Filipenko Orbits Into Galactic Imaging


Vince Basada and Emma Griffiths


Veteran Author’s Day Speaker Dr. Alex Filipenko returned to SVHS with a new presentation highlighting NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope. A decorated astrophysicist and nine time winner of the “Best Professor” award at University of California Berkeley, Filipenko focused his slideshow on astronomy, and specifically the technology used to uncover new galaxies. 

The James Webb Space Telescope, which was launched on Christmas Day last year, is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. It is the largest and most advanced space telescope to date, with the ability to detect a wide spectrum of light. Despite that, Filipenko asserts that the Hubble and the James Webb are better served as compliments to each other, rather than the latter completely replacing the former.

His visual presentation guided the audience through the process of designing, launching, and taking photos with space telescopes. He shared some of the photos taken by the James Webb telescope of galaxies previously unseen to the common eye, explaining the phenomenon that makes picturing them possible.

Compared to his presentation last year, Filipenko focused on the innovations made in his larger field over the past year rather than his own projects.

Filipenko has had a long and documented(literally, he has been in over 100 of them) career in astrophysics, having previously contributed to two Nobel prize winning projects. As he expressed, has never thought of leaving the field, despite the ups and downs and paperwork behind academia. In fact, Filipenko beamed that “they pay me to sit around and count galaxies.”  

As he transitioned to questions, many students were curious about the career of astrobiology, which is focused on the possibilities of finding extraterrestrial life, and their mantra “follow the water!” a reference to all life requiring it in some capacity.  

Before his departure, he took the time to speak with several students, clarifying their curiosities with space and astronomical careers. His well thought out lecture kept students engaged and hoping for his possible return next Authors Day.