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Gravitational Waves & Multi-Messenger Astronomy

Gravitational Wave Data Analysis, Black Hole & Neutron Star Mergers, Gravitational Wave Sources & Their Electromagnetic Counterparts

Image Credit: NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet

As a discipline, astronomy is constantly being pushed forward by new technologies that transform how we observe the Universe. Multi-messenger astronomy is the synthesis of observations using light, gravitational waves, and astro particles. Combining different information from different types of signals allows us to better understand the underlying physical processes that govern how astrophysical systems evolve and change, and helps us get a better handle on the uncertainties and statistics that are inherent to every observation we make. Additionally, numerical simulations are another type of “messenger” that can be combined with observations to better understand astrophysical phenomena. In CIERA, we have broad expertise and interest in multi-messenger astronomy, particularly at the interface of electromagnetic and gravitational-wave observations.

Research at CIERA

Compact objects, such as black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs, often exist in pairs which eventually merge. These systems are strong sources of gravitational waves, and their nature and the environment in which they reside has a profound effect on possible associated electromagnetic signatures.

Professor Fong’s group looks for EM counterparts to GW events with observing programs in Hawaii, Chile, and Arizona. They are particularly interested in studying short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) whose progenitors are likely neutron star mergers with other neutron stars or black holes.

Professor Fragione studies mergers of black holes and neutron stars in star clusters and in hierarchical configurations as a source of gravitational waves, relevant for the LIGO-Virgo collaboration and the LISA mission.

Professor Kilpatrick uses large catalogs of galaxies and optical transients to optimize searches for the counterparts to neutron star mergers with the goal of understanding their contribution to the production of elements heavier than iron.


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

Associate Faculty

External Faculty

Diego Munoz

Diego Muñoz

Visiting Scholar, Professor at University of Arizone


Research Staff

Graduate Students