Andrea Ghez is a stargazing detective, tracking the visible and invisible forces lurking in the vastness of interstellar space.
Seeing the unseen (from 26,000 light-years away) is a specialty of UCLA astronomer Andrea Ghez. From the highest and coldest mountaintop of Hawaii, home of the Keck Observatory telescopes, using bleeding-edge deep-space-scrying technology, Ghez handily confirmed 30 years of suspicions of what lies at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy -- a supermassive black hole, which sends its satellite stars spinning in orbits approaching the speed of light.
Ghez received a MacArthur "genius grant" in 2008 for her work in surmounting the limitations of earthbound telescopes. Early in her career, she developed a technique known as speckle imaging, which combined many short exposures from a telescope into one much-crisper image. Lately she's been using adaptive optics to further sharpen our view from here -- and compile evidence of young stars at the center of the universe.