Below are the primary areas of focus within the Center for Astrophysical Sciences (CAS). Their website contains an in-depth overview of the research conducted by faculty, research staff, graduate and undergraduate students.
Theoretical and experimental physicists in the department are studying the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, the cosmological distance scale, the natures of dark matter and dark energy, and are engaged in precision measurements of the fundamental cosmological parameters.
Black Holes & High Energy Astrophysics
Just about all good-sized galaxies acquire super-massive black holes at their centers, and when they are young, so much matter is accreted onto these black holes that the power output can easily be 100 times as great as that of all the stars in the host galaxy. Our scientists study these quasars or active galactic nuclei from observational and theoretical viewpoints.
The Formation and Evolution of Galaxies
The formation and evolution of galaxies is another area of expertise in CAS. This group of researchers studies the evolution of the population of galaxies and the surrounding inter-galactic medium across cosmic time (from the first galaxies to the present-day). These studies are complemented by detailed investigation of the stars and gas in our own Milky Way and its nearest neighbors.
Exoplanets are an active research area at JHU. The CAS exoplanet group has as one focus the detection and characterization of exoplanet atmospheres from super-Earth to Jupiter size planets. Since exoplanet systems are only as well characterized as their host stars, the group has as its second focus the precision characterization of exoplanet host stars both in their own right and in the Galactic context. Both foci support the overall goal of illuminating the properties, formation, and evolution of exoplanets large and small. These efforts are in close collaboration with exoplanet researchers in JHU’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, its Applied Physics Laboratory, and the Space Telescope Science Institute.
Space@Hopkins connects the array of Johns Hopkins University divisions, departments, and collaborative institutions in their common pursuit of civilian space research. Space@Hopkins aims to highlight the breadth and depth of JHU’s efforts in space-related activities in order to foster collaborations among university-affiliated researchers and to provide access to new space-related partnerships. It is also the desire of Space@Hopkins to excite current and prospective students about the ample space-related research opportunities across campus, and to provide members of the public with a gateway to the diverse JHU space effort.
JHU astrophysicists are among the world’s leading developers of new astronomical tools for extracting knowledge from extremely large data-sets. We are members of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), which mapped a quarter of the sky and obtained spectra of a million galaxies, 100,000 quasars, and sundry stars and other interesting objects in its first and second phase. In addition, JHU is one of only three U.S. university members of the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS1), which is imaging 75% of the sky repeatedly in five different optical and near-infrared wavebands, creating the largest astronomical data set to date.Both SDSS and Pan-STARRS1 are databases partially developed by the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science. A partnership of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the School of Medicine, the Sheridan Libraries, the Whiting School of Engineering, and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, IDIES is an incubator for creating, curating, and publishing new, very large scientific data sets.
JHU has a long history in the development of major cutting-edge instruments and facilities for astrophysical research, dating all the way back to an ultraviolet spectrograph placed on the lunar surface by Apollo astronauts. We have a vibrant Sounding Rocket program, and CAS members are working on major new ground-based and space-based initiatives that span the gamut from the X-ray to microwave regimes. Our in-house Instrumentation Design Group (IDG) has designed and built several world-class optical and near-infrared instruments for ground-based telescopes.
Theoretical astrophysical research, by its nature, moves rapidly from topic to topic. Recent studies have included such subjects as the nature of dark matter in the universe, accretion disks, galaxy formation, the evolution and structure of active galactic nuclei, gravitational lenses, interstellar molecules, star formation, pulsars, and the nature of gamma-ray bursts. Working with analytic “pencil-and-paper” calculations and large-scale numerical simulations, astrophysical theorists at JHU are recognized leaders in subjects ranging from the physics of accretion onto black holes to MHD dynamos to interstellar chemistry.