Cosmology and Astrophysics

The CCD imager of the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) used by the Dark Energy Survey.
The CCD imager of the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) used by the Dark Energy Survey. 

The Duke Cosmology Group (faculty members Dan Scolnic, Michael Troxel, and Chris Walter) studies fundamental questions about the universe like the nature of dark energy and dark matter.  The group leads efforts using some of the largest astronomical sky-surveys to make the most precise measurements of the expansion of the universe and the composition of the universe.  The group is currently looking for members at the postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate level to participate in all of the surveys and projects listed below.

Cosmology-related projects in the Duke Cosmology Group are:

  • The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST): A planned wide-field optical "survey" telescope that will observe the entire available southern sky every few nights to study the nature of dark energy and dark matter.  Chris Walter leads the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration (DESC) Survey Simulation working group and Commissioning Task Force, and Dan Scolnic leads the LSST DESC Observing Strategy Task Force. 
  • The Dark Energy Survey (DES): An optical survey of 5000 square degrees (1/8th) of the southern sky that has found thousands of supernovae and observed hundreds of millions of galaxies to make the most precise measurements of the nature of dark energy and dark matter.  Michael Troxel is the DES cosmology Analysis Coordinator.
  • Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST):  The top-ranked large space mission of the 2010 National Academies’ Astro2010 Decadal Survey. WFIRST will observe thousands of square degrees of the sky in the near-infrared from a position in space 1 million miles from Earth. The planned launch date is 2025.  Dan Scolnic is the Deputy PI of one of the Supernova Science teams and leads the Calibration working group, and Michael Troxel is a member of the High-Latitude Survey Cosmology Science team.

The Duke HEP neutrino group's research touches on astrophysical and cosmological topics, in particular on neutrinos from core collapse supernovae and other astrophysical sources.

     Astrophysics-related projects in the Duke HEP neutrino group:

    • Super-Kamiokande: a large water Cherenkov detector in Japan sensitive to astrophysical neutrinos over a wide range of energies

       Supernova remnant 1987A (R. P. Kirshner and P. Challis, STSci, NASA)
      Supernova remnant 1987A (R. P. Kirshner and P. Challis, STSci, NASA)

    • Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment: the next-generation large neutrino detector in the United States
    • HALO: a lead-based supernova neutrino detector in Canada
    • SNEWS : the SuperNova Early Warning System, a world-wide network of neutrino detectors

    Professor Arlie Petters studies gravitational lensing and black holes.

    Teaching and outreach activities take place at the Duke teaching observatory.

    Astrophysics Faculty

    • Phillip S. Barbeau

      Phillip S. Barbeau

      Assistant Professor of Physics
      Research Interest:
      Direct searches for dark matter; Experimental Nuclear & Particle Astro-Physics, Double Beta Decay, Neutrinos and Dark Matter
    • Hubert Bray

      Hubert Bray

      Professor of Mathematics, Professor in the Department of Physics (Secondary)
      Research Interest:
      Geometric analysis with applications to general relativity and the large-scale geometry of spacetimes
    • Arlie O. Petters

      Arlie O. Petters

      Benjamin Powell Professor of Mathematics in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Mathematics, Dean of Academic Affairs of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Professor of Physics (Secondary), Professor of Economics (Secondary), Bass Fellow
      Research Interest:
      Problems connected to the interplay of gravity and light (gravitational lensing, general relativity, astrophysics, cosmology)
    • Kate Scholberg

      Kate Scholberg

      Arts & Sciences Professor of Physics, Professor of Physics, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Physics, Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society, Bass Fellow
      Research Interest:
      Astrophysical neutrinos; Experimental particle physics and particle astrophysics; neutrino physics with beam, atmospheric and supernova neutrinos (Super-K, T2K, LBNE, HALO, SNEWS)
    • Photo of Professor Scolnic

      Daniel Scolnic

      Assistant Professor of Physics
      Research Interest:
      Measuring dark energy and the Hubble constant with Type Ia Supernovae as part of DES, Pan-STARRS, SH0ES, LSST and WFIRST. Follow-up of EM counterparts to GW events.
    • Image of Professor Troxel

      Micheal Troxel

      Assistant Professor of Physics
      Research Interest:
      Observational and theoretical cosmology. Constraining cosmological models with weak gravitational lensing and large-scale structure in DES, LSST, and WFIRST.
    • Christopher Walter

      Christopher Walter

      Professor of Physics
      Research Interest:
      Cosmology and Particle-astrophysics; Experimental Particle Physics, Observational Cosmology, studies of Dark Energy, Neutrino Physics, Particle-Astrophysics. (LSST, The Dark Energy Science Collaboration, Super-Kamiokande).