CAREER: Navigating the Environments of the Universe's Fastest Transients

Project: Research project

Project Details


This CAREER program will explore the local and galactic environments of two populations of cosmological transients in unprecedented detail: short-duration gamma-ray bursts (SGRBs) and fast radio bursts (FRBs). Each of the two research focuses will break down into examining the environments of these transients in three ways: (i) pinpointing the locations of these transients within their host galaxies and comparisons to models, (ii) building a large sample of observations and modeling them to provide physical properties of the host galaxies, and (iii) examining correlations with galaxy clusters and large-scale structure. The overarching research goals are to develop and deploy an observational repository of the host galaxies of SGRBs and FRBs, to employ state-of-the-art galaxy modeling to make significant strides in our understanding of their progenitor systems, and to correlate the positions of these transients with large-scale structures. The PI’s proposal is embedded in high-impact frontiers in time-domain astronomy over the next decade. Motivated by the fast-paced, competitive field of time-domain astronomy, and the transformative social justice movement the PI will develop the Thrive at Northwestern, a series of programming at Northwestern University to enable the persistence of STEM-interested female and under-represented minority (f-URM) students in higher education. The goal is to create a sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and identity as a scientist communication In partnership with Movement Consulting, Thrive will consist of two components: (i) a monthly series for f-URM undergraduates focused on professional advancement (CV-building, science communication, time management, seeking research opportunities) and sustained connections to f-URM mentors (ii) an f-URM Graduate Leadership Conference for PhD and Master’s students, offered twice during the CAREER.

The environments of transients have provided a wealth of clues into their origins. SGRBs originate from binary neutron star mergers. In connection to new gravitational wave discoveries with LIGO, cosmological SGRBs offer the only way to probe a more distant population of binary neutron star mergers, and to trace the formation and evolution of binary neutron star systems across cosmic time. Meanwhile, FRBs are a major discovery frontier of time-domain astronomy for the next decade. Compared to SGRBs, FRBs really are a nascent field of discovery. This CAREER proposal will result in key results such as (i) a premier observational sample of SGRB and FRB host galaxies representing a complete census, (ii) delineate the true redshift distributions, inferred stellar population properties and star formation histories to address testable progenitor predictions, and (iii) the occurrence rate in the oldest known structures in the Universe, galaxy clusters. The proposed research will enable a complete census of short GRB and FRB host galaxies, defining these classes of transients for decades to come. Emerging research demonstrates that the two classes of transients share similar environmental properties, and examining them with uniform techniques under one umbrella program will enable comparative analyses between the two populations for the first time.

This CAREER proposal will see the development and launch the online BRIGHT repository to make data products and modeling available to the community in a user-friendly interface. All software developed as part of this proposal will be available on GitHub. Addressing a national need, the Thrive program will highlight and directly addres
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date9/1/218/31/26


  • National Science Foundation (AST-2047919 AMD 000)


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