Khee-Gan Lee

Astronomer & Cosmologist

I am Khee-Gan ("K.-G.") Lee, a NASA/STScI Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL) in Berkeley, California. My primary research interests (see below) are using the phenomenon of Lyman-Alpha forest absorption as a tool to study the astrophysics of the intergalactic medium and to constrain the cosmological parameters of the Universe. To study this, I am leading the CLAMATO spectroscopic survey on the Keck-I Telescope. I also have a side interest in developing new instrumentation for the next generations of spectroscopic astronomical surveys.

I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, did my undergraduate studies in University College London, and then obtained my Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University. Before coming to Berkeley, I also did a stint as a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

Contact details:

  • Email: kglee<at>
  • Office Phone: +1-510-486-7758
  • Twitter: @kheegster

Scientific Interests

IGM Lyman-Alpha Forest Tomography

Currently, my primary research interest is the technique of Lyman-alpha forest tomography, which uses distant galaxies and quasars (z=2-3, or 10-11 billion light years away) to illuminate the foreground hydrogen gas tracing the underlying cosmic web. With the largest telescopes in the world, we can observe dense grids of these background sources closely-separated with each other which allows us to 'tomographically' reconstruct the full 3D gas distribution. This provides a unique probe of 3D large-scale structure on small scales at this distant epoch. I am currently leading a project called the COSMOS Lyman-Alpha Mapping And Tomography Observations (CLAMATO) Survey, which deploys this technique on the 10.3 diameter Keck-I Telescope in Hawai'i to map a region of the sky called the COSMOS Field.

If you have a Google Cardboard or similar viewer, see this version. These videos illustrates real data we have obtained so far, and we hope to extend the volume of this map by at least 6-8X to ~1 square degree, in order to build up a comprehensive picture of the cosmic web at this early epoch. This will yield a rich and unique set of science results: It will allow the characterization of z~2 galaxy properties (morphology, star-formation, metallicity etc) as a function of their large-scale gas environment. We also hope to identify progenitors of present-day massive galaxy clusters through intersections of the cosmic web. The data will also be powerful for Lyman-alpha forest correlation analysis: we will be able to measure the 3D Lyman-alpha forest auto-correlation at <10Mpc/h scales, which is sensitive to cosmological parameters such as neutrino mass and tilt of the primordial power spectrum. The cross-correlation between the Lyman-alpha forest with, e.g., Type-2 AGN, LAEs, sub-MM galaxies etc will yield bias estimates for these objects.

Instrumentation/Spectroscopic Surveys

At LBL, I have also gotten involved in developing instrumentation for the next generations of massively-multiplexed spectrographs. Together with David Schlegel, we are currently carrying out feasibility studies on the Fiber-Optic Broadband Optical Spectrograph (FOBOS), a concept for a new fiber-fed multi-object spectrograph for Keck Observatory. The strawman concept envisions a 500-fiber spectrograph sampling a 20 arc-minute diameter field-of-view to deliver spectra covering the full optical range (350-980nm) at medium resolution (R~2500-5000).

Looking even farther ahead, I am also involved in the early discussions for a (hypothetical) hyper-multiplexed spectroscopic survey facility currently provisionally known as the Billion-Object Apparatus (BOA). Envisioned to begin operations in the 2030s, this facility will pair a 10m-class wide-field telescope with an instrument capable of simultaneously obtaining spectra for 20,000-30,000 objects per square degree. Over a 10-year survey over ~10,000 square degrees, BOA will perform a complete census of 3D galaxy redshifts down to linear scales at z<1.5, and a CLAMATO-like IGN tomography at z~2-3 over this huge area. This will be a "Stage-V" cosmology survey that will enable a quantum leap in cosmological constraints over those from LSST.

In the past, I have also been involved with the Baryon Oscillations Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) project, which is part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. For my Ph.D. thesis, I used the Lyman-Alpha absorption in BOSS quasar spectra to constrain the temperature-density relationship of the IGM.