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Astrophsyics

Physics of the Cosmos Science

Physics of the Cosmos spans the fields of high-energy astrophysics, cosmology, and fundamental physics, and includes a wide range of science goals. These include the following:

Dark Energy

The discovery that the expansion of space is accelerating presents one of the most important scientific problems of our time. The implication that the universe is dominated by an unknown entity, now called "dark energy," that counters the attractive force of gravity, may revolutionize our understanding of cosmology and fundamental physics.

Read more Expand our knowledge of dark energy

Big Bang and the Evolution of the Universe

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) originated just 380,000 years after the Big Bang, when the Universe was dense, hot, and opaque. As the Universe cooled, the light was decoupled and escape from the matter. We observe that same light today, stretched by the expansion of the universe to a cold 2.7K glow. Observations of the CMB have driven our understanding of the early Universe, and are one of the few probes of the inflationary epoch.

Read more Precisely measure the cosmological parameters governing the evolution of the universe and test the inflation hypothesis of the Big Bang

General Relativity and the Nature of Spacetime

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity is one of the most cherished fundamental theories of physics. But this description of gravity is widely expected to be incomplete because of its lack of a quantum foundation. The electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces, by contrast, are well defined by quantum mechanics. Most tests of General Relativity have been done in low gravitational fields, e.g., within the Solar System. However, the best tests would be in the most extreme conditions, near the event horizons of black holes, and where black holes are interacting at close range, particularly where velocities are an appreciable fraction of the speed of light.

Read more Test the validity of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and investigate the nature of spacetime

Massive Black Holes and the Evolution of Galaxies

The massive black holes (~109 solar masses) ubiquitous in the Universe today are thought to stem from seed black holes formed early in the Reionization era. The origin of these seeds is uncertain. They may have formed from either large stellar mass black holes (~100 solar masses) left over from the first stars or intermediate mass black holes (~104–5 solar masses) formed directly by the collapse of supermassive gas clouds. Whether supermassive black holes grow through mergers or accretion, their host galaxies appear to have co-evolved with them.

Understand the formation and growth of massive black holes and their role in the evolution of galaxies

Matter and Energy in the Most Extreme Environments

Cosmic rays, high-energy charged particles traveling at velocities that can approach the speed of light, are a rich potential probe of chemical and nuclear in the Universe. The majority of cosmic rays are atomic nuclei from hydrogen to the heaviest elements with energies spanning more than twelve orders of magnitude.

Explore the behavior of matter and energy in its most extreme environments


The European Space Agency LISA observatory


PCOS News

Program News and Announcements

26 June 2020
Based on extensive feedback from the community, including the recent COPAG survey and APAC discussion, the Astrophysics Data Analysis Program will be solicited in ROSES-2021. »  Details.
16 June 2020
Senior Review of NASA Astrophysics Archives Report is now available here [PDF].
15 June 2020
Astrophysics Program Scientist civil servant positions at NASA Headquarters: open in USAJOBS June 29–July 6. »  Details.
15 June 2020
Astrophysics Data Analysis Program (ADAP) Proposal Deadline extended to Thurs 16 July 2020.
15 June 2020
NASA's Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group Executive Committee (COPAG EC) is soliciting input on the impacts of COVID-19 on Cosmic Origins research via ADAP. The survey deadline has been extended until Friday, June 19, 2020 »  Details.
4 June 2020
Astrophysics Advisory Committee Virtual Meeting to be held June 23–24, 2020 »  Details.
3 June 2020
2020 Spring Meeting of the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board/Space Studies Board, June 8–11, 2020 Details.
3 June 2020
ROSES-20 Amendment 28: Final Text and Due Dates for Astrophysics Explorers U.S. Participating Investigators. Details.
29 May 2020
Proposals for NASA's Strategic Astrophysics Technology will not be solicited in 2020, instead waiting for Decadal recommendations. »  Details.
28 May 2020
NASA SMD releases new five-year Science Plan, "Science 2020-2024: A Vision for Scientific Excellence." »  Details.
26 May 2020
NASA's Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group Executive Committee (COPAG EC) is soliciting input on the impacts of COVID-19 on Cosmic Origins research via ADAP. The survey closes on Monday, June 5, 2020 »  Details.
20 May 2020
NASA names WFIRST in honor of Nancy Grace Roman, a tireless advocate for new tools that would allow scientists to study the broader universe from space. »  Details.
18 May 2020
NASA releases DRAFT text for a new "Astrophysics Pioneers" opportunity. Comments due June 15, 2020. »  Details.
18 May 2020
Join NASA Science Live at 11 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, 20 May 2020, for an exciting announcement on WFIRST! Details and participation links here and here.
7 May 2020
Provide your input on balloon platform capabilities that could enable your science in the next 10 years by completing this survey for NASA's Scientific Balloon Program.
29 Apr 2020
NASA SMD calls for nominations, including self-nominations, to serve on the WFIRST Science Interest Group (WSIG). »  Details
27 Apr 2020
NASA SMD anticipates one or more short-window openings this summer for civil servant Program Scientists at NASA HQ. »  Details
16 Apr 2020
HaloSat Year 1 Data now eligible for funding under ADAP. »  Details
13 Apr 2020
Attend the virtual APS April 2020 meeting! The meeting is open to all and includes three PCOS sessions. Register (no fee) to attend sessions.
7 Apr 2020
NASA announces new ROSES element for LISA Preparatory Science, with mandatory NOI due 15 Sep 2020 and proposal due 15 Dec 2020, and new element for workshops & conferences in ROSES-20, with rolling submission through 29 Mar 2021.
6 Apr 2020
NASA announces new due dates for ADAP (Jun 30) and TCAN (Jun 23) 2020 proposals, cancels ADAP 2021 solicitation. Reminders on dual-anonymous ADAP guidelines.

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