Research in Theoretical Astrophysics at the Carnegie Observatories

Lead by Juna Kollmeier,  Andrew Benson , and Tony Piro, the research program in theoretical astrophysics at the Carnegie Observatories carries out world-class research with an emphasis on interaction with observational colleagues and a direct connection to astronomical data from state-of-the-art facilities. Current areas of research focus on the formation and evolution of stars, galaxies and black holes, and cosmology, but any area of research within the observatory is open.


Applications are now being accepted for The Carnegie Fellowship in Theoretical Astrophysics.

Research Activities

Juna Kollmeier's  research focuses on the formation and evolution of cosmic structure on physical scales ranging from stars and black holes to galaxies, clusters and the intergalactic medium. Using a combination of cosmological hydrodynamic simulations and analytic models the aim of this program is to distill the complex process of structure formation into readily observed quantities. Kollmeier works closely with observers to match survey capabilities with theoretical expectations.



Simulated image of galaxies

Andrew Benson leads a program in theoretical ab initio modeling of the complex process of galaxy formation. The primary aim of this program is to develop the most advanced treatment of the diverse physics of galaxy formation, including gravitational interactions, black hole growth, star formation, and feedback. A key focus is to make a direct connection to observables through the construction of virtual galaxy surveys, images and spectral energy distributions using the advanced galaxy formation toolkit, Galacticus. This work is coupled to careful Bayesian modeling of observations to determine how current and future data will inform and test our theory of galaxy formation. The ultimate goal of Benson’s research is to make quantitative, testable predictions and to determine which observations are the most discriminating to test galaxy formation theories.

Tony Piro........  

Andrew Wetzel's research lies at the intersection of galaxy evolution and large-scale structure. His program includes the physics of cosmic accretion and gas flows in shaping galaxies and their host halos, the impact of environment on galaxy evolution ranging from massive galaxy clusters down to dwarf galaxy groups, and the physical processes that regulate galactic star formation. This work incorporates theory, cosmological hydrodynamic and N-body simulations, and observational survey data, including using all of these in concert to inform each other.

Andrew will be moving to a faculty position at UC Davis in 2017.

Stephanie Tonnesen........ Stephanie will be moving to the Simons Center for Computational Astronomy in 2017.  
Yu Lu........  
Jennifer van Saders........  

Computing Facilities

Computational astrophysics at Carnegie benefits from a new, dedicated 92-node cluster, mies. Each node has 16-core Intel Xeon 2.40GHz CPUs, 64GB RAM per node, fast Infiniband connections, and 330TB of disk space via NFS drive. Observatories scientists also have access to a shared 162-node cluster, memex, of which 40 nodes are dedicated for Observatories use, with 24-core Intel Xeon 2.50Gz CPUs, 128GB RAM per node, and 700 TB of total storage. In addition to these facilities, computational astrophysicists at Carnegie have access to  make use of national resources such as XSEDE.