Patrick Motl, assistant professor of physics, will be the lead investigator for this project – one of 28 programs receiving a NASA Astrophysics Theory grant. More than 180 proposals were submitted.
"When a star much more massive than our own sun runs out of fuel and dies, it explodes in a supernova explosion," Motl said. "It leaves behind a very dense, small object called a neutron star, or a black hole. Our research will help astronomers identify and study the neutron stars, advancing knowledge in astronomy and astrophysics."
Motl's team of five will simulate mergers between black holes and neutron stars, via computer simulation. The density of neutron star matter makes it impossible to study it in any lab, Motl said.
"One thing to remember about neutron stars is, one teaspoon of its matter weighs more than all of humanity combined," he said. "People don't really know much about the state of matter at such extreme conditions."
Christian Chauret, dean of the School of Sciences, said it is very impressive to receive one of the grants.
"It is highly prestigious for one of our faculty members to be a principal investigator on a NASA grant," he said. "This is a testament to the quality of Dr. Motl's research, and will allow him to continue his very active research program in astrophysics. It's also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some of our students to participate in certain aspects of the research, especially with the computer simulations and modeling."
Motl's team includes Steve Liebling, Long Island University; David Neilsen, Brigham Young University; Luis Lehner, University of Guelph and the Perimeter Institute; and Carlos Palenzuela, Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.