The process of star formation is central to a broad range of astrophysical problems: the nature of the first stars in the universe; the distribution of stars we see today; and the planet-forming environment of the circumstellar disk. Research in the department uses the latest observational tools across the electromagnetic spectrum to understand gas dynamics, magnetohydrodynamics, dust properties, chemistry in disks and the interstellar medium, and stellar physics. In addition, extrasolar planets are being investigated theoretically through dynamical simulations and observationally through precision radial velocity surveys and long-baseline interferometric techniques, high contrast imaging, transmission spectroscopy, and phase resolved thermal emission spectroscopy. Many members of this research area have approved programs with the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as Hubble.
We are also performing numerical simulations of star-forming regions and protoplanetary disks, with simulations linked to observations through three-dimensional radiative transfer models. We are exploring what determines the masses of stars, why star clusters form, how field massive stars form, whether all stars form with potential protoplanetary disks, and how and why these disks form planets.
As part of our exoplanet research, we have launched a University-wide interdisciplinary research initiative (MI-Planets) aimed at understanding the formation, evolution, and structure of planetary systems including the Solar System and those around other stars in our Milky Way galaxy and beyond. Learn more.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle