The School of Earth and Space Exploration is home to one of the world's leading centers for observational and theoretical research in astronomy and astrophysics. Our research interests range from the Solar System to stars, to the Milky Way, to the most distant galaxies in the Universe, and from cosmology to fundamental questions of astrobiology.

In addition to the school's in-house laboratories for state-of-the-art instrumentation, we have access to state-of-the-art facilities including world-class telescopes and instrumentation for the sub-mm, radio, infrared, and optical as well as extensive computing facilities, including in-house parallel supercomputers. 

ASU is also a founder institution of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), a next-generation ground-based telescope that promises to revolutionize our understanding and view of the universe. The GMT is poised to enable breakthrough discoveries in cosmology, the study of black holes, dark matter, dark energy, and the search for life beyond our solar system.

Learn more about our astrophysics undergraduate degree and the PhD in astrophysics and our undergraduate minors in Astronomy and Astrophysics as well as our ASU Online undergraduate degree in Astronomical and Planetary Sciences

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Search the tabs below to learn more about our cosmology, astronomy, and astrophysics faculty, labs and research groups. 

Computational Astrophysics

Laboratory experiments in astronomy are usually impossible, and perhaps that's a good thing: Even if we could set up a supernova explosion in the lab, it would probably be a bad idea. Therefore, astrophysicists turn instead to detailed computations, relying on the fact that the physical laws governing astronomical objects are the same ones that apply on Earth. Astrophysical processes are extremely nonlinear and computers are essential to understanding them.

Principal Faculty and Research Scientists

Cosmology, Dark Matter, and Dark Energy

Cosmology treats the big questions: What is the history of the universe, and what does its future look like? What is the mysterious dark matter that dominates its composition? How is the expansion of the universe accelerating with time, and why? How does structure form in the universe? How can we use the observational evidence offered by astrophysics to address these questions? Cosmology within the School treats a range of these questions, from both theoretical and observational perspectives.

Principal Faculty and Research Scientists

Research Group

Extragalactic Astronomy and Galaxy Formation and Evolution

Understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies is fundamental to understanding how the universe transformed from a simple mix of hydrogen and helium after the Big Bang to the beautiful diversity of objects we see today. Galaxy formation results from gravity acting on small variations in the matter density of the early universe. The process begins with the formation of gravitationally bound "halos" dominated by dark matter. These halos host dense accumulations of normal matter, nurturing the formation of the myriad stars that make a galaxy visible. Because galaxies are massive, they retain some of the heavy elements produced in their stars, and after many generations of stars they harbor conditions ripe for formation of planets and of life.

At ASU, we use a number of current and recent observational projects for our galaxy research, such as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, searches for the redshifted 21cm line of neutral hydrogen in the intergalactic medium between early galaxies, and observations of galaxies and galaxy clusters from gamma rays to radio wavelengths. We use Hubble and ground based telescopes to study the relationship between galaxies and the supermassive black holes that they harbor. The Wide Field Camera 3 installed into the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009 has revolutionized studies of galaxy evolution from the present to just 500 million years after the Big Bang (over 13 billion years ago!).  We are also preparing for the next generation of discoveries by working on major new and upcoming facilities including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), SPHEREx, Simons Observatory, CMB-S4, CCAT-prime, Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA), and Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).  The future is very bright for the field!

Principal Faculty and Research Scientists

Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems and Planets

If astrophysics teaches us anything, it is that space is not empty. And the formation of planets and planetary systems, including our Solar System, doesn't happen in a vacuum, either. Our group at ASU is exploring the connections between planetary systems and astrophysical environment, by asking such questions as: How do protoplanetary disks evolve in rich clusters, where they are exposed to intense ultraviolet radiation and supernova blast waves? What effect does this have on planet growth? Is a nearby supernova the source of the short-lived radionuclides inferred from meteorites to have existed in our solar system? How did chondrules and other meteoritic inclusions form? What can meteorites tell us about the timing of planet formation in our solar system? And, How do icy bodies like satellites, Kuiper Belt Objects and comets evolve over time due to decay of radioactivities? Do they form hydrothermal systems? The astrophysical environment sets the stage for the formation and evolution of planets, because planetary systems don't happen in a vacuum.

Principal Faculty and Research Scientists

High Energy Astrophysics

Many astrophysical phenomena like supernovae, gamma ray bursts, pulsars, and classical novae release titanic energies. Such explosive events frequently involve immensely strong magnetic fields, synthesis of new chemical elements, and particles moving at significant fractions of the speed of light. The objects are often observed in high energy radiation like x-rays and gamma rays. At ASU researchers use sophisticated computer modeling and observations study the physics that power high energy emitters, the creation and distribution of elements, and how these powerful phenomena affect the environments around them from interstellar gas to forming planetary systems. 

Principal Faculty and Research Scientists

Laboratory Astrophysics

Laboratory measurements on stardust that are tiny mineral grains that condensed around dying stars can be done, since their discovery in 1987. The mineralogy, textures, chemistry, and isotopic composition of stardust in extraterrestrial materials provide direct evidence of processes that occurred in individual stars and complement observations by more traditional astronomical methods.

Principal Faculty and Research Scientists

Space Physics

Space physics is the study of the near space environments to planets. In our solar system, this includes the sun, particles and radiation from the sun, the solar wind and its interaction with planets and planetary magnetospheres, and upper planetary atmospheres that are influenced by both the sun and properties of the planet itself. Space physics aids in space weather prediction on Earth. Studies of space physics in our own solar system can also provide a window into understanding atmospheres and habitability of other planets beyond our solar system.

Principal Faculty

Star Formation and Evolution

Stars are responsible for lighting up the universe and transforming the hydrogen and helium gas left by the big bang into the elements of the periodic table out of which the complex structures of planets and life are made. The evolution of stars is critical to understanding processes on scales from the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time to the formation and development of planets in individual solar systems. Star formation and stellar evolution are the story of the struggle between gravity and the energy produced by nuclear fusion in the interiors of stars. Faculty at the School explore the problems of star formation and stellar evolution through a variety of observational and theoretical approaches. ASU researchers use the Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer space telescopes to study star forming clouds and stellar populations in the Milky Way and other galaxies, the massive explosions that result when stars end their lives as supernovae, and the compact objects left at the end of a star's evolution. Exploration systems engineers at the School are developing the next generation of ground and space-based multiwavelength instrumentation for studying star forming regions. State-of-the-art computer models are run on ASU's Saguaro parallel computing facility to model the clouds and disks that give birth to stars and planets and the lifecycles of stars, their dynamic interiors, and violent deaths.

Principal Faculty and Research Scientists

Exoplanets, Low Mass Stars, Brown Dwarfs, and Disks

We now know of more than 5000 planets outside the solar system (“exoplanets”).  These planets span an enormous range of properties from temperate terrestrial potentially earth-like worlds to extremely hot gas giants to worlds that straddle the boundary between stars and planets. This diversity stress tests our understanding of planetary climate and planet formation.   The Exoplanets, Low mass stars, Brown Dwarfs, and Disks group at SESE aims to characterize these worlds and the conditions that lead to this incredible planetary diversity.  Key questions include: What is the nature of planetary and planet-like atmospheres; their compositions, climates, and atmospheric processes? What are the properties of the stars that planets orbit and how do these stars affect planetary evolution? What properties uniquely define a planet vs. a brown dwarf? What are the properties of the protoplanetary disks during and after planet formation? Addressing these questions helps to pave the way for understanding the uniqueness of our own solar system and the conditions that could give rise to life in the universe. 

Principal Faculty