- About Us
- Las Campanas Observatory
- Support the Observatories
- For Astronomers
- Internal Pages
Wendy L. Freedman grew up in Toronto, Canada, and received her PhD (1984) in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Toronto. Her early work focused on the formation of stars in nearby galaxies, and the study of Cepheids, extremely bright stars whose fluctuating luminosity can be used to accurately determine distances between objects in space. This work led to her leadership role with the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project on the Extragalactic Distance Scale, which used Cepheid stars to measure the rate of the universe’s expansion [Freedman et al. (2001), Astrophysical Journal, 553, 47.]
In 1984, Freedman joined the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena, California, as a postdoctoral fellow. Three years later, she became a faculty member there—the first woman to join the Observatories’ permanent scientific staff. In March 2003, she was named the Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair and Director of the Carnegie Observatories.
Freedman has received many honors for her studies of galaxy evolution and the evolution of stellar populations of galaxies, as well as for her leadership in bringing observational cosmology into the 21st century. These awards include the American Philosophical Society’s Magellanic Premium Award (2002), the Royal Astronomical Society’s George Darwin Lectureship (2001), and the Cosmos Club Foundation’s John P. McGovern Award in Science (2000). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000, the National Academy of Sciences in 2003, and the American Philosophical Society in 2007. She was recognized with the prestigious 2009 Gruber Cosmology Prize for her work on the measurement of the Hubble constant, whose value determines the current rate of expansion of the universe. Most recently in 2010, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Since the completion of the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project, Freedman and Carnegie colleagues have been using the telescopes at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory to study the behavior of supernovae to better determine the nature of the mysterious cosmic phenomenon known as dark energy, which appears to play an essential role in the rate at which the universe is expanding [Carnegie Supernova Project]. Freedman has also turned to further refining the Hubble constant. Using NASA’s space-based Spitzer telescope, she is leading a team of scientists to decrease the uncertainly in the Hubble constant from 10 percent to 3 percent.
Continuing in the tradition of the Observatories’ founding director, George Ellery Hale, who successively built three of the world’s largest telescopes during the first part of the 20th century, Freedman is chairing the Board of Directors for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Organization and leading the effort to construct the new 25-meter class telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory.
The product of more than a century of astronomical research and telescope-building by some of the world’s leading research institutions, the GMT will open a new window on the universe for the 21st century. It will have the resolving power of an 80-foot primary mirror—far larger than any telescope ever built—and will produce images up to 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. The Giant Magellan Telescope will answer many of the questions at the forefront of astrophysics today and will pose new and unanticipated riddles for future generations of astronomers.
Need more information? Questions@obs.carnegiescience.edu
Carnegie Observatories, 813 Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, California, 91101 USA
This site designed by R. Ellis, C. Burns, and R. Haynie.
Photo credits include: M. del Campo, D. Harvey, F. Perez, A. Phifer, T. Mason, K. Luhman and S. Rubel
©Trustees of the Carnegie Institution for Science