JILA astrophysicists want to understand humanity’s origins and place in the scheme of things. That’s why they investigate topics ranging from the dynamics of our Sun to the fundamental properties that give rise to the Universe itself. Their quest is aided by vast amounts of new data gathered by ground- and space-based instruments such as the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the Apache Point 3.5–m telescope in New Mexico, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the Far UV Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE), the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the X-ray Multimirror Mission (XMM-Newton), the Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), the Herschel Space Observatory, the Kepler satellite, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) on the HST, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar).
Our researchers use astronomical data to test and refine theoretical simulations of processes that occur in our solar system and throughout the Universe. JILA scientists study black holes and galaxies, the structure and evolution of stars, planet formation, the interstellar medium, and cosmology. As part of their mission to understand the Universe, JILA's astrophysicists are looking for answers to such questions as:
- How do stellar dynamos emerge and evolve inside the convection layers of the Sun and other stars?
- What are the properties of the interstellar clouds of warm gas near our Solar System?
- Why do young stars rotate as much as 10 times faster than the Sun?
- What created the supermassive black holes found in the center of galaxies?
- How are high-energy jets emitted by black holes or neutron stars able to traverse great distances through space without dispersing?
- What is it like inside a rotating black hole?
- What is the origin and evolution of the chemical elements?
- How do planets form and migrate around stars?
- How do stars affect the atmospheres of planets?
- What occurs during the merger of two neutron stars?
- How can we discover whether an exoplanet can support life?