Professor Carlton Pennypacker

Prof Carlton Pennypacker is a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab located at the University of California Berkeley, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern Queensland. Carl was instrumental in the development of high-gain, low-noise instrumentation systems utilized in signal detection in the noise cluttered realm of space.

Motivated by the potential that could be unlocked when students and scientists collaborated, Carl put together a team and designed and built the hardware and software for nearby supernova searches and the cosmological supernova searches. Subsequently, Carl and his team were the first in the world to create an automated system for finding supernovae.

“To work to help prevent fires is not an option — it is a sacred duty for me.”


This work led him to the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, and one of his students, Saul Perlmutter was subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics

Harnessing the power of what students and scientists could achieve by working together, Carl founded the Hands-On Universe (HOU) Astronomy education system. This system enables the use of robotic telescopes, archival images, and other data to be used in classrooms and after school programs all over the world. To date over 50,000 teachers have been trained in this system, which has enabled millions of students to learn Fundamental Math, Science, and Astronomy using real data.

This program has been incredibly successful with students discovering supernovae, asteroids, and other variable objects. This program is finalising a project with UniStellar and the SETI Institute to search for exoplanets around other stars.
With many accolades recognising the contribution Carl has made in the field of science and space, his awards include the 2007 Gruber Prize in Cosmology and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. He was awarded the Prix Jules Janssen of the French Astronomical Society in 2010.

Inspired by the powerful capabilities of current imaging devices and software and computing infrastructure Carl developed the FUEGO concept – a satellite parked in Geosynchronous orbit, with a 0.5 meter mirror, easily detecting small (10 square meter) fires on planet Earth.
Spurred on by colleagues who shared a similar interest, Carl progressed his thinking and went about building a world-class team that could build FUEGO for use in both Australia and the USA where, after experimenting with other altitudes with similar imaging and algorithms it was discovered the technology could greatly reduce the damage communities were sustaining from wildfires, by detecting, identifying and alerting emergency services within minutes of ignition.

A US patent was obtained and now with the Fireball.International Team, they are rapidly moving forward to build it.