Rebecca Bernstein combines observational astronomy with developing new instruments and techniques to study her objects of interest. She focuses on formation and evolution of galaxies by studying the chemistry of objects called extra galactic globular clusters—old, spherical compact groups of stars that are gravitationally bound. She also studies the stellar components of clusters of galaxies and is engaged in various projects related to dark matter and dark energy—the invisible matter and repulsive force that make up most of the universe.
Although Bernstein joined Carnegie as a staff scientist in 2012, she has had a long history of spectrographic and imaging development, working with Carnegie’s Steve Shectman, among others, at Carnegie and elsewhere. A spectrograph separates light into its component wavelengths and is used to determine the chemistry of an object. One such collaboration was the Magellan Inamori Kyocera Echelle (MIKE), which is known as a double-echelle spectrograph, meaning it has a double beam. It is a highly efficient, high-resolution spectrograph with complete optical wavelength coverage with minimal complexity, size, and cost.
Bernstein has been involved in numerous other instrument projects. Currently, she is the project scientist on the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project an international consortium where she will provide technical and scientific leadership for the design and construction of the telescope. The GMT is a next-generation, extremely large telescope that, with seven segmented mirrors, will be 80 feet (24.5 meters) in diameter making its resolving power more than 10 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Bernstein received her A.B. in physics from Princeton University and a Ph. D. in astrophysics from Caltech. She was a Hubble and research fellow at Carnegie and an assistant and associate professor at the University of Michigan. She was also an associate and full professor at UC- Santa Cruz before joining Carnegie. For more see http://www.gmto.org/pressrelease10.html and http://obs.carnegiescience.edu/users/rab