Heidi Jo Newberg

Professor, Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy


Image to accompany press release: Ancient Dwarf Galaxy Reconstructed with MilkyWay@home Volunteer Computer Heidi Newberg

Image to accompany 1/17/2022 press release. Click for higher resolution. Caption: Three and a half billion years ago, a small dwarf galaxy fell into the Milky Way and was ripped apart by our galaxy's gravitational forces into the tidal stream of stars we see stretched across the sky today. Using MilkyWay@home, astronomers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute were able to piece the original dwarf galaxy back together to determine its shape and mass, and measure the amount of dark matter it contained. The image shows a simulation of the stream of stars in the Milky Way in white, and the associated dark matter in purple. There is currently no way to directly see the dark matter, so it is necessary to infer its distribution in space from its affect on the motions of stars.

Ancient Dwarf Galaxy Reconstructed with MilkyWay@home Volunteer Computer
Press Release 2/17/2022: Click here
Videos explaining result:
A milestone for MilkyWay@home - Measuring dark matter in a tidal stream of stars (14 minute video)
Sizing up the Progenitor of the Orphan-Chenab Stream (24 minute video)
Published article: Click here

My current research is primarily related to understanding the structure of our own galaxy through using stars as tracers of the Galactic halo and the disk. In both cases I have been instrumental in elucidating their substructure. I hope that these studies will contribute to our understanding of how the Galaxy formed. In addition, the stellar substructure in both the halo and in the disk can be used to determine where dark matter is located in the Milky Way galaxy.

I currently run MilkyWay@home . I am also working on a telescope design that uses a giant diffraction grating to collect light instead of a large mirror; this design might allow a giant, light-weight telescope to be unfurled in space.

You can follow my research on facebook, twitter, instagram and YouTube. More information on past accomplishments can be found on Wikipedia

I was a participant in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, from 1992 to 2008. This survey imaged 10,000 square degrees of the north Galactic cap in five optical filters. Additionally, it obtained a million spectra of the galaxies (and hundreds of thousands of QSOs and stars) that were detected in the imaging survey. I am also a participant in the Chinese LAMOST spectral survey of millions of Galactic stars, and led the US participation (Participants in LAMOST, US -- PLUS) in the design of that survey.

I have worked in many areas of astronomy over the course of my career. I did my PhD with the Berkeley Automated Supernova Search, which measured the supernova rates as a function of supernova type in Virgo-distance galaxies; and the Supernova Cosmology Project, which is measuring the cosmological parameters Omega and Lambda using the light curves of distant supernovae. I have published papers in diverse areas of galactic and extragalactic astronomy, including: supernova phenomenology, measuring cosmological parameters from supernovae, galaxy photometry, color selection of QSOs, properties of stars, and the structure of our galaxy.

Dept. of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 Eighth Street, J-ROWL 1C25
Troy, NY 12180
(518) 276-2652

Public Lectures and Papers

List of Scholarly Publications

BIBLIOGRAPHY, provided by the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) abstract server

Selected Press Coverage