histories of galaxies over the past 14 billion years and learn how stars and supernovae create the wide variety of chemical elements we see in the universe today. This also allows us to learn more about the time when the universe was young, and helps us understand why galaxies look the way they do today.  In addition, she is the director of the UCI Observatory and the Astronomy Outreach Program.


Virginia L. Trimble

Professor Trimble is internationally known for her wide range of astrophysical interests, including binary stars, and she is frequently invited to give the concluding reviews at astrophysical conferences. For many years, she wrote a very popular yearly review of astronomy & astrophysics research for the Publications of theAstronomical Society of the Pacific. She writes annually about the productivity and impact of various observatories and publishes widely on topics related to the history and development of astrophysics.