Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics and Relativity
Two of our faculty members are leading experts in theoretical astrophysics and relativity theory, and are actively exploring the physics of giant molecular clouds, star formation, supernovae, gravitational waves, black holes, and loop quantum gravity, among other topics.
Prof. Khanna works on different problems in the area of gravitational physics and computational relativity. For example, a study of the capture of smaller astrophysical objects (such as a solar mass star) by large (supermassive) black holes, that happen to exist at the center of most galaxies. Such capture processes strongly emit gravitational waves, that are of great interest to an international network of newly established observatories. Another area of interest includes a study of cosmological and black hole models in the context of loop quantum gravity wherein space-time is considered discrete at a very fundamental level. Prof. Khanna also has a keen interest in scientific computation and supercomputing. His research is supported by the National Science Foundation, NASA, various private foundations and the computer industry.
More information about Prof. Khanna's research can be found on his research website.
Prof. Fisher's research has focused on two endpoints of stellar evolution -- star formation and supernovae, as well as on the fundamental physics of turbulent fluids. In the context of star formation, outstanding questions include : How is turbulence within star-forming giant molecular clouds (GMCs) generated and sustained? What sets the stellar initial mass function (IMF)? What sets the rate at which stars are formed? How do complex molecules form in the extraordinarily cold background temperatures of molecular clouds? How are brown dwarfs formed? How are binary stars formed? In the context of supernovae, these questions include : How does a Chandrasekhar-mass white dwarf first ignite and initiate a subsonic deflagration front that becomes a type Ia supernova? What is the nature of turbulent deflagration within Ia supernovae? Does the deflagration front transition into a supersonic detonation, and if so, how? What is the origin of the Phillips relation, and is it possible to obtain an even-tighter relation using first principles simulations of Ia supernovae, and thereby provide even tighter constraints on the properties of dark energy?
Prof. Fisher's research, in collaboration with graduate and undergraduate University of Massachusetts Dartmouth students and colleagues from other institutions, has made fundamental advances on a number of these questions through the combined use of theory and simulation.
More information about Prof. Fisher's research can be found on his research website.