Cornelia Lang


Montage of the Galactic Center image made with NASA Great Observatories: Chandra X-Ray (X-ray emission = Blue/White), Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared = Red) and Hubble Space Telescope (Infrared Paschen-alpha = yellow; credit: Wang, Lang et al. (2010)


Cornelia with her Fall 2015 First Year Seminar exploring the UI Mobile Museum exhibit "Hawkeyes on Space" 

Cornelia with undergraduate Maria Drout on the roof of Van Allen Hall planning observations for General Astronomy laboratory exercises.

Associate Professor

Ph.D., Astronomy, University of California at Los Angeles 2000

Contact Information

Department of Physics and Astronomy

University of Iowa, 703 Van Allen Hall

Phone: 319-335-1945, FAX: 319-335-1753

Email: cornelia-lang [at]

Biographical Information

I grew up in the midwest and attended Vassar College (B.A. Astronomy and Physics, 1995) in New York. I started graduate work at University of California, Los Angeles in the Fall of 1995 and then moved to the headquarters of the Very Large Array Telescope in Socorro, NM in 1998 to finish my dissertation research as a predoctoral fellow.  Following my PhD, I had a postdoctoral fellowship at University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 2000-2002, and I joined the faculty of University of Iowa in 2002. When not working, I enjoy traveling, reading, running, and adventures with my family: husband Mike and three children, Kahleb, Amelia, and Will. 

Research Interests

My research interests are focused around the study of the interstellar medium in the nucleus of our Milky Way Galaxy and in the nuclei of nearby galaxies. In particular, I am interested in the detailed interplay between massive stars, their winds and the interstellar gas in our Galactic center. Recently I have been a collaborator in the first Hubble Space Telescope survey of the central 75 pc (~225 light years) of the Galaxy that has revealed a wealth of new detail in the structure of the stellar and interstellar components in this unique region. I have also made progress on understanding the strength and structure of the magnetic field in center of the Galaxy, where the field may be unusually well-ordered and assist in the outflow of particles and energy from this active region. I routinely use the Very Large Array radio interferometer to make observations of the Galactic center, and I have also used the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope to probe this visually-obscured region of the Galaxy.  I have recently begun to extend my study of our Galactic center to the cores of the nearest galactic analogs, such as M31 (Andromeda), M33, M51 and NGC1068.

Undergraduate research in Physics & Astronomy at University of  Iowa: video.

Teaching Interests

I routinely teach astronomy courses for undergraduate non-majors, majors and for graduate students. I am committed to a teaching style that incorporates "active learning" pedagogy. Recently I have been involved with developing "Big Ideas" general education undergraduate courses.  These courses are taught by interdisclipinary teams of faculty and they are organized around a topic of current and relevant interest to both faculty and students. With colleagues across campus, we designed the Big Ideas course entitled "Origins of Life in the Universe" which includes two semesters of lecture and one semester of laboratory and fulfills the CLAS Natural Sciences Requirement. For scenes from Origins, please see this link: 

Outreach and Engagement 

Recently I have put together an exhibit highlighting the contributions that University of Iowa has made to space science entitled, "Hawkeyes in Space: UI Physics, Past and Present: and please link to the following video:

Current Research Projects

My current research program includes includes the multi-wavelength study of energetic phenomena in our Milky Way galaxy, particularly at its center:

  • Radio polarimetric studies of the Galactic center that reveal the orientation and geometrical configuration of the magnetic field in this unique region of the Galaxy. We are using both the Very Large Array radio telescope and the Australia Telescope Compact Array to carry out the first high angular resolution spectropolarimetric observations of the strongly magnetized Radio Arc region. These observations will allow us to perform a detailed Faraday synthesis analysis toward the Galactic center Radio Arc. 
  • Continuum and spectral line studies of the giant molecular clouds in the Galactic center region. Our recent high frequency VLA survey of several regions (at different evolutionary stages of massive star formation) reveals the detailed properties of molecular clouds in this region. Strong velocity gradients and complex velocity structure are evident in most of the Galactic center clouds, as well as large numbers of methanol Class I masers in dense molecular clouds which have not begun to form stars. 
  • Study of the energetic interplay between massive stars and components of the interstellar medium, using high angular resolution data from HST (the Paschen-alpha survey of the GC), Spitzer IRAC and VLA/EVLA radio continuum observations. (See Galaxtic Center sidebar figure above). 

Selected Publications

Mills, E., Butterfield, N., Ludovici, D., Lang, C. C. et al., 2015, "Abundant CH3OH Masers but no New Evidence for Star Formation in GCM0.253+0.016", The Astrophysical Journal, 805, 72

Marlowe, H.,  Kaaret, P., Lang, C.C., et al., 2014, "Spectral state transitions of the Ultraluminous X-ray Source IC 342 X-1", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 

Mills, E., Morris, M. R., Lang, C. C., et al. 2011,"Properties of the Compact H II Region Complex G-0.02-0.07", Astrophysical Journal, 735, 84

Lang, C.C., Wang, Q.D, Lu, F.J & Clubb, K. 2010, The Radio Properties and Magnetic Field Configuration in the Crab-like Pulsar Wind Nebula G54.1+0.3, The Astrophysical Journal, 709, 1125.

Wang, Q.D. et al. (including C.C. Lang), "HST/NICMOS Paschen-α Survey of the Galactic Centre: Overview", MNRAS, 402, Issue 2, pp. 895-902

Lang, C.C., Drout, M.R., 2008, The magnetic environment in the central region of nearby galaxies, Journal of Physics: Conference Series, Volume 131, 012032

Lang, C.C., Kaaret, P., Corbel, S. & Mercer, A., 2007, A Radio Nebula Surrounding the Ultra-Luminous X-ray Source in NGC5408,  Astrophysical Journal, 666, 79

Lang, C.C., Johnson, K.E., Goss, W.M. & Rodriguez, L.F., 2005, Stellar Winds and Embedded Star Formation in the Galactic Center Quintuplet and Arches Clusters: Multifrequency Radio Observations, Astronomical Journal, 130, 2185-2196

Wang, Q.D., Gotthelf, E.V. & Lang, C.C. 2002, "A faint discrete sourceorigin for the highly ionized iron emission from the Galactic Center”, Nature, 415, 148

Copyright University of Iowa 2016