Astrophysics

Welcome to the home of UConn Astrophysics, where the research interests of our faculty range from the study of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, to accreting supermassive black holes, and the quenching of star formation in the most massive galaxies in the cosmos.

Our growing astrophysics program offers students a vibrant and inclusive environment to engage in cutting edge research.  There is ongoing development of new astrophysics courses focused on active learning, and a curriculum that continues to grow, with the recent addition of an astrophysics minor.  UConn Astrophysics is also a partner in the Northeast Participation Group of the new Prime Focus Spectrograph (PFS) Collaboration on the Subaru Telescope.

Our program is committed to promoting an inclusive community in astrophysics, and broadening participation in astrophysics among members of traditionally underrepresented groups.

  • Star Formation (Battersby)The Milky Way Laboratory is a research group at UConn led by Professor Cara Battersby focused on using our own Galaxy as a laboratory for exploring physics throughout the distant cosmos. The Milky Way Laboratory uses both observations (mostly IR/submm/radio) and numerical simulations to study the formation of stars in extreme environments, the formation and growth of star clusters, the structure of our Milky Way Galaxy particularly using long, skinny molecular clouds or “Bones,” and uncovering the 3-D geometry of our Galaxy’s Center.
  • Supermassive Black Holes (Trump)Once thought to be mathematical curiosities, black holes are now known to be present in the center of every galaxy. Professor Trump’s research group seeks to understand the birth and growth of astrophysical black holes, using multi-wavelength observations that include the Hubble Space Telescope (with CANDELS), the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (with SDSS-RM), and (soon) the James Webb Space Telescope (with CEERS) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. UConn black hole research includes mapping their small-scale environment, measuring black hole mass, spin, accretion flows, and winds. It also extends to the large-scale interplay between black holes and their host galaxies, particularly understanding how the first black hole “seeds” collapse within the first galaxies at cosmic dawn.
  • Gravitational Waves (Mingarelli): Supermassive black hole binaries (SMBHBs) should be the strongest sources of gravitational waves (GWs) in the Universe, and have not yet been detected. To detect these most massive SMBHBs, billions of time the mass of the sun, we need a galaxy-sized GW detector called a Pulsar Timing Array. Prof. Mingarelli’s research group is involved in modeling and detecting GWs from SMBHBs, both from individual sources and the GW background from their cosmic merger history. Using galaxies surveys as a basis for predictions of both the GW background amplitude, and galaxies hosting individual SMBHBs, the UConn group is firmly at the intersection of GW astrophysics and extragalactic astronomy. Prof. Mingarelli’s group has especially strong links with the Prof. Trump group’s SMBH observations team, and has strong ties to the NANOGrav Collaboration and the International Pulsar Timing Array.
  • Galaxy Evolution (Anglés-Alcázar): Prof. Anglés-Alcázar is a theoretical astrophysicist with broad interests in galaxy evolution, from star formation and stellar feedback to the co-evolution of supermassive black holes and galaxies and the growth of large scale structure in the Universe. His group develops large numerical simulations and analysis tools to understand the multi-scale physical processes that govern galaxy evolution, with current research focusing on understanding the exchange of mass, energy, and heavy elements between galaxies and their surrounding circumgalactic medium and the growth and impact of feedback from central supermassive black holes.