UH scientist makes ‘Brilliant 10’ list
A 34-year-old astronomer who works part of the year at the University of Hawaii-Manoa has been named as one of Popular Science's "Brilliant 10" young researchers.
Amy Barger, who studies black holes and other phenomena with data from telescopes in space and on Mauna Kea, was named as one of "the most dynamic, promising young researchers at institutions around North America."
She was noted for her work in trying to understand distant objects that might reveal the universe's early history.
Barger earned a doctorate degree at Cambridge University and joined the UH Institute for Astronomy as a postdoctoral researcher.
Working initially with SCUBA, a far-infrared camera on the James Clerk Maxwell Submillimeter Telescope, she discovered an obscure population of quasars.
She worked extensively with astronomer Len Cowie studying black holes, star formation and quasars with the Hubble Space Telescope and orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory.
She was one of only about 10 people to receive a Hubble Space Telescope fellowship and the first to receive Hubble and Chandra fellowships at the same time.
Barger divides her time now between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UH-Manoa, where she works from January through the summer.
"She's great ... a real enthusiast," Cowie said. "She's a fun person to work with. She likes to understand the big picture problems. She's not a small-minded person."
To get the big picture, Barger was among the first scientists to monitor multiple wavelengths -- optical, infrared and X-ray -- by combing data from many telescopes in space and on ground.
Recently, she has been getting "great infrared data" with a new wide field camera developed by former Institute for Astronomy Director Don Hall for the UH 88-inch telescope on Mauna Kea.
"It's a great advance," she said, explaining it can do two bands in infrared. "The biggest problem is trying to cover large areas."
Barger led a group that discovered black holes with at least 100 million times the mass of the sun ran out of "food" -- gas and dust -- during early formation of the universe and stopped growing billions of years ago.
Other black holes that are obscured haven't stopped accreting and are still growing, the team reported earlier this year in the Astronomical Journal.
Her team found that growth of black holes and birth of stars are strongly connected.
"It's been fun for me," Barger said in a telephone interview from Wisconsin. "I've been very lucky; I've had a lot of opportunities. Hawaii is really great. The telescopes there are so fantastic. They've enabled a lot of work to be done."
In identifying the "Brilliant 10" for the fourth year, Popular Science said it believes "scientists are the true celebrities of our time. Their contributions enhance our lives and stretch our imaginations."