Astroparticle physics studies the most powerful objects in the Universe, such as pulsars, gamma ray bursts, supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies a supernovas. Important questions that astroparticle physics helps to answer include the origin of cosmic rays, the acceleration of high-energy particles in astrophysical objects, tests of fundamental physics, the origin of dark matter, neutrino properties, etc. Our faculty, postdocs and students collaborate in several large experiments to detect high-energy gamma rays and neutrinos, with activities ranging from data analysis to instrumentation.
Black holes and neutron stars are the most compact objects in the universe, where matter is packed to very high densities under the relentless force of gravity. They are ideal tools to study gravity at its most extreme as well as a variety of physical processes that often accompany them, such as accretion of gas and energetic interactions with their environment. At the CRA, we currently investigate several key open questions in this area of research.
Dark matter, gravitational waves, black holes, neutron stars and neutrinos are just a few of the topics under consideration by the CRA faculty that require computational techniques. Computers allow us to solve complicated, coupled non-linear equations, track high-energy particles through the sky, and reproduce the Universe inside our virtual lab. The CRA uses the NSF XSEDE resources, the CRA cluster, Cygnus, and our Visualization Lab to explore some of the secrets of the Universe.
The field of cosmology studies the universe in its entirety. The evolution of galaxies and their central black holes are particularly useful to understand both the relevant cosmological and galactic processes that shape galaxies over billions of years. The length scales involved in these processes can range from an atomic level, when studying atomic and molecular transitions that are important in star forming gas clouds, to the cosmological scale, where tidal forces from distant galaxies create the initial rotation of a galaxy.
Gravity is one of the four fundamental interactions of nature. Yet some of the most interesting predictions of the theory that governs gravitational interactions, General Relativity, allude direct detection. Black Holes and Gravitational Waves are both results of General Relativity.
High-energy astrophysics is the study of fundamental physics within the most violent environments imaginable. X-ray and gamma-ray sources are used as laboratories to explore physical processes at temperatures, densities and energies so extreme that Earth-based experiments would be impossible. This type of research can therefore provide direct tests of many of the basic ideas of modern physics.
Our Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics Network (TCAN) is focused on the understanding that the cosmological role of SMBHs ultimately requires a detailed study and treatment of the multi-scale physics at work during formation and growth of the most massive SMBHs, as well as the feedback of these SMBHs on galactic structure. We will tackle this ambitious goal through collaborative research that cuts across traditional sub-disciplines of theoretical and computational astrophysics.