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Black Holes & Dead Stars

Supermassive & 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, 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


Over the past several decades, astronomers have begun to take a census of the largest black holes in the Universe and discovered that they are strongly associated with galaxies, and connected to some of the most energetic phenomena known, such as quasars and other active galactic nuclei (AGN).

Professor Larson’s group studies how gravitational wave observations of massive black hole binaries with LISA will elucidate not only the properties of the black holes, but also how they are first seeded and grow in the Universe. They use a variety of approaches, simulating LISA detections and analysis, as well as using modern cosmological simulations, like Illustris, to understand the black hole census of the Universe.

Professor Tchekhovskoy’s group numerically simulates the magneto-hydrodynamics of accretion and jets around massive black holes to model their observational properties and the physical mechanics that connect large structures like jets to the central massive black hole engine that drives them.

Professor Faucher-Giguere’s group studies the connection between massive black holes and galaxy evolution, using both numerical simulation and theoretical analysis to understand how physical processes like star formation, outflows, and feedback from the intergalactic medium influence the co-evolution of the galaxy and black hole together.


DSFP Postdoctoral Fellow

Deadline: 11:59pm, December 16, 2021

We invite applications for a postdoctoral scholar to join Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) and the leadership of the LSSTC Data Science Fellowship Program (DSFP). The DSFP Postdoctoral Fellow will divide their time equally between conducting an independent research program in data science in astronomy/astrophysics, while continuing the development and growth of the DSFP.

Astronomy PhD Program

Deadline: 11:59pm, December 31, 2021

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 31, 2021

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 the Astronomy PhD. GREs (general and physics) are not accepted. Visit the Physics and Astronomy Department website for

Faculty Position in Astrophysics – Northwestern

Deadline: 11:59pm, January 15, 2022

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University invites applications for a new full time faculty position in astrophysics, as part of an ongoing expansion in this area.  We seek outstanding individuals in any area of astrophysics, including theory and computation, observational astronomy, and instrumentation. We are especially seeking researchers who will complement and expand



Core Astronomy Faculty



Graduate Students