Research Activities of the Astrophysics Group

lagoongreen smRutgers astronomers pursue some of the most exciting questions in physics today through active observational and theoretical programs. Projects include searches for the nature and distribution of dark matter, attempts to determine the expansion rate and density of the universe, the origin, evolution, and nature of large galaxy clusters, the formation and evolution of galaxies, and the formation of the elements in supernovae. Objects of study range from "nearby" globular star clusters in our own Galaxy to the most remote galaxies and quasars whose light paths are distorted by the gravitational lensing effect of mass concentrations along the line of sight. Observers and theorists in the group interact closely, and many recent student theses result from both theoretical and observational projects.

The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is one of the principal research facilities for the astronomy group at Rutgers. They have a 10% share of the observing time on this 11-meter optical telescope, the largest in the world, which began operations in 2005. The University is a founding partner of the consortium that built the telescope, and Rutgers astronomers have contributed to its design and instrumentation. SALT offers Rutgers astronomers the opportunity to make cutting-edge observations of the cosmos through access to a world-class instrument.

Rutgers is also a partner in the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, a 6-meter microwave telescope located high in the Chilean Andes which became operational in 2006. Its measurements of the cosmic background radiation - the faint glow from the Big Bang - will tell us more of the origin and evolution of the universe. Our astronomers are also major users of NASA's great observatories, especially the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope, and many other ground-based optical and radio facilities.

Astronomy has made tremendous advances in the past decade as many new telescopes, both ground- and space-based, have become operational. These new telescopes, have given astronomers the ability to see not only much fainter objects with visible light, but also to explore the universe over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio wavelengths through gamma-rays. Rutgers astronomers make observations at most wavelengths and have contributed instruments to several projects around the world. For example, Rutgers provided an imaging Fabry-Perot spectrophotometer for the Richard Stobie Spectrograph on SALT. Rutgers is an institutional member of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Our faculty and students are actively involved in the preparations for the survey, which will commence in 2024.

Rutgers has a network of high-performance workstations for the analysis of astronomical observations and for theoretical numerical computations. Data from a wide variety of sources can be processed, enhanced, and viewed using most major astronomy software packages. Much theoretical research is heavily computational, and N-body simulations at Rutgers make major contributions to our understanding of the dynamics of galaxies and stellar systems.


Members of the Astrophysics Group

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