JSI is a partnership between the University of Maryland (UMD) and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) aimed at creating a center of excellence in space science research. JSI brings together scientists from the UMD Department of Physics, UMD Department of Astronomy, the GSFC Astrophysics Science Division, and the GSFC Heliophysics Science Division, and is dedicated to fostering new areas of research at the interface of physics and space astronomy. This mission is achieved via direct collaboration between JSI Fellows and Affiliates as well as active undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral research programs.
Current areas of focus include theoretical programs to use black holes as laboratories for testing General Relativity (using both gravitational wave and electromagnetic observations), plasma processes in black hole accretion flows and the physics of jets, the particle physics of dark matter, the physics of cluster formation and evolution, fundamental processes in plasma astrophysics and the implications of these fields on the formation and evolution of structure in the universe. From an observational point of view members of JSI are involved in The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), Swift, XMM-Newton, Chandra, the Discovery Channel telescope, HAWC, Fermi, Ice Cube and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST-AFTA), ASTRO-H, Advanced LIGO and ZTF.
Black Holes and Gravity
Black holes are much more than cosmic oddities. They have taken on a critical role both in the realm of fundamental physics and astrophysics. In our studies of fundamental physics, black holes provide on of the most accessible points of contact between candidate gravity theories (such as string theory) and more established physics (general relativity and quantum field theory). If there are significant departures from General Relativity in the low-energy (i.e. directly observable) Universe, black holes are one of the most likely places where it will be manifest. Astrophysically, the accretion of gas onto black holes powers the most energetic phenomena in the Universe: quasars and gamma-ray bursts. We now recognize that this enormous energy release affects the way that structure comes together in the Universe and, in particular, that black holes likely regulate the growth of massive galaxies.
Fundamentally, we study the physics of black holes and their influence on the Universe. Each of the JSI partners have premiere programs in different aspects of black hole physics including X-ray studies of black holes, gamma-ray studies of blazars, accretion/jet theory, gravitational wave research, and fundamental gravitation research. However, many of the most exciting and important scientific frontiers exist at the boundaries of these sub-disciplines; examples include predicting electromagnetic counterparts to LISA detected black hole mergers (involving gravitational wave physics and detailed accretion theory), or the use of X-ray observations of accreting black holes to test strong-field General Relativity (involving fundamental gravity theory and accretion theory). JSI ties together and builds upon existing strengths at UMCP and GSFC to create a unique center of scientific excellence focused on black hole physics.
Cosmology and Galaxy Evolution
Research in cosmology elucidates the evolution of the universe, as well as its fundamental physical laws. The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), and the proposed International X-ray Observatory (IXO), NASA/DOE Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) and Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will produce key observations about galaxies, dark matter, and dark energy. The success of observational cosmology, however, requires characterizing and understanding the astrophysical filters that affect the cosmological observations. A joint effort by astronomers, physicists, theoreticians, and observers will lead to new understandings of the origin and history of galaxies, including our own. JSI allows us to combine areas of excellence in each of the partner institutions to pursue an integrated and synergistic program in key areas of astrophysics related to dark matter, dark energy, and structure formation.