Bradley Schaefer

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Bradley Schaefer
Bradley Elliott Schaefer
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (Ph.D., 1983)
Known forMIT Mystery Hunt, photometry
AwardsBreakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, Gruber Prize in Cosmology, LSU University Alumni Professor, LSU Distinguished Faculty Award
Scientific career
InstitutionsLouisiana State University

Bradley Elliott Schaefer is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Louisiana State University. He received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983.

Early life[edit]

In addition to his academic pursuits, Schaefer is remembered at MIT as the founder of the MIT Mystery Hunt in 1981 during his graduate studies there.[1][2] The tradition of the hunt continues today.

Scientific career[edit]

His research interests include the use of photometry of exploding objects to get results of interest for physical cosmology. He has also researched the dwarf planet Pluto with the aim of understanding the atmospheric variability of the system. Bradley has also studied KIC 8462852, a star with unusual within-day light fluctuations of about 20%, and found that the century-long light (from 1890 to 1989) from the star faded by about 20% as well, adding to the unusual luminosity of the star.[3][4]

Hipparchus's Star Catalog[edit]

In 2005, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, California, Schaefer reported on a potential link between the long-lost star catalog of Hipparchus and a sculpture called The Farnese Atlas, created in the 2nd century, and thus a potential source for antique astronomy. Hipparchus is considered to be one of the greatest astronomers of ancient times, but most of his works are lost to history. The Farnese Atlas depicts Atlas, from Greek mythology, bearing the weight of the heavens upon his shoulders. The heavens are represented by a globe showing the constellations as seen from Earth. By examining the positions of the constellations, Schaefer determined that they are accurately placed according to the positions they occupied at the time of Hipparchus. He concludes that Hipparchus's work may have been the reference for the statue.


In 2017, Schaefer made a lecture series titled "The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy", with this being an introductory course covering the history of astronomy from roughly 5000 BC until 1600 AD on all inhabited continents.[5]

In 2010, Schaefer was awarded the LSU Distinguished Faculty Award as recognition of a sustained record of excellence in teaching and research.[6] In 2012, for his teaching, Schaefer was named as the University Alumni Professor.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2007, Schaefer was awarded a small share of the $500,000 Gruber Prize in Cosmology, as part of the Supernova Cosmology Project, for the discovery of Dark Energy.[8] In 2015, for this discovery of Dark Energy, Schaefer again won a small share of the $3,000,000 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.[9] In October 2011, this work was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, with one half of the prize going to the head of the Supernova Cosmology Project, Saul Perlmutter, and the rest to the heads of a competing team.[10]


  1. ^ Marcott, Amy. "Happy 30…er…29th Birthday, Mystery Hunt!". Slice of MIT. MIT Alumni. Archived from the original on 28 August 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  2. ^ Albert, Eric (July 1991). "The Great Annual MIT Mystery Hunt". Games. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  3. ^ Aron, Jacob (15 January 2016). "Comets can't explain weird 'alien megastructure' star after all". New Scientist. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  4. ^ Schaefer, Bradley E. (13 January 2016). "KIC 8462852 Faded at an Average Rate of 0.165+-0.013 Magnitudes Per Century From 1890 To 1989". The Astrophysical Journal. 822 (2): L34. arXiv:1601.03256. Bibcode:2016ApJ...822L..34S. doi:10.3847/2041-8205/822/2/L34.
  5. ^ Schaefer, Bradley E. "The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy". The Great Courses. This is a 24-lecture series (30 minutes each) available on DVD or video download.
  6. ^ LSU Distinguished Faculty Award[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "University Alumni Professor". Distinguished Professors. LSU.
  8. ^ 2007 Gruber Prize to Supernova Cosmology Project and High-z Supernova Search Team
  9. ^ "Saul Perlmutter and the Supernova Cosmology Project Team". Fundamental Physics Breakthrough Prize.
  10. ^ 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to leaders of Supernova Cosmology Project and High-z Supernova Search Team

External links[edit]