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  Garth D Illingworth

Garth D Illingworth

Distinguished Professor/Astronomer Emeritus


Physical & Biological Sciences Division

Astronomy & Astrophysics Department
UC Observatories

Distinguished Professor/Astronomer Emeritus




Web Page

Interdisciplinary Sciences Building

UCO / Lick Observatory

2018-Present Emeritis Professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UCSC

1988 - 2018 Professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UCSC

1988 - 2018 Astronomer, University of California Observatories/Lick Observatory (UCO/Lick)
1985 - 1987 Research Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy Johns Hopkins University
1984 - 1987 Deputy Director, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore
1978 - 1984 Astronomer, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Tucson, Arizona
1976 - 1977 Miller Fellow, Department of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley
1974 - 1975 Postdoctoral Fellow, Kitt Peak National Observatory Tucson, Arizona
1969 - 1973 Ph.D. (Astrophysics) Australian National University Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatory
1965 - 1968 B.Sc. (Honors) 1st Class (Physics), University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Garth is now a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley, the Deputy-Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), and in 2010 was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the University of Western Australia. He is the recipient of the 2016 American Astronomical Society Lancelot M. Berkeley New York Community Trust Prize for his work on the most-distant galaxies viewed with Hubble, and was a plenary speaker for this award at the 2017 meeting of the American Astronomical Society. He was the 2018 Bahcall Lecturer, giving a series of invited talks at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Science: Garth Illingworth has been exploring for the earliest galaxies in the first 1-2 billion years of the Universe. His early work was on globular clusters and nearby ellipticals, but then with the advent of the powerful instruments on Hubble he transitioned to working on distant galaxies. This search over the last 15-20 years has been enabled by the world's most powerful telescopes, the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes and the Keck telescope on Mauna Kea. Central to his research has been to use Hubble to look back through 96% of all time to find and measure incredibly faint, young galaxies that are the seeds that have grown into galaxies today, like our Milky Way.

A recent highlight of this research is the discovery of the most distant, and earliest, galaxy ever seen, just 400 million years after the Big Bang at redshift z=11.1. The publications from this research on the most distant and earliest galaxies, with an international team of scientists, have consistently been among the most highly cited papers on galaxies in the early universe (see Our latest results on the sizes of distant galaxies and on the star formation rate density at z~10, combined with the latest Planck results that indicate that reionization began around redshift z~10, have significant implications for the detectability of the "first galaxies" with JWST. His recent Lancelot M. Berkeley Prize plenary talk at the January 2017 AAS 229 on Exploring for Galaxies in the First Billion Years with Hubble and Spitzer — Pathfinding for JWST provided an overview of the work of the last two decades.

NGST/JWST: Garth was the leader of the early work in 1987-1992 on the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) that is now known as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). While Deputy Director at STScI, he was one of original initiators, with Peter Stockman and Pierre Bely, of a large 8-m class passively cooled IR space telescope. Garth organized the first science conference on NGST in 1989\. He chaired the “UV-Optical in Space Panel” of the 1990 Decadal Survey that recommended a 6-m passively-cooled large space telescope, and continued work on the concept with NASA HQ and JPL support into the early 1990s. This work ultimately became the NGST recommended in the 2000 Decadal, and then renamed to JWST. A STScI Newsletter article in June 2016 gave an overview of the early history.

Garth was the (only) scientist member of the Independent Comprehensive Review Panel that was set up by the NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden at the request of Senator Mikulski to identify what was going wrong with the JWST program (behind schedule and over budget at that point) and to make recommendations to NASA (and also Congress) to get the project “back on track”. The Chair, John Casani, and Garth together relayed the report and its recommendations through a number of meetings in Congress and to senior management at NASA. Garth also chaired the JWST Science Advisory Committee at STScI for 8 years from 2009 to 2017, offering advice to STScI and indirectly to NASA on science policy issues for JWST and its operation. For the last three years Garth has co-chaired a small team to provide advice to NASA GSFC senior management on the progress of the JWST project at NASA.

