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The merger of two neutron stars, shown an image from a computer simulation (credit: Stephan Rosswog and Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz).

Philanthropy Makes Our Work Possible

Unlike many other sciences, progress in astronomy has traditionally relied on the generosity of informed public benefactors— the UCSC Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and its associated observatories are no exceptions. Private gifts are precious resources for opening up new avenues in research and education that State and Federal funds cannot support. Your gift can make an enormous difference to the education and research careers of our students and faculty. We are currently encouraging support of the following programs:

Astro slugAstronomy and Astrophysics General Funds:  Your gift can help provide scholarships for our students and fund research, travel to scholarly meetings, or areas that require urgent one-time support and other needs not covered by the University.

owl_color_vertical.pngOther Worlds Laboaratory: The Other Worlds Laboratory (OWL) is a new research initiative that builds on UCSC's historic strength in understanding the planets of our solar system and planets around other stars (exoplanets). We are in an amazing era where thousands of exoplanets are being found nearby in our galaxy!  Within the OWL we aim to understand how these planets form and evolve, using computer simulations, and how we can develop and utilize new instruments on telescopes to find and characterize these worlds.  Directed by Professor Jonathan Fortney, the goal of the OWL is to put the Earth in context of the worlds of our solar system, as well as the amazing diversity of billions of worlds in our galaxy.

Learn more about OWL

The Whitford Prize: The Whitford Prize, named for the famous Lick astronomer and former director Albert Whitford, is awarded to the Astronomy and Astrophysics graduate student who, in the judgment of the faculty, attains the highest achievement in research, coursework, teaching, and the preliminary exam. The award includes a $500 cash prize, and is awarded on an annual basis. 

mandelelephant.jpgMandel Lecture Series: This lively and engaging lecture series is designed for the general public. The series has hosted many prominent scientists, including British cosmologist and former President of theRoyal Society, Martin Rees, the first American female astronaut, Sally Ride, and UC Berkeley astrophysicist and contributor to the History Channel's "Universe" programs, AlexFilippenko. The generous support of private donors maintains the lecture series, bringing the message and excitement of astronomy to scientists and lay citizens alike, while presenting the work of external and UCSC scientists to the community.

pages-from-osterbrock.jpgThe Donald E. and Irene Osterbrock Leadership Fellowships:  The Osterbrock Fellowships are the first privately endowed fellowships in our history. This prestigious award underscores our determination to attract, train, and mentor the world’s finest graduate students in astronomy and astrophysics, and to cultivate the skills that will enable them to become the nation's future leaders in their field, as well as in science in general.

The fellowships honor two outstanding individuals. The eminent American astronomer Donald Osterbrock pioneered the study of gaseous nebulae, helped to discover that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, originated the classification scheme for active galactic nuclei, and served as one of Lick Observatory’s most influential directors. Don was a gifted teacher and advisor, and his doctoral students now comprise a significant portion of America’s astronomical leadership. His wife, Irene, worked tirelessly to help establish the UCSC Library’s Mary Lea Shane Archives of the Lick Observatory, which serve as a world-renowned repository of U.S. astronomical history.

Private donors are encouraged to support these very special fellowships, which will facilitate UCSC's on-going leadership in research and education in the field of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Our faculty members themselves are pledging generously to match each private gift, dollar for dollar, to hasten establishment of this worthwhile tribute to leadership, past and future.

Learn more about the Osterbrock Program.

tasccolor.jpgTheoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz (TASC): TASC is a vibrant new institute, spanning four UCSC departments that are involved in research in astrophysics and planetary sciences. Its fourteen participating faculty members make up the largest group of computational astrophysicists in the world. Building on this strength, TASC has begun a unique new interdisciplinary program in scientific computation and visualization in collaboration with members of UCSC's Digital Arts and New Media Center. TASC is also spearheading an effort to create a Ph.D. program in high-performance supercomputing, in partnership with the Baskin School of Engineering's Department of Applied Mathematics.
Current TASC Director, Prof. Enrico Ramirez-Ruíz, has also emphasized the involvement of undergraduates in TASC activities, as well as ambitious education, recruitment, and other programs that reach out to the local Latino community. Key components include intensive research instruction through summer internships, academic counseling and mentoring, and workshops.

Supporters of this program can also invest undergraduate and graduate fellowships, internships, research support funds, computer and image visualization hardware, and an endowment.

Other Opportunities: Many other opportunities for supporting UCSC's world-renowned programs in astronomy and astrophysics are available. For more information on giving, call the Division's Development Office (831-459-2192) or email us

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