Andrea Mia Ghez (born June 16, 1965) is an American astronomer and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA. In 2004, Discover magazine listed Ghez as one of the top 20 scientists in the United States who have shown a high degree of understanding in their respective fields.
Growing up in Chicago, Ghez first wanted to be a ballerina. The moon landings inspired her to want to become the first female astronaut and her mother supported her goal. Her most influential female role model was her high school chemistry teacher. She started out in college by majoring in mathematics but changed to physics. She received a BS in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987 and her Ph.D. under the direction of Gerry Neugebauer at the California Institute of Technology in 1992.
Her current research involves using high spatial resolution imaging techniques, such as the adaptive optics system at the Keck telescopes, to study star-forming regions and the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way known as Sagittarius A*. She uses the kinematics of stars near the center of the Milky Way as a probe to investigate this region. The high resolution of the Keck telescopes gave a significant improvement over the first major study of galactic center kinematics by Reinhard Genzel's group.
In 2004, Ghez was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She has appeared in a long list of notable media presentations. The documentaries have been produced by organizations such as BBC, Discovery Channel, and The History Channel; in 2006 there was a presentation on Nova. She was identified as a Science Hero by The My Hero Project.
Black Hole at the Galactic Center (Sgr A*)
By imaging the Galactic Center at infrared wavelengths, Ghez and her colleagues have been able to peer through heavy dust that blocks visible light, and to produce images of the center of the Milky Way. Thanks to the 10 m aperture of the W.M. Keck Telescope and the use of adaptive optics to correct for the turbulence of the atmosphere, these images of the Galactic Center are at very high spatial resolution and have made it possible to follow the orbits of stars around the black hole, which is also known as Sagittarius A* or Sgr A*. The partial orbits of many stars orbiting the black hole at the Galactic Center have been observed. Since 1995, object SO-2 has made almost a complete elliptical orbit. Several decades more will be required to completely document the orbits of some of these stars; these measurements may provide a test of the theory of general relativity. In October 2012, a second star was identified by her team at UCLA, S0-102, orbiting the Galactic Center. Using Kepler's law, Ghez's team has used the orbital motion to show that the mass of Sgr A* is 4.1±0.6 million solar masses. Because Sgr A* is one hundred times closer than the next nearest known supermassive black hole M31* (located at the center of M31) it is now one of the best demonstrated cases for a supermassive black hole.
Ghez is married to Tom LaTourrette who is a geologist and research scientist at the RAND corporation. They have two sons, Evan born in 2001 and Miles born in 2005. Ghez is a passionate swimmer in the Masters Swim Club which she uses to take a break from science.
- Ghez, Andrea M.; Neugebauer, Gerry; Matthews, K. (1993). "The Multiplicity of T Tauri Stars in the Taurus-Auriga & Ophiuchus-Scorpius Star Forming Regions: A 2.2 micron Imaging Survey". Astronomical Journal. 106. pp. 2005–2023. Bibcode:1993AJ....106.2005G. doi:10.1086/116782.
- Ghez, Andrea M.; White, Russel J.; Simon, M. (1997). "High Spatial Resolution Imaging of Pre-Main Sequence Binary Stars: Resolving the Relationship Between Disks and Close Companions". Astrophysical Journal. 490. pp. 353–367. Bibcode:1997ApJ...490..353G. doi:10.1086/304856.
- Ghez, Andrea M.; Klein, B. L.; Morris, M.; Becklin, E.E. (1998). "High Proper Motions in the Vicinity of Sgr A*: Evidence for a Massive Central Black Hole". Astrophysical Journal. 509. pp. 678–686. arXiv:astro-ph/9807210 . Bibcode:1998ApJ...509..678G. doi:10.1086/306528.
- Ghez, A. M.; Morris, M.; Becklin, E. E.; Tanner, A.; Kremenek, T. "The Accelerations of Stars Orbiting the Milky Way's Central Black Hole". Nature. 407 (6802). pp. 349–351. arXiv:astro-ph/0009339 . Bibcode:2000Natur.407..349G. doi:10.1038/35030032.
- Ghez, A. M.; Duchêne, G.; Matthews, K.; Hornstein, S. D.; Tanner, A.; Larkin, J.; Morris, M.; Becklin, E. E.; S. Salim (2003-01-01). "The First Measurement of Spectral Lines in a Short-Period Star Bound to the Galaxy's Central Black Hole: A Paradox of Youth". Astrophysical Journal Letters. 586 (2). pp. L127. arXiv:astro-ph/0302299 . Bibcode:2003ApJ...586L.127G. doi:10.1086/374804.
- Ghez, A. M.; Salim, S.; Weinberg, N. N.; Lu, J. R.; Do, T.; Dunn, J. K.; Matthews, K.; Morris, M. R.; Yelda, S. (2008-01-01). "Measuring Distance and Properties of the Milky Way's Central Supermassive Black Hole with Stellar Orbits". Astrophysical Journal. 689 (2). p. 1044. arXiv:0808.2870 . Bibcode:2008ApJ...689.1044G. doi:10.1086/592738.
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- ^ Ghez, A. M.; Salim, S.; Weinberg, N. N.; Lu, J. R.; Do, T.; Dunn, J. K.; Matthews, K.; Morris, M.; Yelda, S.; Becklin, E. E.; Kremenek, T.; Milosavljevic, M.; Naiman, J. (December 20, 2008). "Measuring Distance and Properties of the Milky Way's Central Supermassive Black Hole with Stellar Orbits". The Astrophysical Journal. 689 (2): 1044–1062. doi:10.1086/592738 – via arXiv.org.
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- ^ "The Crafoord Prize in Mathematics 2012 and The Crafoord Prize in Astronomy 2012". Crafoord Prize. Retrieved 2012-01-19.