Cosmologists seek to answer big questions:
- What is the Universe made of?
- How did the Universe begin?
- How did the galaxies and stars that light up our Universe form?
Researchers at the University of Michigan collaborate closely to apply cutting-edge theory, computation and instrumentation to find solutions to these fundamental puzzles.
Michigan theorists are working to understand physical processes in stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies, in order to map the evolution of the Universe itself. Principal areas of research include theories of the early Universe and inflation, the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, dark matter and dark energy, the physics of galaxy clusters, and star/planet formation. Theorists work with experimental astrophysicists and astronomers in providing theoretical predictions and numerical simulations for a variety of observational projects in which Michigan is involved. Theorists also collaborate with high-energy physicists in exploring the fertile intersection between particle physics and cosmology.
Experimenters focus not only on cosmology, but on the interface of fundamental physics and astrophysics. A large group of Michigan astrophysicists participate in the Dark Energy Survey (DES) a large telescope in Chile that will measure the evolution of the dark energy that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. Michigan physicists also work on the cosmic microwave background experiments, the ACTPOL project and the South Pole Telescope, and on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) project. Michigan cosmologists and astrophysicists also participate in the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), an international project whose goal is to build a powerful spectrograph for the Mayall Telescope in Arizona to take spectra of about 30 million objects, make a three-dimensional map of structures in the universe, and thus help shed light on the nature of dark energy, as well as measure the sum of the neutrino masses to unprecedented precision.