Texas Cosmology Center Established at The University of Texas at Austin

March 17, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — A new interdisciplinary center for the study of the frontiers of the universe, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the largest chain of galaxies, has been formed at The University of Texas at Austin.

Eiichiro Komatsu
Dr. Eiichiro Komatsu is the new center's director.

The Texas Cosmology Center will be a way for the university's departments of Astronomy and Physics to collaborate on research that concerns them both.

"This center will bring the two departments together in an area where they overlap—in the physics of the very early universe," said Dr. Neal Evans, Astronomy Department chair.

Astronomical observations have revealed the presence of dark matter and dark energy, discoveries that challenge our knowledge of fundamental physics. And today's leading theories in physics involve energies so high that no Earth-bound particle accelerator can test them. They need the universe as their laboratory.

Dr. Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate and professor of physics at the university, called the Center's advent "a very exciting development" for that department.

"Many of us have felt that cosmology, because of the wonderful progress on the observational side, has the kind of excitement we used to find in elementary particle physics," he said. "Many of us have shifted our work toward cosmology. We intend to participate fully in the Texas Cosmology Center."

The Center will study the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the origin of cosmic inflation, the origin of matter in the universe, and emergence and evolution of the structures in the universe.

Dr. Eiichiro Komatsu, associate professor of astronomy, will be the Center's director. He explained that the Center will include faculty from both departments, and the initial funding allocated to the Center will be able to support four post-doctoral researchers, two for each department. He said he intends to seek external funding for more support.

"Our goals are to do great science in both theory and observations. The Center will help make HETDEX a successful experiment," Komatsu said. "The fastest way to get there is to increase the number of active and enthusiastic researchers, such as post-docs. When we add more people, activity and productivity tend to increase exponentially. You get a critical mass."

HETDEX is the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment, a project to study the nature of dark energy, that mysterious force that is causing the universe's expansion to speed up. The experiment will use the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, one of the world's largest telescopes, at the university's McDonald Observatory in West Texas. The project is led by McDonald Observatory, with Texas A&M as one of the four partners.

The new Texas Cosmology Center has funding from several sources within the university: the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, The College of Natural Sciences, McDonald Observatory, the Department of Astronomy and the Department of Physics.

"The funding will support post-docs and graduate students, and bring in visitors from other institutions to collaborate with us in both physics and astronomy," Evans said. "There is already a loose network of people that study cosmology at universities in Texas—this center will provide a meeting place for them."

For more information, contact: Rebecca Johnson, McDonald Observatory, College of Natural Sciences, 512 475 6763.

6 Comments to "Texas Cosmology Center Established at The University of Texas at Austin"

1.  Ron Jaeger said on March 26, 2009

I marvel that the study of the organization and evolution of the universe still falls to the scientists. Science can't account for the spirit of the universe and how it blends with physical phenomena. Should the agents of the Texas Cosmology Center wish to probe the entirety of cosmology, they should study "The Cosmology of Madness," a collection of poems written by the late Albert Huffstickler, a former UT employee who may eventually be known as the most insightful poet ever to reside in Texas.

2.  Wilmer Mitchell said on March 26, 2009

I personally believe in the day-age theory of the creation (about 14 billion years ago) of our universe. I am not a scientist, but I read most of what Reasons to Believe publishes about their creation model. Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist and minister, heads this organization. Their comprehensive model of the origins of our universe boldly make predictions about what the next scientific findings should tell us. All other scientific organizations should accept Reasons' challenge to offer up their own predictions, and may the model which comes closest to predicting the next cosmological findings lead all others to change their models accordingly.

3.  William Carl said on March 27, 2009

Can the increasing rate of expansion be tied to dark matter? If the center can answer that question, the odds are that the excitement over the project will grow and produce even more profound questions.

4.  Alan Freed said on March 28, 2009

In response to Ron Jaeger's comment, I don't believe cosmology has ever been limited to "scientists." It's not accurate to draw a dichotomy that doesn't exist. Sentient primates have been wondering about and exploring the meaning (assuming one or more exist) of the universe since the inception of sentience. We do this through all our senses and abilities, whether expressed in mathematics, astronomy, poetry, philosophy or others. I believe the highest expression of any pathway to understanding the structure and meaning of the universe, whether poetry or physics, is an art form in the purest sense.

5.  duy anh duong said on Aug. 15, 2009

When was The University of Texas at Austin established?

6.  kopernik said on Feb. 13, 2012

My reply to William Carl - Yes, because dark matter is being converted to real matter (too much to explain here.) Dark matter acquires a particle that gives it mass. A product of that endothermic reaction is dark energy. Dark energy shuns real matter. It collects between galaxies. It is continuing to expand the U.