Stephen Shectman studies galaxies and stars and develops the tools to do so. He investigates the large-scale structure of the galaxy distribution; searches for ancient, low-metal stars; develops astronomical instruments; and constructs large telescopes. Shectman was the former Project Scientist for Magellan and is largely responsible for the superb quality of 6.5-meter telescopes. He is now a member of the Giant Magellan Telescope Project Scientists’ Working Group.
To understand large-scale structure, Shectman has participated in several galaxy redshift surveys. He and collaborators discovered a particularly large void in the galaxy distribution in the early 1980s and subsequently conducted the Las Campanas Redshift Survey (LCRS) using the C100 fiber spectrograph. The LCRS was the definitive redshift survey of the time and showed that the galaxy distribution becomes homogeneous at large scales compared with the strong fluctuations characteristic of the small-scale distribution.
Hydrogen and helium were produced in the Big Bang, but heavier elements came from nucleosynthesis in successive stellar generations. The oldest stars are deficient in heavy elements. In the 1980s, Shectman and George Preston conducted a survey for these objects. Using novel techniques they discovered the majority of known stars with heavy-element abundances less than about 1% of the Sun’s. Shectman currently works on metal-poor stars in the Hamburg-ESO survey, using Magellan spectrographs to identify and study the best ones in detail.
Shectman developed a series of photon-counting detectors for faint-object spectroscopy. They were used at Las Campanas and copied by other observatories. He also built the high-resolution echelle spectrograph and the multiobject fiber spectrograph for the 100-inch du Pont telescope. With Rebecca Bernstein (now at UC Santa Cruz), he built the high-resolution echelle spectrograph for Magellan, which has been in service for several years. He is currently working on the Magellan echellette spectrograph, a joint MIT-Carnegie project with Scott Burles (MIT) and Carnegie’s Ian Thompson, and the Magellan Planet Finder, a collaboration with Paul Butler (DTM) and Jeff Crane, an Observatories’ post doc.
B.S. (physics), 1969, Yale University; Ph.D. (astronomy), 1973, California Institute of Technology