Astronomical Society of the Pacific honors Yale’s Pieter van Dokkum

For his work on the “Dragonfly” array, van Dokkum will receive the 2018 Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award on Nov. 10 at the ASP awards gala.
Pieter van Dokkum
Pieter van Dokkum

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific has honored Yale’s Pieter van Dokkum with the 2018 Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award, which honors important research results based upon the development of groundbreaking instruments and techniques.

Van Dokkum is responsible for the “Dragonfly” array, a novel telescope consisting of “normal” telephoto camera lenses that are clustered and instrumented together. There are now 48 lenses in two clusters on the telescope that can reach a limit of 32 magnitudes per square arc second in a 10-hour exposure over a large field of view.

This inexpensive — by comparison — telescope can outperform the world’s largest telescopes in finding very diffuse galaxies and circumgalactic material, ASP officials noted. This led to the discovery of so-called “ultra-diffuse galaxies,” which have sizes comparable to the Milky Way but with fewer than 1% of the stars. The suggestion is that these galaxies are almost entirely made of dark matter.

Last year, van Dokkum and his collaborators used the Dragonfly array to identify a dwarf galaxy that is almost entirely devoid of dark matter. This finding, which proved controversial, is a clear signal that the Dragonfly array continues to collect thought-provoking data, ASP said.

Van Dokkum is Yale’s Sol Goldman Family Professor of Astronomy. He has a long history of published work on galaxies, with more than 300 refereed publications and more than 34,000 citations and an h-index of 108.

One nominator for the award noted that, “while pioneering mainstream results on the structure and evolution of galaxies at high redshifts, Pieter does not shy away from taking risks in opening new frontiers of research in uncharted territories.”

Van Dokkum will receive the honor on Nov. 10 at the ASP awards gala.

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