UA prof wins astronomy prize
UA associate professor of astronomy Dennis Zaritsky has been questioning the origins and defining characteristics of two nearby galaxies for five years.
His study has earned him the 1999 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize award given by the American Astronomical Society.
"My study is looking at how galaxies evolved and how they have changed over time," Zaritsky said. "I am mainly looking at the two largest galaxies nearest to ours (the Milky Way) called the Magellanic clouds."
The smaller of the two galaxies is 150,000 light years away while the larger is 30,000 light years from the Milky Way. The study's goal is to increase understanding of the most nearby and distant galaxies. He is working with a team that is studying the color, brightness and positions of about 25 million stars.
"He performs very large, ambitious, comprehensive surveys that many faculty won't take on," said Christopher Impey, fellow University of Arizona astronomy professor. "He seems to have dozens of research projects."
In this study, Zaritsky has used telescopes in Chile, while other projects have taken him to the largest telescope on earth, the Keck telescope in Hawaii.
The study on the Magellanic clouds - which teamed him up with former students from University of California at Santa Cruz, where he taught for five years - has not been concluded, Zaritsky said.
He has been at the UA since August 1999.
The Pierce Prize is a national award based on "outstanding achievement over the past five years, in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from an astronomical object." The recipient must be younger than 36 and reside in North America.
The amount of cash awarded is set by the AAS. This year Zaritsky and his team will receive $1,500.
"We have no plans on how to spend it yet," he said.
Zaritsky will receive the award, as well as give a speech called "Drifting Among the Magellanic Clouds," which explains his study, on Jan. 14 at the 195th meeting of the AAS in Atlanta, Ga.
Zaritsky received his astronomy doctorate from the UA in 1991. This semester, he teaches "The Physical Universe," a natural sciences course.