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Project Information

Project Information

Astro2020: Panel on Compact Objects and Energetic Phenomena

Project Scope:

Panel Description:
The Panel on Compact Objects and Energetic Phenomena will identify and articulate the scientific themes that will define the frontier in research of compact objects and energetic phenomena in the 2022-2032 decade. Its scope will include white dwarfs, neutron stars, pulsars, magnetars, stellar mass black holes, compact binary systems, novae, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, fast radio bursts, gravitational radiation and high-energy particles from astrophysical sources, supermassive black holes, and related phenomena associated with active galactic nuclei.

Overall Project Statement of Task:
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine shall convene an ad hoc survey committee and supporting study panels to carry out a decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysics. The study will generate consensus recommendations to implement a comprehensive strategy and vision for a decade of transformative science at the frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics. The committee, with inputs from study panels covering the breadth of astronomy and astrophysics, will carry out the following tasks:

  1. Provide an overview of the current state of astronomy and astrophysics science, and technology research in support of that science, with connections to other scientific areas where appropriate;
  2. Identify the most compelling science challenges and frontiers in astronomy and astrophysics, which shall motivate the committee’s strategy for the future;
  3. Develop a comprehensive research strategy to advance the frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics for the period 2022-2032 that will include identifying, recommending, and ranking the highest priority research activities — taking into account for each activity the scientific case, international and private landscape, timing, cost category and cost risk, as well as technical readiness, technical risk, and opportunities for partnerships.  The strategy should be balanced, by considering large, medium, and small activities for both ground and space. (Activities include any project, telescope, facility, experiment, mission, or research program of sufficient scope to be identified separately in the final report.) For each recommended activity the committee will lay out the principal science objectives and activity capabilities, including assumed or recommended activity lifetime, where possible;
  4. Utilize and recommend decision rules, where appropriate, for the comprehensive research strategy that can accommodate significant but reasonable deviations in the projected budget or changes in urgency precipitated by new discoveries or unanticipated competitive activities;
  5.  Assess the state of the profession, using information available externally and, if necessary, data gathered by the study itself, including workforce and demographic issues in the field. Identify areas of concern and importance to the community raised by this assessment in service of the future vitality and capability of the astronomy and astrophysics work force. Where possible, provide specific, actionable and practical recommendations to the agencies and community to address these areas. This report shall be made available following the completion of the study.


Status: Current


Project Duration (months): 24 month(s)

RSO: Sheffer, Abigail


Engineering and Technology
Math, Chemistry, and Physics
Space and Aeronautics
Policy for Science and Technology

Geographic Focus:

