The breadth of expertise at the Institute is exceptional for a department of moderate size, covering optical, infrared, and radio observations along with instrument development and theoretical and computational astrophysics. Students may find themselves exploring such diverse fields as star formation and stellar evolution, the structure and makeup of the interstellar medium in the Milky Way and other galaxies, the structure and evolution of galaxies, gravitational lensing, the cosmic distance scale, the nature of active galaxies and quasars, and computational gas dynamics as a tool to explore cosmic problems. Other faculty interests extend our expertise into space physics, cosmic rays, and early universe cosmology.
For observational work, students and faculty use our Mt. Lemmon (1.5-meter) and O'Brien (0.75-meter) telescopes, as well as the national observatories at Kitt Peak, Cerro Tololo, Mauna Kea, Arecibo, the Very Large Array, and others. Further, we are very actively involved in projects with the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Hubble Space Telescope. Finally, we have guaranteed time access to the Steward Observatory Telescopes (including the Large Binocular Telescope). Follow the links below to find out more about our research groups.
Large Binocular Telescope and the MMT
Particle astrophysics and cosmology is a growing field of research at the University of Minnesota. This research includes searches for high energy cosmic rays, experimental studies of cosmic microwave background radiation, observations and theoretical models of galaxy formation, research into the formation of the first stars and metal abundances at high red-shifts, theoretical studies of big bang nucleosynthesis and early universe physics, theoretical work in nuclear astrophysics, work on gravitational lensing, and laboratory searches for dark matter and gravitational waves.
- Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (Hanany)
- Gravitational-Wave Detection (Mandic)
- Laboratory Searches for Dark Matter (Cushman, Mandic)
- Low Z at High Z (Skillman)
- Nucleosynthesis (Qian, Olive)
- Gravitational Lensing (Williams)
- High Energy Gamma Rays (Fortson)
- Particle Dark Matter (Olive, Peloso)
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- Galaxy Cluster Formation (T.W. Jones)
- Local Group (Humphreys, Skillman, Hidalgo)
- Radio Galaxies (Rudnick, T. W. Jones)
- Galaxy Formation and Evolution (Williams, Scarlata, Fortson)
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- Galactic Structure (Humphreys)
- Interstellar Medium Polarization (T. J. Jones)
- Supernova Remnants (Rudnick, T. W. Jones)
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Professor Kris Davidson leads the Hubble Treasury Program on Eta Carinae, the most massive and luminous star in our region of the Milky Way. This program is one of the most intensive spectroscopic projects undertaken with the Hubble Space Telescope. Other studies of massive stars focus on the final stages of evolution, with attention to particular objects. We are also involved in many other exciting programs (including some with guaranteed time access observations on the Spitzer Space Telescope).
- Dust and gas in comets, pre- and post-main sequence stars (T. J. Jones, Gehrz, C. Woodward)
- Massive stars / Eta Carinae (Davidson, Gehrz, Humphreys)
- Massive star evolution (Davidson, Gehrz, Humphreys)
- Nucleosynthesis (Qian)
- Pre-main sequence (Gehrz, C. Woodward)
- Stellar Convection and Turbulence (P. Woodward)
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Space Physics includes a wide variety of theoretical and experimental projects. Faculty, researchers and students are active participants in the ISTP (International Solar-Terrestrial Physics) Science Initiative. The ISTP is a collaborative effort by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of Japan to investigate the Earth-Sun space environment over an extended period of time. Professor Cynthia Cattell is the Project Leader of the International Auroral Study (IAS).
- Auroral studies (Lysak)
- Space Plasma Physics (Cattell), (Wygant)
- Solar Physics (Glesener)
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The Infrared Laboratory under the direction of Professors Robert Gehrz, Terry Jones, and Charles Woodward specializes in infrared instrumentation. Professor Shaul Hanany's group builds balloon borne instruments to study the Cosmic Microwave Background.
- Cosmic Microwave Background Observations (Hanany)
- X-ray Sounding Rockets and CubeSats (Glesener)
- Infrared Research
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The LCSE, under the direction of Paul Woodward, is engaged in a wide range of research projects. The lab focuses mainly upon collaborative projects between the government, industry, K-12 schools, and the University's Institute of Technology. Examples of research done by Tom Jones and his students at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) include simulations of galaxy clusters, radio galaxy dynamics, and cosmic ray acceleration.
- Laboratory for Computational and Scientific Engineering (LCSE)
- Computational Astrophysics at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI)
In addition, a wealth of related and adjacent research centers enriches the experience of astrophysics students. The Theoretical Physics Institute in the School of Physics and Astronomy sponsors programs in several areas of astrophysics and space physics, while the School of Earth Sciences carries out research in the physics of planetary interiors and the history of the solar system. The Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications supports a diverse program devoted to solving practical scientific problems. The Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, the Laboratory for Computational Science and Engineering and the Army High Performance Computing Research Center are devoted to large-scale scientific computing problems including those frequently encountered in astrophysics.