If you've got questions on the Milky Way Galaxy, Prof. Bob Benjamin is your guy!
Prof. Benjamin received a bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics from Carleton College and masters and PhD in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy and the physics of interstellar and intergalactic gas. He started as an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2003 and became a Professor in 2015. He served as department chair from 2013-2018 and 2021- to the present.
Prof. Benjamin's research has focused in two areas: (1) the physics of interstellar matter between the stars, particularly the low density gas that extends beyond our Milky Way like a very low density atmosphere, and (2) the structure of our Milky Way Galaxy. Thanks to his participation in the GLIMPSE (Galactic Legacy Infrared Midplane Survey Extraordinaire) program, a campaign to image the Galactic plane with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, he has become an expert in the structure of the Milky Way galaxy. For a tour of this major NASA program and its contribution to our understanding of the Milky Way Galaxy, go to the GLIMPSE 360 website. As part of his research, he has also done theoretical work and numerical simulations of interstellar matter as well as using data from several other ground-based and space-based telescopes, including the NSF supported Wisconsin H-alpha Mapper and NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer and the Hubble Space Telescope. He involves both physics majors and his introductory astronomy class in research projects using cutting-edge data from these sources.
He has received over $800K in funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA in support of these research programs, and is a co-author on over seventy refereeed journal papers. Perhaps his greatest contribution to astronomy was his involvement in creating an influential piece of art. Some of his most recent publications are given below.
• A High Pitch Angle Structure in the Sagittarius Arm
Kuhn, M. A., Benjamin, R.A., Zucker, C., Krone-Martins, A., de Souza, R.S., Castro-Ginard, A., Ishida, E.E.O., Povich, M.S., Hillenbrand, L. A.
Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters, Volume 651, L10 (July 2021)
Press release: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/astronomers-find-a-break-in-one-of-the-milky-way-s-spiral-arms
• Discovery of a 30-degree-long ultraviolet arc in Ursa Major
Bracco, A., Benjamin, R. A., Alves, M. I. R., Lehmann, A., Boulanger, F., Montier, L., Mittelman, D., di Cicco, D.,, Walker, S.
Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 636, L8 (April 2020)
Press release: https://www.uww.edu/news/archive/2020-06-ultraviolet-emission
• Discovery of High-Velocity H-alpha Emission in the Direction of the Fermi Bubble
Krishnarao, D., Benjamin, R., and Haffner, L.M.
Astrophysical Journal Letters, 899, L11 (August 2020)
Press release: https://news.wisc.edu/first-optical-measurements-of-milky-ways-fermi-bubbles-probe-their-origin/
• Discovery of diffuse optical emission lines from the inner Galaxy: Evidence for LI(N)ER-like gas
Krishnarao, D., Benjamin, R., and Haffner, L.M.
Science Advances, 6,20,eeay9711 (03 July 2020)
Press release: https://news.wisc.edu/peering-under-galactic-dust-study-reveals-radiation-at-center-of-milky-way/
• Click here for a full listing of Prof. Benjamin's publications (NASA ADS)!
• ..or click here for the Google scholar version.
One of the advantages of taking Physics classes at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater are the small class sizes where you really get to you know your professor. Professor Benjamin has taught the introductory Physcis for Scientists and Engineers since he arrived on campus as well as the non-major Astronomy 101 (Exploring the Universe) and upper level physics major courses in Electricity & Magnetism and Thermodynamics. For a fun—if slightly dated—look into his classroom, see the video below.
Prof Benjamin has been active in astronomy outreach for his entire career, and has written popular science articles and given public presentations in schools, UW Space Place, and other venues around the state of Wisconsin. He also serves as the directory of the Whitewater Observatory. Most recently, he has begun colloaborating with the Horwiz-DeRemer Planetarium (School District of Waukesha) to do school outreach.
Prof. Benjamin's 2020 video tribute to the Hubble Space Telescope, presented as part of the Wisconsin Science Festival (2020) in collaboration with the Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium (School District of Waukesha) is linked below.
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