Neta A Bahcall

Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences, Director of Undergraduate Studies
pronouns: she/her/hers
Office Phone
137 Peyton

Neta A. Bahcall is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University. She is Director of the Undergraduate Program in Astrophysics and past Director of the Council on Science and Technology of Princeton University. Bahcall's research interests are: 

  • Observational cosmology
  • Dark Matter and the mass density of the Universe
  • Dark Energy
  • Large-scale structure of the Universe
  • Cluster of galaxies
  • Formation and evolution of structure
  • Quasars and their environment
  • Supermassive black holes

Bahcall's work focuses on addressing questions such as: What is the large-scale structure of our Universe? How did structure form and evolve? How much dark matter exists in the Universe and where is it located? What is the nature of the mysterious dark energy? What is the fate of our Universe - will it expand forever or recollapse? Bahcall uses different methods and a variety of tracers to answer these questions, including galaxies, clusters of galaxies, superclusters, and quasars. She combines observational data from large-scale surveys (such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and others) and other observations to determine the structure in the universe and its properties and compare it with those expected from cosmological simulations. Bahcall and colleagues' determination of properties such as the cluster correlation function, the cluster mass function and its evolution, the mass-to-light function from galaxies to superclusters, the geometrical shape of clusters and of large-scale structure have provided powerful constraints on cosmology including one of the first determinations of the mass-density of the universe and the amplitude of mass-fluctuations. Bahcall works closely with students and postdoctoral fellows; their work is summarized in over 300 scientific publications. Bahcall is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Chair of Astronomy Section of the National Academy of Sciences, Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, recipient of the A. de Vaucouleurs Medal, the Payne-Gasposkin Award, an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree - OSU, Editorial Board member of PNAS, past Vice-President and Councilor of the American Astronomical Society, Century Lecturer of the AAS, and served as Chair and member of various NASA, NSF, NAS, and Congressional committees.

Bahcall was born in Israel. She received her PhD from Tel-Aviv University, working in Nuclear Astrophysics under the direction of Prof. William A. Fowler of Caltech. After receiving her PhD Bahcall moved to Princeton University. She has served as the first Head of the Science Program Selection Office and Chief of the General Observer Branch at the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Neta Bahcall married John N. Bahcall in 1966; they have three children: Safi, Dan, and Orli.