Astrophysics & Space

The Astrophysics and Space Institute aims to rapidly expand our knowledge of the universe through the creation of innovative hardware and software platforms. This includes the development of computational tools and frameworks, ground and space-based instrumentation, and the promotion of fresh approaches to technological advancement that develop resources at a fraction of the typical time and cost.

Our Programs

Morning Star mission to Venus

The Morning Star mission consists of a small direct-entry probe that will sample the Venusian atmosphere with an AutoFluorescence Nephelometer. With a lifetime of only about 5 minutes in the harsh environment, the probe will look for in-situ evidence of organic molecules within the cloud layers at a 48-60 kilometer altitude.

LINCC Frameworks

The LSST Interdisciplinary Network for Collaboration and Computing (LINCC) seeks to unite communities with shared tools to optimize scientific gains from the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. To enable early large-scale research, scientists must develop advanced techniques for managing the scale and complexity of upcoming data. LINCC Frameworks is a foundational effort to build the computational architecture and code for cloud-based petabyte-scale analysis of LSST data. By supporting LINCC’s analysis platform and community engagement activities, we are fostering wider community efforts, bridging the gap between Rubin Observatory’s data releases and the software development skills of various research groups.


The Argus array consists of 800 small telescopes multiplexed into a hemispherical cradle to mimic a 5m aperture for a tenth of the cost, and minimal maintenance needs. Argus will create a high cadence two-color movie of the entire night sky, continuously over a period of 5 years, complementary to the deeper, more focused Rubin Observatory survey This will produce an incredible time domain dataset for exploring both periodic and stochastic phenomena, including the ability to go back and look at what was happening in a region of the sky before and after a cataclysmic cosmic event.

Radio Camera Initiative (RCI)

The DSA-2000 is a proposed radio survey telescope and multi-messenger discovery engine that will consist of a multitude of antennae built with innovative low-maintenance parts. Unlike traditional radio telescopes that require complex data interpretation and deconvolution, this array will produce well-sampled near real-time images of the radio sky. The Radio Camera Initiative is an effort to prototype the technology for DSA-2000, including the development of an end-to-end pipeline built in collaboration between professional software engineers and astronomers.

Large Fiber Array Spectroscopic Telescope (LFAST)

LFAST is a scalable observatory design where hundreds to thousands of small telescopes are combined using optical fibers to feed a high-resolution spectrograph. The staggering photon collecting ability of this design would enable, for example, a comprehensive search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets. As part of this project, the LFAST team is developing a low-cost method for rapid production of individual slumped-glass mirrors.

Gravitational Lensing

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory will soon discover thousands of gravitationally-lensed quasars, each producing multiple images due to the curvature of spacetime caused by foreground galaxies. To decode these structures in an attempt to understand dark matter, this project is developing a machine learning pipeline that will simulate strong lensing and include various modeling and analysis tools for lenses and light curves in the Rubin data. Additionally, the team plans to make an independent measurement of the evolving Hubble constant and explore quasar central engines down to the scale of their black hole event horizons. The tools are open source and current versions are available on Github (see “Gravitational Lensing” hyperlink above).