Astronomy & Astrophysics


To study stars, galaxies, the material in between, and the Universe as a whole at a variety of wavelengths, UBC astronomers and astrophysicists take full advantage of major observatories across the globe and in space.Nearby, the optical telescopes of

the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (near Victoria) and the radio telescopes of the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (Penticton) are regularly used by both faculty and students. The 3.6-metre aperture of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea, which (with the Adaptive Optics Bonnette) supplies probably the sharpest images currently obtainable from the ground, has become a key research tool for the Department. Despite intense competition for observing time, faculty and graduate students have generally been successful in being allocated a reasonable fraction of the time available for Canadian astronomers on CFHT. In addition, significant amounts of telescope time are regularly obtained on optical telescopes in Mexico, Chile and elsewhere. With Canada a partner in the twin 8-metre, Gemini Telescopes (located in Hawaii and Chile), on which UBC faculty and students have been succesful at obtaining observing time, the future looks very exciting in the optical and near-infrared wavebands.

Members of the Department have also been frequent users of the in New Mexico, and recently of the Very Long Baseline Array. The VLA is one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories, while the VLBA, consisting of ten remote-controlled radio telescopes comprises the largest dedicated full-time astronomical instrument. Canada has a share in the 15-metre James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, a world-class instrument at millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelengths, located on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Faculty and students have made regular use of this facility for both spectral and bolometric work (recently with the SCUBA imaging instrument).

Department members also use large single-dish radio telescopes including the 300-m dish at Arecibo, Puerto Rico; the 100-m Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia; and telescopes at Parkes, Australia, and Jodrell Bank, U.K.

Liquid Mirror Telescope
A prototype liquid mirror telescope that was constructed in the UBC Reseach Forest
Several Liquid Mirror Telescopes (employing rotating mercury) have been designed or built by members of the Department. The latest is the 6-metre Large Zenith Telescope that recently began operation. Located near Vancouver, this telescope will conduct deep multi-band drift-scan surveys for galaxies, quasars, and to distant supernovae.

Several members of the faculty are part of teams obtaining and analysing data from space facilities including HST, the Hubble Space Telescope in the visible & near infrared; FUSE (the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) in the ultraviolet; In the microwave region, we are involved with a number of projects including WMAP (The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) Plank and Herschel The latter two projects share a ESA platform in Solar orbit at the L5 point. The principal investigator and a ground station for the space telesocpe MOST which studies stellar seismology and hunts for extrasolar planets.

Members of the Department are also heavily involved in plans for future astronomical projects including the Next Generation Space Telescope anf the Thirty Metre Telescope.

The department is also involved in the design, construction and operation of a number of ground- and balloon-based submillimetre and millimetre telescopes designed for studying cosmology. This includes BLAST, ACT and and Spider.

"The Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) prior to launch from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, in December, 2006." Photo Credit: Mark Halpern


Faculty Engaged in Astronomy & Astrophysics Research

Aaron Boley Assistant Professor,
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Research Website
Research Field: Planetary Astronomy
Topics include: Planet formation, protoplanetary disk evolution, formation of meteorite parent bodies
Brett Gladman Professor,
Planetary Sciences
Research Website
Research Field: Solar system formation and evolution
Topics include: planet formation, observations of moons, comets, asteroids
Mark Halpern Professor,
Research Website
Research Field: Cosmic Microwave Background, Physical Cosmology, Star formation history,
Jeremy Heyl Professor,
Astronomy/Theoretical Physics
Research Website
Research Field: High-Energy Astrophysics
Topics include: Compact Objects, Cosmology, Dynamics, Strong-field QED
Paul Hickson Professor,
Research Website
Research Field: Astrophysics
Topics include: Galaxies, clusters, instrumentation, adaptive optics
Gary Hinshaw Professor/Graduate Chair,
Research Field: Cosmology
Topics include: Measuring diffuse background radiations
Jaymie Matthews Professor,
Stellar astrophysics, asteroseismology and exoplanetary science
Research Website
Research Field: Stellar astrophysics, stellar pulsation and asteroseismology, exoplanetary science
Topics include: Srellar seismology, stellar structure and evolution, exoplanets, magnetic peculiar stars, photometry and spectroscopy, space astronomy
Harvey Richer Professor,
Research Website
Research Field: Stellar astrophysics
Topics include: Stellar populations, star clusters, white dwarf stars, dynamics
Douglas Scott Professor,
Research Website
Research Field: Cosmology
Topics include: Structure formation, Cosmic Microwave Background, Early Universe, High redshift galaxies, Sub-mm Observations
Kris Sigurdson Associate Professor,
Theoretical Physics and Cosmology
Research Website
Research Field: Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology
Topics include: Particle Dark Matter, Early Universe Cosmology, Particle Cosmology, Cosmological Perturbation Theory, Dark Energy, Inflation, Cosmic Microwave Background, Cosmic 21-cm Fluctuations
Ingrid Stairs Professor,
Radio Astronomy
Research Website
Research Field: Radio Pulsars
Topics include: Pulsar searches and long-term timing
Ludovic Van Waerbeke Professor,
Research Website
Research Field: Cosmology
Topics include: dark matter; dark energy; galaxy formation; structure formation; gravitational lensing

Adjunct Professors

Takamasa Momose Associate Member,
Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (AMO) /Astronomy & Astrophysics
Research Website
Research Field: Laser Spectroscopy/Astrochemistry
Topics include: cold molecules, low temperature molecular physics and chemistry
Jasper Wall Adjunct Professor,
Observational Cosmology
Research Field: Large-Scale Structure, Galaxy Evolution
Topics include: Origin and Evolution of Galaxies, Active Galactic Nuclei, Unified Models, Statistics in Astronomy
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Faculty of Science
Department of Physics and Astronomy
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Tel 604.822.3853
Fax 604.822.5324

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