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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.


Faculty Position in Astronomy & Astrophysics – Northwestern

Deadline: 11:59pm, February 15, 2021

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN ASTRONOMY/ ASTROPHYSICS The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University invites applications for a new full time faculty position in astronomy and astrophysics, as part of a major expansion in this area over the coming years.  We seek outstanding individuals in observation/instrumentation or computation/theory who will complement and expand the current

Computational Specialist

Deadline: 11:59pm, February 17, 2021

The Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois is looking for a motivated Computational Specialist who will actively engage in and support the computational research activities carried out in the center. The position will be at the level of a junior staff scientist; the appointment will initially be for 2

2021 Research Experiences in Astronomy at CIERA for High School Students

Deadline: 11:59pm, March 15, 2021

REACH (Research Experiences in Astronomy at CIERA for High School Students) is a highly interactive, 3-week program (with an optional 3-week extension) that provides high school students experience with astronomy research in an atmosphere of team-style learning, hands-on training, and mentorship from professional scientists. Students enrolled in the program engage in astronomy research projects with CIERA astronomers.



Core Astronomy Faculty



Graduate Students