Star formation, black holes focus of new research

Star formation in a box

Star formation in a box. The figure shows star-forming gas clouds from a large-scale computer simulation. With the new Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics Network, researchers will be able to simulate star formation more precisely than ever. (Image courtesy of Chang-goo Kim)

TWO NEW RESEARCH NETWORKS IN ASTROPHYSICS got off the ground this year, one to explore how stars form and the other to study how black holes accumulate matter, with the goal of answering fundamental questions about the universe.

The Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics Network (TCAN) on star formation will examine questions such as what drives gas clouds to collapse to make new stars, and what determines whether a new star becomes a dwarf or a giant. The network is supported by NASA’s Astrophysics Division and co-led by Eve Ostriker, professor of astrophysical sciences, and James Stone, professor of astrophysical sciences and applied and computational mathematics, and includes the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-Santa Cruz.

The second TCAN will explore black hole formation, and look at why some black holes consume matter quickly while others do so slowly. The network, funded by National Science Foundation’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, is led by Stone and includes the UC-Berkeley, the University of Illinois and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory through the Max Planck Princeton Center for Plasma Physics.

–By Catherine Zandonella