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University of Hawaiʻi Astronomer Awarded Prestigious Sloan Foundation Fellowship

19 February 2019


Dr. Daniel Huber
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Picture of Dan Huber, 2019 Sloan Fellow

Dr. Dan Huber, Assistant Astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, recipient of a 2019 Sloan Foundation Fellowship.

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Daniel Huber, an Assistant Astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA), has been selected for a prestigious 2019 Sloan Research Fellowship, one of 126 recipients across the U.S. and Canada.

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.

Institute for Astronomy Interim Director Bob McLaren, who nominated Huber for the award, said, "Dr. Huber is a rising star in the field of stellar astrophysics and exoplanet science. Already at this early stage of his career, he has led a large number of influential studies advancing our understanding of the properties of stars and planets in our galaxy, In particular, he has pioneered the use of asteroseismology for determining the radii and masses of exoplanet host stars, from which are derived these same properties of the exoplanets themselves."

Asteroseismology is the study of stellar oscillations. Much like earthquakes are used to study the interior of our home planet, Huber and his team use the frequencies of waves traveling through exoplanet host stars to probe their deep interiors and precisely determine their properties such as size, mass and age. This, in turn, allows the characterization of the planets that orbit them. This technique is now the premier method for precise determination of exoplanet radii and masses. Huber has led studies of stars and their planets by using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, the European Gaia Mission, and ground-based observations from Maunakea. He is currently leading research programs to extend this research using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), NASA's newest planet hunting telescope launched in April last year.

"This is a tremendous honor, which really belongs to my entire research team. This is a very exciting time to study the mysteries of stars and exoplanets, and data from NASA space telescopes combined with the unique opportunities for ground-based observations we have in Hawaiʻi will keep us busy for decades to come, " Huber said upon learning of the award.

Huber majored in astronomy at the University of Vienna, Austria, before moving to the University of Sydney, Australia, to obtain his PhD in astrophysics. He then spent a combined five years as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and at the University of Sydney, Australia. In January 2017, Huber joined the faculty at the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaiʻi.

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. Huber is the third Sloan Fellow from the Institute for Astronomy in the past 15 years.

Artist's concept of oscillation waves within a star with an orbiting planet
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Artist's concept of oscillation waves within a star with an orbiting planet. Daniel Huber'ss research team uses these oscillations to precisely characterize stars and their planets.

Credit: Image Credit: Gabriel Perez Diaz/Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias

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 Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 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 Haleakalā and Maunakea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaiʻi.