The astronomy group consists of eight faculty whose research focuses predominantly on extragalactic astronomy, with approximately equal emphasis on theory and observation. Active research areas include the following:
- Galaxy morphology, disks, and resonance phenomena (Ron Buta, Preethi Nair),
- Galaxy interactions and evolution (Bill Keel, Preethi Nair)
- Galaxy formation simulations (Jeremy Bailin)
- Galaxy halos — observations and simulations (Jeremy Bailin)
- Stellar populations in nearby galaxies (Jeremy Bailin, Preethi Nair)
- Observational and theoretical study of hot gas in galaxies and clusters of galaxies (Jimmy Irwin, Ray White)
- Observational study of neutron stars and black holes (Jimmy Irwin).
- Theoretical study of white dwarfs accretion and SNe explosions (Dean Townsley).
- Planet formation, circumstellar disk detection & imaging (Murray Silverstone).
Major Collaborations and Resources
- SARA Observatory consortium
(telescopes at Kitt Peak, AZ & Cerro Tololo, Chile)
- Galaxy Zoo
- Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV
The astronomy group also uses the high-speed computing facilities of the Alabama Research and Education Network in Huntsville are available.
Astronomy group members are regular users of NASA satellite observatories (Hubble, Chandra, XMM-Newton, GALEX, Swift, Suzaku) and ground-based telescopes worldwide. Research is supported by the NSF and NASA.
Dr. Dawn Williams is developing techniques to identify tau neutrinos detected by IceCube, which is the largest neutrino detector on Earth and is located at the South Pole.
Dr. Marcos Santander is interested in high-energy neutrino astrophysics and multi-messenger searches for neutrino sources using gamma-ray and X-ray telescopes. He is involved with IceCube and the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS), a ground-based gamma-ray instrument operating at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO) in southern Arizona, USA
Dr. Pat Toale is also involved with IceCube, as well as with the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) gamma ray observatory, which is currently under construction near the highest peak in Mexico (4100 m); when completed, HAWC will be the most sensitive detector of gamma rays for energies above 10 TeV.
Dr. Nobu Okada, a theorist, is investigating signals for new physics at the Large Hadron Collider and in astrophysical observations.
Adjunct Prof. Biermann is active in high-energy astrophysics, particularly in theoretical studies of cosmic rays and active galactic nuclei.