mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

UH Astronomer Named Sloan Foundation Fellow

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For immediate release
February 18, 2014


Dr. Christoph Baranec
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Ms. Louise Good
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Barac with Robo-AO

Christoph Baranec with Robo-AO on the 1.5-meter Palomar telescope. Photo courtesy C. Baranec.




Christoph Baranec
Christoph Baranec
Photo courtesy C. Baranec.

Dr. Christoph Baranec of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) has been selected as one of 126 recipients of a 2014 Sloan Research Fellowship, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced today in New York.

Awarded annually since 1955, the two-year fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as the next generation of scientific leaders.

In nominating Baranec for the award, IfA Director Guenther Hasinger said, “Dr. Baranec is a rising star in the field of astronomical instrumentation. Even at this early stage of his career he has amassed a record of outstanding contributions to the field of adaptive optics, which removes the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere for ground-based astronomical telescopes.”

Baranec’s most significant work has been the development of a replicable, cost effective, and fully automated adaptive optics system called “Robo-AO” that enables modest-size (1- to 3-meter) telescopes to image objects 10 times more sharply than without the system. Installed on the Palomar 1.5-meter (60-inch) telescope in California, it enabled Baranec and his colleagues to confirm numerous exoplanet candidates found by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. He plans to implement such a system on the UH 2.2-meter (88-inch) telescope on Mauna Kea.

After majoring in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Baranec studied optical sciences at the University of Arizona and received a Ph.D. in 2007. He spent six years as a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech before joining the UH faculty in July 2013. Baranec works at the IfA Hilo office in the University of Hawaii at Hilo University Research Park.

Past Sloan Research Fellows include such intellectual luminaries as physicist Richard Feynman and game theorist John Nash. Since the beginning of the program in 1955, 42 fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective fields, 16 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 13 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, and 63 have received the National Medal of Science.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economic performance.

Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii.