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DOE funds UNF research on dark matter and dwarf galaxies

Rubin Observatory, Credit to Rubin Observatory-NSF-AURA

Dr. Chris Kelso, associate professor of physics at the University of North Florida (UNF), and Dr. Daniel Hooper, senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) in Illinois, are beginning a three-year study on dark matter and dwarf galaxies. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is funding the study through a $750,000 Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) grant, presented to emerging preeminent research institutions as well as those serving minority students. 

The team of scientists and student researchers will simulate the data that will be collected from the DOE-funded Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) telescope currently under construction at the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile.   It is expected that LSST will discover many dwarf galaxies that are much smaller than our own but are orbiting the Milky Way and are excellent targets to search for dark matter. 

The team will assess if the new dwarf galaxies likely to be discovered by LSST will be able to confirm if dark matter is responsible for the surplus of gamma rays emanating from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers and physicists have been researching dark matter for decades, but much remains a mystery even though dark matter plays a critical role in understanding the size, shape and future of our universe.  

The project will provide funded research opportunities for numerous UNF undergraduate students and will fully fund a UNF data science graduate student researcher. The students will also engage in 10-week internships each summer at FNAL over the three-year lifetime of the grant.