Astronomers have defined the scale of the universe to within one percent accuracy, allowing them to better understand the enigmatic nature of dark energy and its ability to accelerate the expansion of the cosmos.
It has been one year since I took up the reins as chair of this department. Our former chair, Dave Kieda, is now Dean of the Graduate School. It’s been an honor to work with such a superb and congenial faculty, skilled staff, and dedicated students. But it is also a big job. Thanks to the addition of our astronomy component, we have grown to almost forty faculty members, nearly 100 graduate students, and 300 undergraduate majors. As a consequence, we are bursting at the seams in both lab and office space and in budget. The department chair’s job naturally has its high and low points and its trials. A favorite high point is giving a deserving student a scholarship check - thanks to our donors, we are able to do this on occasion. Then there was a “trial by ice” Halloween 2013 when a liquid helium container in one of our James Fletcher Building labs began to malfunction - the pressure was rising out of control, so we had to evacuate for several hours until the vendor’s experts could deal with it safely.
This article was originally published on January 8, 2014 in the Salt Lake Tribune. Reprinted with permission from Sheena McFarland & the Salt Lake Tribune.
Scale • The new understanding likely will shed light on the nature of dark energy - the force that is causing the universe to expand.
Many Black Holes May Hide in Dwarf Remnants of Stripped Galaxies
Sept. 17, 2014 – A University of Utah astronomer and his colleagues discovered that an ultracompact dwarf galaxy harbors a supermassive black hole – the smallest galaxy known to contain such a massive light-sucking object. The finding suggests huge black holes may be more common than previously believed.