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Black Holes & Dead Stars

Supermassive, Intermediate & Stellar Mass Black Holes, White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars, Pulsars, Tidal Disruption Events

Image Credit: Aaron Geller/CIERA

Supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, elusive intermediate mass black holes, and dead stars in the form of black holes, neutron stars, or white dwarfs, are the densest objects in the Universe. They are central players in much of modern astrophysics, but we have only been aware of and studying these objects for less than a century. Our observational record is less than five decades long.  As such, there are still many unanswered questions about how these systems form and evolve over cosmic time. CIERA is home to a broad group of researchers in theory, simulation, and observation that study these exotic objects.

Research at CIERA




Few things in the Universe are as dramatic as the death of a star. Transient events like supernovae, gamma ray bursts, and tidal disruptions of stars encountering massive black holes, are all astoundingly bright and carry information about the star that died, how it tore itself apart, and the fragments that remain.

Professor Fong observes short gamma ray bursts to learn about the neutron star and black hole mergers that give rise to these intense explosions.

Professor Miller observes Type Ia supernovae to understand the conditions and environments under which white dwarf stars explode.




Astronomy PhD Program

Deadline: 11:59pm, December 15, 2023

The Northwestern Astronomy PhD is designed to provide students with a broad training in astronomy while enabling them to get started quickly with their graduate research. The Astronomy PhD is a flexible program that allows students to complement their astronomy training with a selection of physics courses or courses from other quantitative disciplines such as

Physics PhD Program

Deadline: 11:59pm, December 15, 2023

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers two different PhD degrees designed to best train students in their chosen discipline. For most branches of physics, students should enroll in the Physics PhD. Students interested in astronomy or astrophysics may apply for either the Physics PhD or the Astronomy PhD. GRE score submission is optional for the

NASA Illinois Space Grant Research Program – Summer 2024

Deadline: 11:59pm, March 22, 2024

Funded by an educational grant awarded by NASA to Northwestern University through the Illinois Space Grant Consortium, Northwestern offers a College Summer Research Program for outstanding undergraduates. The program provides an opportunity for college students to work with a professor in one of several areas of space sciences and astrophysics. It is open to students



Core Faculty

External Faculty

Diego Munoz

Diego Muñoz

Visiting Scholar, Professor at University of Arizone


Research Staff

Graduate Students