Astrophysics and Cosmology involve the study of the physical processes that govern the behavior of astronomical objects, and the study of the origin, evolution, composition, and fate of the Universe as a whole. Many of the most vexing and fundamental unsolved problems in physics are being tackled by our group. The majority of the matter in the Universe is not made of the standard model particles we know, but instead of a new component of the Universe, dark matter. So far, dark matter has been detected through its gravitational effects, but deciphering its nature will require measuring its interaction with normal matter. The dominant component of the energy density of the Universe was unknown just 15 years ago. Dark energy makes its effect felt in the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe and the change in the growth of mass perturbations. Determining the nature of dark energy will require experiments that can measure both its effects as a function of redshift with unprecedented precision. Modern cosmology relies on a period of inflation in the early Universe to solve the horizon problem and to provide the seeds of structure formation. Detection of the gravitational waves generated in inflation is essential to validating the standard model of cosmology.
The astrophysics and cosmology group is active in all of these areas, with a healthy mix of theoretical, observational and experimental programs. We have six faculty members (listed below) directly involved in cosmology and astrophysics. In addition, several faculty and students in other disciplines are working on projects of astrophysical application, from the modeling of astrophysical atmospheres (Marston), development of advanced X-ray detectors (Seidel), to solar neutrino spectral measurements (Lanou, Maris & Seidel), to the quantum properties of black holes and early Universe cosmology (Lowe).
The students and faculty in the astrophysics and cosmology come together through a weekly astrophysics seminar series, a student-run journal club series, and additional meetings on areas of overlapping research.