Research in Theoretical Astrophysics & Cosmology  
 
Physics & Astronomy
University of Utah

The Theoretical Astrophysics and Cosmology effort in the Department of Physics and Astronomy focuses on several diverse areas, including:
  • Dark matter. Observations suggest that the mass in the Universe is composed of dark matter, whose presence is known only by its gravitational influence on normal stars and galaxies. The study of dark matter is a key component of our research effort here, specifically the identification of candidate particles from possible extensions to the Standard Model of particle physics. A fascinating result of this work is the prediction of dark stars, which are similar to normal stars but are dominated by dark matter.

  • Origins of Solar Systems. Like dark matter, planets around distant stars are extremely difficult to detect. Only recently have technological advances allowed us to find these objects. Our research program includes high-performance computing simulations of the formation of planets around stars, including the Sun. A goal is to understand how solar systems form and to estmate the prevalence of planets including those like Earth, which may harbor life.

  • Black holes and hypervelocity stars. Research in our group also involves exploring the nature and origin of massive black holes, such as the one in the center of our Galaxy. For example, we use simulations to extract information about a massive black hole from the glow of gas flowing nearby. We are also learning about the conditions near the Galaxy's massive black hole by studying hypervelocity stars that are flung from it into the far reaches of the Galaxy's halo.

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Last updated: Fri Nov 5 21:30:01 MDT 2010