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Baranec Named Sloan Research Fellow

C. Baranec

IfA astronomer Christoph Baranec was selected as one of 126 recipients of a 2014 Sloan Research Fellowship in February. Awarded annually since 1955 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, 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 Maunakea.

After majoring in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Baranec studied optical sciences at the University of Arizona and received a PhD 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.

Since the beginning of the program in 1955, 42 Sloan Research 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.