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College of Arts & Sciences
Physics and Astronomy


Astronomy

...born the day our ancestors started wondering about the skies overhead.

Astronomy, as a science, was born the day our ancestors started wondering about the skies overhead. And yet, Astronomy still remains one of the most active branches of Science. Research Astronomy/ Astrophysics is in a golden era at present, with many fundamental discoveries (e.g., dark energy, dark matter, black holes, extrasolar planets) shaping our understanding of the size and future of the universe, and of our place in the universe.

Astrophysical environments offer unique opportunities to study the behavior of matter under extreme conditions that are often impossible to attain in Earth-based laboratories. To understand the objects and events in the cosmos, astrophysicists combine knowledge from diverse areas of physics, mathematics, statistics, and image processing. Research students in Astrophysics thus obtain a broad and well-rounded education. 

The Astrophysics group at USC is engaged in research in extragalactic astrophysics and observational cosmology. Our work focusses on quasars, distant galaxies, intergalactic matter, and the evolution of these objects with cosmic time.
Some of the key scientific questions we are trying to address are: how did the cosmic abundances of the chemical elements build up with time? How did the processes of star formation and gas consumption progress in galaxies? How did the structure and shapes of galaxies get established over billions of years?

Our research uses primarily optical, infrared, and ultraviolet facilities, and is funded by the NSF and NASA. We use a wide range of observing facilities in Chile, Hawaii, Arizona, and New Mexico, especially the Magellan Clay telescope, the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the Gemini telescopes, the Keck telescopes, and the Apache Point Observatory (APO), In addition, we use the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope to access parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are attenuated by the Earth's atmosphere. Our group has attracted several USC students, and includes close collaborators at a number of institutions worldwide.

Faculty
Varsha Kulkarni

Steven Rodney