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. 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.
  • Galaxy Formation and Evolution (Whitaker) Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array of galaxies across cosmic time underpin our understanding of the regulation of star formation and their gas reservoirs.  Many open questions remain about the early formation and evolution of the most massive galaxies, observed to quench by "cosmic noon", a mere 3 billion years after the Big Bang. Whitaker is a key member in international collaborations performing large extragalactic surveys, including an associate faculty affiliation with the Cosmic Dawn Center of Excellence in Copenhagen Denmark.  Strong gravitational lensing is a unique tool that Whitaker and her team use to help resolve the stellar populations of distant galaxies, enabling science of future generations of telescopes but now.