FACULTY AWARD: Bakos receives 2012 Packard Fellowship to film night sky

Gáspár Bakos, a Princeton University assistant professor of astrophysical sciences, was one of 16 researchers nationwide to receive a 2012 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering. Bestowed by the California-based David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the fellowships are meant to support early-career research with limited funding or reporting requirements. Each fellow will receive a grant of $875,000 over five years.

Bakos, who joined the Princeton faculty in 2011, focuses much of his research on extrasolar planets — those outside of Earth's solar system — and on studying the cosmos with small telescopes. Bakos brings these two areas together under HATNet (Hungarian-made Automated Telescope Network), a planet-hunting project he designed and launched in 1999 as an undergraduate student at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary.

In announcing the fellowship, the Packard Foundation cited the next iteration of Bakos' HAT project: "Bakos proposes to develop and operate a wide field camera system, called HATPI, which will continuously image the entire visible night sky at high spatial resolution and high photometric precision. The HATPI movie-of-the-sky will have an enormous scientific potential in detecting a large number of transiting extrasolar planets, detect many transient 'flashes' and issue alerts on moving objects."