Curator and Curator-in-Charge, Department
of Astrophysics, Division of Physical Sciences;
and curator of Einstein
Dr. Shara and his research group are conducting
an exhaustive survey to inventory and "weigh"
all 100,000 stars nearest to Earth. More
than one billion stars are being examined
in the search. The survey has already determined
that many low luminosity stars remain undiscovered
just a few light years away, and that a
significant portion of the local "dark"
matter is concentrated in stars 100 to 100,000
times fainter than the Sun.
Dr. Shara uses the Hubble Space Telescope
to survey the densest cores of globular
clusters to retrieve and characterize the
predicted collision products. These include
some of the most exotic stars known to astrophysicists:
"blue stragglers." By accurately
weighing these stars, Shara and his collaborators
have demonstrated that many are at least
twice as massive as all other stars in a
globular cluster. This strongly supports
the hitherto theoretical collisional origin
for blue stragglers.
Read an interview with Dr. Shara about
the Einstein exhibition.
Prior to joining the Museum in 1999, Michael
Shara was with the Space Telescope Science
Institute at Johns Hopkins for 17 years,
where he was responsible for the peer review
committees for the Hubble Space Telescope.
Dr. Shara received his Ph.D. in 1977 from
Tel-Aviv University. He holds a M.Sc. and
B.Sc. from the University of Toronto, and
studied mathematics at McGill University.
He has been both visiting and adjunct professor
at Columbia University; associate astronomer
and astronomer with tenure at Space Telescope
Science Institute; visiting assistant in
the Department of Physics at Arizona State
University; and National Research Council
of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department
of Physics at the University of Montreal.
He was a graduate student and research assistant
in the Department of Physics and Astronomy
at Tel-Aviv University and the Department
of Astronomy at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Shara's research interests include the
structure and evolution of novae and supernovae;
collisions between stars and the remnant
descendants of those collisions; and the
populations of stars inhabiting star clusters
and galaxies. He has served on the National
Science Foundation Compact Stars Review
Panel, Infrared Processing and Analysis
Center User's Committee, Cerro Tololo InterAmerican
Observatory User's Committee, and NASA/IPAC
Extragalactic Database Project Advisory
Committee, among others.
Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural
The Museum's Department of Astrophysics,
created in July 1999 and chaired by Michael
Shara, conducts an ambitious research program,
provides scientific expertise in supporting
the education and outreach activities of
the Frederick Phineas & Sandra Priest
Rose Center for Earth and Space, and conveys
the excitement of modern astronomy to the
The department is actively carrying out
research in observational, theoretical,
and computational astrophysics. Museum scientists
are using all the tools available to modern
astrophysicists-ground and space-based telescopes,
supercomputers, and visualization tools-many
of which are located within the facility.
Active research collaborations exist between
Museum department members and faculty at
Princeton University, Columbia University,
and other major research universities.
The research specialties of the department
members cover a wide range of modern astrophysics,
including the evolution of interstellar
clouds collapsing to form stars, stellar
collisions and their progeny in dense star
clusters, the differing populations of stars
in our Milky Way galaxy and its neighbors,
the fates of planets in star clusters, and
the birth and evolution of the first generation
of stars. Stellar Collisions, Mergers, and
Their Consequences, an international meeting
of leading astrophysicists, was held at
the Rose Center May 31-June 2, 2000. The
event was the first-ever professional or
amateur meeting on this topic. The department
also hosts regular colloquia for area astrophysicists,
including one held December 2001 on the
topic of extrasolar planets.