Anil Chandra Seth


I am an associate professor in the Physics & Astronomy Department at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.  

Research Interests:

I study the formation and evolution of nearby galaxies by detecting individual stars and clusters of stars whose ages, composition, and motions can be measured.  I focus particularly on understanding the centers of galaxies and the black holes and massive star clusters we find there.

My research focuses on the following questions:

  1. 1) Do Lower Mass Galaxies Host Massive Black Holes?

I search for black holes at the centers of nearby low mass galaxies to determine whether they have supermassive black holes like their higher mass brethren.  This search requires cutting edge adaptive optics instrumentation to see the dynamical effect of the black hole on the stars that surround them.  My group has now found 10 new black holes at the centers of galaxies, including the lowest mass central black holes, and those hosted in the lowest mass galaxies.  Here is a  video and article that focus on one of the more notable black holes we’ve found. 


You can email me at:

where the 'FIlastname' above is aseth

My personal email address is:

Where the 'firstlast' is anilseth

2) How do nuclear star clusters form?

Unlike black holes, which erase any direct record of their formation, the stellar light from nuclear star clusters can tell us how and when material accreted into the centers of galaxies. I’m currently surveying the nearest nuclear star clusters using a wide range of observations, including laser-guide star adaptive optics observations.  These observations provide information on the morphology, kinematics and stellar populations of the nuclear star clusters.  Although much remains to be learned, my observations show that nuclear star clusters are complex systems that form episodically.

Other research:

I also work on a several projects focused on understanding the histories of stars and star clusters in nearby galaxies.  These include large surveys of our nearest spiral neighbors, Andromeda and Triangulum.  One of the most fun parts of this work has been launching citizen science projects to search for star clusters.  I’m also involved with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s APOGEE project. 

Outside of my research, I advocate for maintaining and improving the dark skies in our region, including helping start the world’s first Dark Sky Studies minor at the University of Utah, and founding an internship program for astronomy outreach at Bryce Canyon National Park.  See the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies and the International Dark Sky Association’s pages for more info.