The astronomy and astrophysics research area at UBC covers a wide range of topics, driven by some of the most exciting questions in modern science. Our faculty, postdoc and student researchers are seeking answers to:

  • How did planets, stars and galaxies form?
  • What can we learn about the early Solar System by studying small bodies?
  • How do observations of proto-planetary systems tell us about the formation of our own Sun and planets?
  • By studying exo-planets, can we learn about the possibilities for life elsewhere in the Universe?
  • What do studies of stellar populations have to tell us about how our Milky Way galaxy was put together?
  • Can we use compact objects to probe the most extreme conditions, and hence learn about extension to standard physics?
  • What are the precise values of the numbers that describe our Cosmos, including the energy census, expansion rate and initial conditions?
  • How can we learn more about the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy?
  • Can new approaches to statistical analysis improve how information is extracted from astronomical data?
  • What new instrumentation developments will help most with the above questions?

To study planets, stars, galaxies, the material in between, and the Universe as a whole at a variety of wavelengths, UBC astronomers and astrophysicists take full advantage of major observatories across the globe and in space. Close to home, the radio telescopes of the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (Penticton) have been regularly used by both faculty and students, and this same site is where UBC astronomers have recently built CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment), a radio telescope that will study hydrogen gas halfway across the Universe. The 3.6-metre aperture of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea, which supplies probably the sharpest images currently obtainable from the ground, has become a key research tool for the Department, as has the twin 8-metre Gemini Telescopes (one located in each of Hawaii and Chile), on which UBC faculty and students have been consistently successful at obtaining observing time.  We remain active users of the 15-metre James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, a world-class instrument at millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelengths, located in Hawaii and UBC astronomers have also been frequent users of the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array in Chile.  The Very Large Array in New Mexico, the 300-m dish at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, the 100-m Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and telescopes at Parkes, Australia, and Jodrell Bank, U.K. are other radio facilities used by UBC researchers.  Several ground-based cosmic microwave background experiments have had (and continue to have) significant involvement from UBC.

Many members of the faculty have been actively involved in balloon-borne and space-based projects.  Large allocations of Hubble Space Telescope time have been awarded to UBC researchers, and we had significant involvement on the science teams for the WMAP, Herschel and Planck satellites.  The leadership for the small optical space telescope MOST was at UBC, which included study of extrasolar planets and astero-seismology.

Members of the Department are also heavily involved in plans for future astronomical projects, including the James Webb Space Telescope, the Thirty Metre Telescope, the Square Kilometre Array and the CMB-Stage 4 experiment.

Banner image: CHIME at night, viewed from the northwest.

Faculty Engaged: Astronomy & Astrophysics

Name Position Research
Aaron Boley Associate Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Field: Planetary astronomy, space sustainability, space policy
Topics Include: Planet formation and system evolution, protoplanetary disk evolution, formation of meteorite parent bodies, space sustainability, satellite observations, space weapons
Brett Gladman Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Website
Research Field: Planetary Sciences, Solar system formation and evolution
Topics Include: planet formation, observations of moons, comets, asteroids
Mark Halpern Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Website
Research Field: Cosmology, Cosmic Microwave Background, Physical Cosmology, Star formation history,
Jeremy Heyl Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Group Website
Research Field: Stellar and High-Energy Astrophysics
Topics Include: Compact Objects, Stellar Evolution, Cosmology, Dynamics, Strong-field QED
Paul Hickson Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Website
Research Field: Astrophysics
Topics Include: Galaxies, clusters, telescopes, instrumentation, adaptive optics
Gary Hinshaw Professor/Graduate Chair, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Field: Cosmology
Topics Include: Measuring diffuse background radiations
JJ Kavelaars Adjunct Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Active research topics.
Research Field: Planetary Astronomy
Topics Include: Physical properties of Kuiper belt objects and their orbital distributions.
Michelle Kunimoto Assistant Professor (Incoming 2024), Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Website
Research Field: Exoplanetary Science
Topics Include: Exoplanet detection, Exoplanet characterization, Exoplanet demographics and occurrence rates, Astrostatistics
Allison Man Assistant Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Field: Extragalactic Astrophysics
Topics Include: Galaxy formation and evolution, Early Universe, Star formation, Supermassive black holes, Galaxy mergers, Galaxy structure and kinematics, Stellar populations, Interstellar medium, Gravitational lensing, Optical and near-infrared observations, Sub-millimeter/radio observations
Jess McIver Assistant Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics UBC gravitational wave astrophysics research group
Research Field: Gravitational wave astrophysics
Topics Include: Multi-messenger astronomy, characterization of large-scale physics instrumentation, data science, machine learning, black holes, neutron stars, core-collapse supernovae
Takamasa Momose Associate Member, Atomic, Molecular & Optical Physics Research Field: Laser Spectroscopy/Astrochemistry
Topics Include: cold molecules, low temperature molecular physics and chemistry
Douglas Scott Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Website
Research Field: Cosmology
Topics Include: Structure formation, Cosmic Microwave Background, Early Universe, High redshift galaxies, Sub-mm Observations, Astro-statistics
Kris Sigurdson Associate Professor, Theoretical Physics Research Website
Research Field: Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology
Topics Include: Particle Dark Matter, Early Universe Cosmology, Particle Cosmology, Cosmological Perturbation Theory, Dark Energy, Inflation, Cosmic Microwave Background, Cosmic 21-cm Fluctuations
Ingrid Stairs Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Website
Research Field: Radio Astronomy
Ludovic Van Waerbeke Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Website
Research Field: Cosmology
Topics Include: dark matter; dark energy; galaxy formation; structure formation; gravitational lensing
Jasper Wall Adjunct Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Field: Observational Cosmology, Large-Scale Structure, Galaxy Evolution
Topics Include: Origin and Evolution of Galaxies, Active Galactic Nuclei, Unified Models, Statistics in Astronomy

Postdoctoral Fellows & Research Associates Engaged in Astronomy & Astrophysics Research

Name Position Research
Mervyn Chan Postdoctoral Fellow, Astronomy & Astrophysics
Heather Fong Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Astronomy & Astrophysics
Evan Goetz Research Associate, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Field: Gravitational waves
Topics Include: Gravitational wave detector calibration and characterization, detection and analysis of continuous gravitational waves from spinning neutron stars
Lukas Hergt Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Field: Cosmology
Topics Include: Cosmic Microwave Background
Inflationary Cosmology
Bayesian Statistics
Ryley Hill Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Astronomy & Astrophysics
Lars Kuenkel Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Astronomy & Astrophysics
Richard Shaw Research Associate, Astronomy & Astrophysics
Research Field: Physics, Cosmology
Topics Include: Hydrogen intensity mapping with CHIME
Donald Wiebe Postdoctoral Fellow, Astronomy & Astrophysics