Dennis Zaritsky Wins American Astronomical Society's Pierce Prize

January 10, 2000

Author: Melissa Laue, UA/NASA Space Grant Intern

Contact: Dennis Zaritsky

WASHINGTON, DC--Dennis F. Zaritsky, associate professor of astronomy at The University of Arizona and University of California at Santa Cruz, has been awarded the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize in astronomy by the American Astronomical Society. He will give the Pierce lecture Friday morning, January 14, at the 195th meeting of the AAS in Atlanta, Ga.

The Pierce Prize is awarded annually for outstanding achievement, over the past five years, in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from an astronomical object. It is given to an astronomer who has not reached 36 years of age and is a resident of North America. This award has been given since 1974.

“It is a great honor and very rewarding to be recognized for one’s work. In astronomy, there is really no way to gauge your work except how you feel about it and how well it is received by others. Therefore, receiving this award is very positive feedback,” said Zaritsky.

Zaritsky’s work focuses on the galaxies -- especially what they are made of, how they are formed, and how they evolve. Zaritsky believes that galaxies are the principal unit of structure in the universe. “They are signposts spread across the universe that allow us to trace the structure of the universe,” said Zaritsky. According to Zaritsky, some people simply use the galaxies as a tool to study the universe, while others study the galaxies themselves. He believes that the latter is important even if one’s focus is on the former. “I am an observer. I collect and analyze data to better understand galaxies,” he said.

Currently Zaritsky is working on two large surveys aimed at increasing understanding of the most nearby and distant galaxies. In the first survey he and others are measuring the color, brightness, and positions of about 25 million stars in two nearby galaxies. The second survey is to identify hundreds of galaxies when the universe was half of its current age. He is hoping to see evidence for early galaxy formation.

Zaritsky’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Sloan Foundation.

Zaritsky said he believes that his development of the instrumentation for the surveys and the success of the two surveys were primary factors in determining why he was chosen for this award.

Zaritsky received his doctorate in 1991 from the University of Arizona.


Editor’s Notes:

You will find related links for Dennis Zaritsky at, and for the American Astronomical Society at

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