2016 Heilborn Lectures


Professor Andrea Ghez


Professor of Physics & Astronomy and

Lauren B. Leichtman & Arthur E. Levine Chair in Astrophysics,

University of California, Los Angeles


October 17-21, 2016


Andrea M. Ghez, distinguished professor of Physics & Astronomy and head of UCLA's Galactic Center Group, is a world-leading expert in observational astrophysics. She earned her B.S. in Physics from MIT in 1987 and her Ph.D. from Caltech in 1992, and has been on the faculty at UCLA since 1994. She has used the Keck telescopes to demonstrate the existence of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, with a mass 4 million times that of our sun. This is the best evidence yet that these exotic objects really do exist, and provides us with a wonderful opportunity to study the fundamental laws of physics in the extreme environment near a black hole, and learn what role this black hole has played in the formation and evolution of our galaxy.

Professor Ghez has actively disseminated her work to a wide variety of audiences through more than 100 refereed papers and 200 invited talks, as well features in textbooks, documentaries, and science exhibits. She has received numerous honors and awards including the Crafoord Prize, a MacArthur Fellowship, election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Aaronson Award from the University of Arizona, the Sackler Prize from Tel Aviv University, the American Physical Society's Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award, the American Astronomical Society's Newton Lacy Pierce Prize, a Sloan Fellowship, a Packard Fellowship, and several teaching awards. Her most recent service work includes membership on the National Research Council's Board on Physics & Astronomy, the Thirty-Meter-Telescope's Science Advisory Committee, the Keck Observatory Science Steering Committee, and the Research Strategies Working Group of the UC Commission on the Future.











Monday, October 17

Unveiling the Supermassive Black Hole at Center of our Galaxy


After two decades of diffraction-limited imaging on large ground-based telescopes, the case for a supermassive black hole at the Galactic center has gone from a possibility to a certainty, thanks to measurements of individual stellar orbits. The rapidity with which these stars move on small-scale orbits indicates a source of tremendous gravity and provides the best evidence to date that supermassive black holes, which confront the limit of our knowledge of fundamental physics, do exist in the Universe.   Over this time period, tremendous progress in high-angular imaging techniques has allowed precision measurements of the properties of our galaxy's central supermassive blackhole and, in the next few years, will enabled new tests Einstein’s General theory of Relativity in regimes that have never been probed before.


4:00 PM
Tech F160

Wednesday, October 19

Our Galactic Center: A Laboratory for Exploring the Physics &

Astrophysics of Black Holes



The proximity of our Galaxy's center presents a unique opportunity to study a galactic nucleus with orders of magnitude higher spatial resolution than can be brought to bear on any other galaxy.  Over the last decade, we have shown that the environment near a supermassive back hole is quite different than what theoretical models have predicted, which challenges many of our notions of how galaxies form and evolve over time. In particular, young stars are found where none were expected, few old stars are revealed where many were predicted, and a new, unanticipated class of objects have been discovered.   As the only supermassive black hole environment in the universe that can be studied via stellar orbits, this environment presents a unique opportunity to explore gravitational dynamics.  By continuing to monitor these stars and by pushing on the cutting-edge of high-resolution technology, we will be able to capture the orbital motions of stars with sufficient precision to build direct dynamical models that will provide new insight into the feedback role that black holes play is cosmological models.



4:00 PM

Tech L211


October 21

The Monster at the Heart of our Galaxy


Learn about new developments in the study of supermassvie black holes. Through the capture and analysis of twenty years of high-resolution imaging, the UCLA Galactic Center Group has moved the case for a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy from a possibility to a certainty.  This was made possible with the first measurements of stellar orbits around a galactic nucleus. Further advances in state-of-the-art of high-resolution imaging technology on the world’s largest telescopes have greatly expanded the power of using stellar orbits to study black holes. Recent observations have revealed an environment around the black hole that is quite unexpected (young stars where there should be none; a lack of old stars where there should be many; and a puzzling new class of objects). Continued measurements of the motions of stars have solved many of the puzzles posed by these perplexing populations of stars. This work is providing insight into how black holes grow and the role that they play in regulating the growth of their host galaxies. Future measurements of stellar orbits at the Galactic Center hold the promise of improving our understanding of gravity through tests of Einstein Theory of General Relativity in an unexplored regime.

3:30 PM
Tech Ryan Auditorium