Policy Committees: Garth has Chaired several major policy committees such as the 1990 Decadal Survey UV-Optical From Space Panel, the congressionally-chartered Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) for 5 years from its inaugural year (2004), the Space Telescope Institute Council (STIC), the JWST Science Advisory Committee from 2011\. While Chair of the AAAC he prepared the Annual Report to Congress, OMB/OSTP and the three science agencies (NSF, NASA, DOE), presented the results to the agency leadership and the OSTP Director. While he was Chair the committee initiated five major studies: the Task Force on Cosmic Microwave Background Research (TFCR) 2005; the Report on GSMT-JWST Synergy 2005; the Dark Energy Task Force (DETF) 2006; the Dark Matter Scientific Assessment Group (DMSAG) 2007; and the ExoPlanet Task Force (ExoPTF) 2008\. He has been an invited witness at two congressional hearings related to the AAAC's activities and the JWST replan.

Large Aperture Flagships: Garth's interest in major future facilities continued with efforts towards an even larger telescope than JWST: The Very Large Space Telescope (VLST). He was a co-organizer in 2002 with Rob Kennicutt of a major workshop (Hubble’s Science Legacy) sponsored by NASA, ESA, AURA and U. Chicago on science issues and technical challenges for a large space telescope successor to HST. The outcome of the meeting was highlighted in a White Paper that was submitted to NASA HQ. He added to this effort by being PI of a study proposal Scalable Concepts for large UV-Optical Telescopes in Space with a large team of scientists/engineers/managers/astronauts from universities, NASA centers and industry. The concept for VLST was further developed in the proposal. This work formed the first step on which subsequent work has followed on ATLAST and then HDST, and now LUVOIR. Garth has retained a deep interest in future opportunities for large-aperture flagships that are enabled by assembly and testing in space, and subsequent servicing, using humans and robotic capability, as appropriate.

Public Activities: The public interest in Hubble and its results has been an important factor in helping to support astronomy flagships. Garth has worked to ensure that the team's work on distant galaxies has been revealed to the public through many NASA press releases and briefings and as well as through talks and other media activities. He was also highlighted in a BBC 4 production that was recorded during a visit BBC visit to Santa Cruz. Garth featured prominently in two NHK TV productions, HST Challenge to the Dawn of the Universe that aired April 11 2010 and Cosmic Front: Searching for the First Stars that aired March 14 2013\. Both were rated very highly in Japan. Two teams from NHK spent considerable time with Garth for each production. Garth helped artist Russell Crotty and UCSC IAS Director John Weber for a recent exhibit Look Back in Time — Russell Crotty and Lick Observatory. A “History of Everything” chart from a science presentation provided a framework for Russell in developing his exhibit.

Other Activities: Garth was Deputy PI of the HST Advanced camera from its inception in 2005 (PI Holland Ford). Garth developed the concept of the Keck DEIMOS spectrograph in 1990-1992 and led its initial NSF funding, with Harlan Epps, David Koo and Sandra Faber (who eventually became PI of DEIMOS). He was Co-Chair of the Keck SSC during the initial instrument development for Keck 1 and Keck 2 from 1993-1999, when the SSC was responsible for instrument project management for the Phase I Keck instruments, and has been the UC Co-Chair of the TMT SAC since 2009 (and Chair for 2 years). He was Chair of the Spitzer TAC 2004 and Chair of the ESO Visiting Committee in 2010.

  • 2018 Bahcall Lecturer, giving a series of invited talks at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
  • 2017 Prize Plenary Talk at January 2017 AAS 229 on Exploring for Galaxies in the First Billion Years with Hubble and Spitzer — Pathfinding for JWST
  • 2016 Awarded 2016 American Astronomical Society Lancelot M. Berkeley New York Community Trust Prize for work on The most-distant galaxies viewed with Hubble.
  • 2010 D.Sc. (h.c.), University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia
  • 2009-2017 Chair, JWST Science Advisory Committee (JSTAC)
  • 2009-2017 Co-Chair, TMT Science Advisory Committee (TMT SAC)
  • 2004-2008 Chair, Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC)
  • 1995-2006 Deputy PI, Hubble Advanced Camera (ACS)
  • 1988 - Professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UCSC; Astronomer, University of California Observatories/Lick Observatory (UCO/Lick)
  • 1989-1990 Chair, UV/Optical in Space Panel of Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee
  • 1987-1992 Led effort on Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) and Chair, SOC for workshop on NGST, sponsored by NASA HQ and STScI
  • 1984-1987 Deputy Director, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, with Director Riccardo Giaconni
  • 1976-1977 Miller Fellow, Department of Astronomy, UC Berkeley

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