Committee Membership

Committee Post Date: 08/13/2019

Deepto Chakrabarty - (Chair)
DEEPTO CHAKRABARTY is a professor of physics and head of the Astrophysics Division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research interests include observational high-energy astrophysics, neutron stars, and ultracompact stellar binaries. Prior to joining MIT, he held positions at the Supernova Cosmology Group of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (technical staff member), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (visiting professor), the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University (visiting scientist), and the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory (visiting scientist). Chakrabarty is a member of the MIT Time Allocation Committee for the Magellan 6.5-m Telescopes, and a member of the NASA Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer Users Group. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Bruno Rossi Prize in High Energy Astrophysics at the American Astronomical Society, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the Buechner Teaching Prize in Physics at MIT, the NASA Compton GRO Postdoctoral fellowship, and a NASA GSRP Graduate Fellowship. Chakrabarty received his Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology. He has served on the Academies’ Astro2010 Decadal Survey Panel on Stars and Stellar Evolution.
Laura B. Chomiuk
LAURA B. CHOMIUK is an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Michigan State University (MSU). After completing her Ph.D., she was a Jansky Fellow of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. She has far-ranging interests in transient and energetic phenomena, including novae, supernovae, and X-ray binaries, and she pursues these phenomena with multi-wavelength observations spanning radio to gamma-ray wavelengths. Dr. Chomiuk is a recipient of a Cottrell Scholarship and an NSF CAREER Award, along with an MSU Teacher-Scholar Award. She has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Daniel Holz
DANIEL HOLZ is a professor in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. He held postdoctoral appointments at the Albert Einstein Institute (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics), the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, and as a Richard Feynman Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His research focuses on general relativity in the context of astrophysics and cosmology, and he is a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) collaboration. He received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and as a member of LIGO received the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. He received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago. He has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Raffaella Margutti
RAFFAELLA MARGUTTI is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University. Previously she was a Harvard Postdoctoral Fellow and a James Arthur Fellow at New York University. Her research focuses on transient astrophysical phenomena, including stellar explosions, stellar disruptions by supermassive black holes and compact-object mergers. Her most recent awards include the SLOAN Fellowship in Physics and the CIFAR Global Scholar Fellowship She has a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from University of Milano Bicocca. She has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Julie McEnery
JULIE MCENERY is a senior scientist of high energy astrophysics at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is also the co-director of the Joint Space Science Institute of Goddard and the University of Maryland. She has served as the project scientist for the Fermi Mission and as deputy project scientist for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) Mission. Her research focuses on the study of extreme high-energy transients and the development of the ground and space-based observatories needed to pursue this. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a recipient of both the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement and the Outstanding Leadership Medals. She holds a Ph.D. in physics from University College Dublin. She has previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Peter I. Meszaros
PETER I. MÉSZÁROS is the Eberly Chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics and a professor of physics at the Pennsylvania State University. He is also the director of the Center for Particle and Gravitational Astrophysics at Penn State. His areas of research involve high energy astrophysics, cosmology, particle astrophysics, gamma ray bursts, and neutron stars. Awards and memberships include the American Astronomical Society’s Rossi Prize, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the Einstein Professor of Chinese Academy of Sciences. He obtained a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley. He has previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Ramesh Narayan
RAMESH NARAYAN (NAS) is the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard and Smithsonian, in the Astronomy Department. Previously, he was on the faculty at the University of Arizona. Dr. Narayan is a broad spectrum theorist with a particular interest in compact objects. His research spans a range of topics in high energy astrophysics, including both black holes and neutron stars; Galactic and extragalactic objects; and electromagnetic bands from radio to gamma-rays. He received a Ph.D. in physics from Bangalore University, India. He is a fellow of the Royal Society (London). He has previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Eliot Quataert
ELIOT QUATAERT is a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the director of the Theoretical Astrophysics Center. Quataert is an astrophysics theorist who works on a wide range of problems, including stars and black holes, plasma astrophysics, and how galaxies form. He has received a number of national awards for his research, including the Warner Prize of the AAS, the Packard Fellowship, a Simons Investigator award from the Simons Foundation, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Quataert received his Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University. He has previously served on an Academies’ Committees.
Scott M. Ransom
SCOTT M. RANSOM is a tenured astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, VA, where he studies pulsars and gravitational waves. He is also a research professor with the Astronomy Department at the University of Virginia. He works on a wide variety of projects involving finding, timing, and exploiting pulsars of various types, using data from many different instruments and at energies from radio waves to gamma-rays. His main focus is on searching for exotic pulsar systems, such as millisecond pulsars and binaries. Once these pulsars are identified, he uses them as tools to probe a variety of basic physics, including tests of general relativity, the emission (and hopefully soon the direct detection) of gravitational waves (as part of the NANOGrav collaboration, of which he is the current chair), and the physics of matter at supra-nuclear densities. Previously, Ransom was a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University before joining NRAO as a staff astronomer. He won the American Astronomical Society's Helen B. Warner Prize “for a significant contribution to observational or theoretical astronomy during the five years preceding the award.” He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and has authored or co-authored over 250 refereed publications including more than 20 in Nature and Science. He received his Ph.D. for astronomy from Harvard University. He has previously served on Academies’ committees.
Todd A. Thompson
TODD A. THOMPSON is a professor of astronomy at the Ohio State University. Thompson was formerly a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Lyman Spitzer Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University. His areas of research expertise include the mechanism of core-collapse supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, superluminous supernovae, heavy element nucleosynthesis, magnetars, wide-field transient surveys; star formation, feedback, galactic winds, cosmic rays and non-thermal emission from galaxies; binary systems, compact objects, few-body dynamics. Thompson was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, the Ohio State Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, a Simons Foundation Fellowship, and an IBM Einstein Fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), Princeton. He was recently a visiting junior professor while on sabbatical at the IAS. Dr. Thompson received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, Tucson, in physics. He has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.

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Please note that the appointments made to this committee are provisional, and changes may be made. No appointment shall be considered final until we have evaluated relevant information bearing on the committee's composition and balance. This information will include the confidential written disclosures to The National Academies by each member-designate concerning potential sources of bias and conflict of interest pertaining to his or her service on the committee; information from discussion of the committee's composition and balance that is conducted in closed session at its first event and again whenever its membership changes; and any public comments that we have received on the membership during the 20-calendar day formal public comment period. If additional members are appointed to this committee, an additional 20-calendar day formal public comment period will be allowed. It is through this process that we determine whether the committee contains the requisite expertise to address its task and whether the points of views of individual members are adequately balanced such that the committee as a whole can address its charge objectively.

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Keck Center
500 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
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Astro2020: Panel on Compact Objects and Energetic Phenomena Meeting One

Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 (ASTRO2020)

This meeting will be closed in its entirety.

The panel will review Astro2020 Science white paper submissions.

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