Monday, 18 February 2019  


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Astrophysics at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism concentrates on understanding extrasolar planets - pioneering detection studies, observations of their birthplaces, modelling of their formation, and physical understandings of their atmospheres.

Yet, the astrophysics staff and fellows have a diverse range of interests beyond planets including galaxy formation and dynamics and star formation.

Our Carnegie Fellows are an integral part of the DTM astronomy group and do independent research on the origin and evolution of the universe, galaxies, stars, planets, and life. Our fellows have access to a wide range of facilites. Carnegie operates the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, including the twin 6.5-m Magellan telescopes. Theoretical calculations are performed on the Carnegie Clusters of Alpha and Xeon processors.


In the staff list, below, links will take you to entries in the DTM Faculty Biographies. In the "Research Areas" section, below, links will take you to individual staff members' web pages.

Alan P. Boss (star and planet formation, planet detection)
R. Paul Butler (planet detection, stellar astrophysics)
John Chambers (planet formation, dynamics)
John A. Graham (emeritus, star formation, cosmology)
Vera C. Rubin (galaxy dynamics, cosmology)
Scott Sheppard (star, planet and solar system formation and brown dwarfs)
Alycia J. Weinberger (proto-planetary disks, planet detection)

Postdoctoral Fellows
and Associates

Joleen Carlberg
Jacqueline Faherty
Brian Jackson
Timothy Rodigas

Predoctoral Fellow

Justin Rogers

Research Areas

Extrasolar Planet Detection
(R. Paul Butler, Alan Boss and Alycia Weinberger)
Butler, with the Lick-Carnegie Extrasolar Planet Search group, is surveying the nearest 1,700 Sun-like stars (F8 - M5) using the radial velocity/ iodine cell technique they pioneered. These surveys have produced nearly all the known multiple planet systems, the first transit planet, nearly all the sub-Saturn-mass planets, and the first Neptune-mass planet. Long term goals include detection of Solar System analogs and characterization of planet distributions down to Saturn-masses.

Boss and Weinberger and colleagues are undertaking a new astrometric planet search program with the 2.5-m du Pont telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory. This long-term search targets planets and brown dwarfs on long-period orbits (10 years or more) around nearby low mass stars (principally M,L,T dwarfs).


Proto-planetary Disks
(Alycia Weinberger)
Weinberger studies young circumstellar disks to establish the conditions for planet formation and evolution. Models of planet formation generate copious dust during an epoch where large bodies perturb each other and collide. She studies the temporal and compositional evolution of such dust with an emphasis on high spatial resolution imaging and spectroscopy to look for disk structure and processing.



Planetary System Formation
(Alan Boss and John Chambers)
Chambers studies the formation and dynamical stability of planetary systems. He devises innovative numerical simulations to study the orbital and collisional evolution of the planets and their precursors. These models are run on Carnegie's new Xenia computer cluster. He assesses the influence of giant planets on terrestrial planet formation and volatile content and to determine the frequency of Earth-like worlds.

Boss develops theoretical models of gas and ice giant planet formation, with an emphasis on his pioneering disk instability mechanism. Disk instability can form a protoplanet in only a thousand years, and may be able to explain many of the known properties of extrasolar planets as well as the outer planets in our Solar System. He also uses three-dimensional hydrodynamical models to study mixing and transport processes in protoplanetary disks with implications for the primitive meteorites.


Star Formation
(Alan Boss)
Boss models the collapse and fragmentation of dense, magnetic, molecular cloud cores to understand how clouds collapse to form single, binary, and multiple protostar systems. He uses three-dimensional hydrodynamics with radiative transfer and self-gravity to predict the outcome of the collapse of magnetic molecular clouds that start with different geometries and other other physical properties.



Galaxy Kinematics
(Vera Rubin)
Rubin explores galaxy formation and evolution by studying dark matter properties of galaxies. Her recent work is on low surface brightness galaxies that test unexplored regions of galaxy properties. She is also working on the internal velocity fields of irregular and polar ring galaxies.




Related Fields at DTM
Planetary Physics


Astronomy Web Links