Cosmology & Astrophysics

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

The Duke Cosmology Group (faculty members Dan Scolnic, Michael Troxel, and Chris Walter) studies fundamental questions about the universe like the nature of dark energy and dark matter. The group leads efforts using some of the largest astronomical sky-surveys to make the most precise measurements of the expansion of the universe and the composition of the universe. The group is currently looking for members at the postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate level to participate in all of the surveys and projects listed below.

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.

The Duke HEP neutrino group's research touches on astrophysical and cosmological topics, in particular on neutrinos from core collapse supernovae and other astrophysical sources.


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

Astrophysics-related projects in the Duke HEP neutrino group:

  • Super-Kamiokande: a large water Cherenkov detector in Japan sensitive to astrophysical neutrinos over a wide range of energies
  • Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment: the next-generation large neutrino detector in the United States
  • HALO: a lead-based supernova neutrino detector in Canada
  • SNEWS: the SuperNova Early Warning System, a world-wide network of neutrino detectors

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