My current research interests focus mainly on how galaxies (including the Milky Way) form and evolve into the objects we see today and how the interstellar gas within galaxies is collected to form stars (including the Sun and Solar System). In particular, I work on the earliest stages of star formation, as well as the dynamics, structure and evolution of the Milky Way and other galaxies. Items of current active interest include trying to understand the nature of dark matter on galactic scales, particularly in dwarf galaxies and in the outer parts of the Milky Way. I am also working on how the diffuse interstellar medium generates star-forming giant molecular clouds in different environments to unravel the basic physics of star formation on galactic scales. We operate an array of twenty-three millimeter-wave radio telescopes as part of the CARMA Array, near Bishop, California. We are building the Allen Telescope Array, a new type of radio interferometer of 350 dishes using commercial satellite dish technology to synthesize an aperture of 10,000 square meters for use at centimeter wavelengths.
In the News
Three bright pulsating stars on the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy could be beacons from an invisible dwarf galaxy that astronomers predicted was there based on its effects on the gas in our galaxy.
Most galaxies have a massive black hole at their center, astronomers suspect, but only a few dozen examples are known out of billions of galaxies in the cosmos. Now astronomers have developed a quick technique that could potentially uncover and weigh 10 times more massive black holes.
Many large galaxies, such as the Milky Way, are thought to have hundreds of satellite galaxies, many of them too dim to see because they are dominated by dark matter. Post-doctoral fellow Sukanya Chakrabarti and astronomy professor Leo Blitz have developed a method to search for these “dark” satellite galaxies, and have predicted that the Milky Way has a companion dwarf galaxy not yet discovered.
UC Berkeley astronomers may have found the missing link between young, gas-filled, star-forming galaxies and older, gas-depleted galaxies typically characterized as “red and dead.” Leo Blitz and Katherine Alatalo report that a long-known “early-type” galaxy, NGC 1266, is expelling molecular gas, mostly hydrogen, from its core. The unusual galaxy may help explain how gas-filled galaxies rid themselves of their molecular gas.