Waterloo targets dark matter, dark energy and black holes with new astrophysics centre

The University of Waterloo officially launched its astrophysics centre today.

The Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics (WCA) is being launched to build on the University’s record of success in astrophysics, which includes the creation of the theories tested by the first-ever image of a black hole to be taken. The centre also aims to advance human understanding of phenomena such as dark energy, dark matter and the nature of supermassive black holes.

First image of a black hole was enabled by theories of a Waterloo professor.

“There is an incredible amount of work being done Waterloo, and with the number of international projects already benefiting from our expertise, bringing the talent and resources together under one roof in the form of the WCA is the logical next step,” said Will Percival, director of the WCA and professor of astrophysics at Waterloo. “By creating an environment of intense collaboration, we’ll not only create a recipe for further breakthroughs in astrophysics, but we’ll also be able to advance our understanding of big data that will benefit scientific work taking place across our region.

“As the grandfather of big data, astrophysics has always been on the forefront of data science, and we expect that to continue to the benefit of everyone who comes into contact with the WCA.”

Will Percival (click on image to watch video of Will explaining his work)

The WCA builds on the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Distinguished Chair in Astrophysics, which is held by Percival.

The WCA launched with 13 faculty members and numerous post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. Members include Percival, who makes and analyses maps made from the three-dimensional positions of galaxies, Robert Mann, who studies gravitation and quantum physics, and Avery Broderick, whose theories laid the groundwork for the black hole image recently captured by the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration.

Members of the WCA are involved in a number of ongoing global projects, including the Canada-France-Imaging-Survey, the Event Horizon Telescope, and the extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey.

WCA members are also scheduled to take part in a number of the next generation of projects including Euclid, which is a satellite mission to understand dark energy, CASTOR, a proposed Canadian Space Agency satellite mission that would provide high-resolution imaging in the UV/optical spectral region, and the James Webb Space Telescope.

“The WCA will attract young, talented, scientists who will advance our understanding of dark energy, dark matter, and massive black holes that shape galaxies and clusters of galaxies,” said Brian McMamara, chair of Waterloo’s Department of Physics and member of the WCA. “The first image of the supermassive black hole in M87 by Avery and the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration is only a taste of the discoveries that lie ahead.”

The WCA officially launches on October 4th and includes a keynote address by Christine Jones Forman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

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