Cosmology & Astrophysics

Cosmology and Astrophysics study fundamental questions about the universe, such as its origins, the processes that govern it, and the nature of its components.

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

The Duke Cosmology Group, composed of professors Dan Scolnic, Michael Troxel, and Chris Walter, studies the nature of dark energy and dark matter. The group uses some of the largest astronomical sky-surveys to make the most precise measurements of the expansion of the universe and its composition.

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


Astrophysics at Duke is led by the Duke HEP neutrino group, whose research focuses on neutrinos from core collapse supernovae and other astrophysical sources. See their website for more information on Duke’s astrophysics-related projects.

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