Left pointing hand navigation decoration Return to “Telescopes from the Ground Up” Left pointing hand navigation decoration
Telescopes from the Ground Up
Portrait of Gibor Basri.

In eighth grade, Gibor Basri wrote a report on astronomy as a career. He came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a good one: It was too small and competitive a field.

Instead Basri decided to study physics like his father, a professor at Colorado State University. Yet once he entered school, he found that he was only interested in physics if it was related to astronomy. He could study nuclear reactions, but he only really enjoyed learning about them if they were occurring inside stars.

Basri, born in the United States to parents who had immigrated from Iraq and Jamaica, had loved science fiction books as a boy. He’d spent his time reading about scientists who create a new universe in their laboratory, or a spaceship that moves so fast its crew can watch the universe evolve. Working in astronomy, studying the stars, brought him as close as he could come to that kind of excitement. “In essence I could travel to the stars in my own head,” he said. “Otherwise, I was never going to get there.”

When the Keck Telescopes were built, Basri took advantage of their light-gathering power to look for “brown dwarfs,” dim, cool objects that could be called failed stars. Brown dwarfs hold the middle ground between giant gas planets, like Jupiter, and stars. Basri was the first to find a brown dwarf, proving they existed.

Today Gibor Basri continues to work on brown dwarfs, but he’s also involved with the upcoming Kepler Mission, which will look for Earth-like planets around other stars.

Return to “Telescopes from the Ground Up”