Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy helps create a new Physics Frontier Center backed by the National Science Foundation

Physics Frontier Center
Students work in The Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy’s Arecibo Remote Command Center.

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS-MARCH 30, 2015-The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) $14.5 million over 5 years to create and operate a Physics Frontiers Center (PFC). 

“Physics Frontier Centers are extremely competitive grants to obtain. This award is one more example of the high quality of researchers we have in UTRGV’s physics department,” said Dr.Fredrick Jenet, director of  the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy (CARA), co-founder of NANOGrav, and co-Principal investigator on this award, “We prove time and time again that we can successfully compete for major research funding on a national scale.”

Jenet’s research laid the ground work for the creation of NANOGrav back in 2007, an international collaboration of researchers that are building a galactic scale gravitational wave observatory using exotic stars known as radio pulsars to test the predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. 

“This award will enable us to take great strides forward in the global effort to detect and study gravitational waves, one of the most important predictions of Einstein’s theory ”, said Dr. Teviet Creighton, chair of the astrophysics working group in CARA. 

“The NANOGrav effort is on track to make a real impact in the field,” said Dr, Richard Price, one of the world’s experts in the field of general relativity and member of the NANOGrav advisory board. 

The PFC is a collaboration of 11 US institutions and will bring over $1 million dollars in research funding to South Texas over the next five years to support the NANOGrav related research efforts ongoing in CARA.

Students at CARA’s Arecibo Remote Command Center (ARCC) have been searching the galaxy for exotic stars known as radio pulsars. Many of their newly discovered objects are being used by the NANOGrav collaboration in its efforts to detected a phenomenon known as gravitational waves. 

“This award will give our students more opportunities to be a part of this major international effort and expose them to some of the world’s experts in astrophysics,” said Dr. Joseph Romano, professor of physics at UTRGV and senior research scientist on the PFC. 

This award will also enable the ARCC program, created by Jenet in South Texas, to be expanded to include more universities thus greatly enhancing the network of professors, researchers, and peers available to the students in CARA’s programs.

“One of the major strengths of the ARCC program is that undergraduate and high school students get to participate in world class research and work with top researchers at all levels,” said Dr. Volker Quetschke, chair of the ARCC executive committee. 

Miguel Rodriguez, a freshmen in the ARCC program, comments “I really hope that I can discover several pulsars that will become part of the NANOGrav effort.” 

The talented pipe-line of students created by ARCC and other CARA programs paved the way for the creation of the CARA-SpaceX collaboration known as STARGATE.

“This is an amazing time to be in South Texas. With the new UTRGV’s focus on research, our students will have more and more of these opportunities to participate in research efforts of national and international impact,” said  Jenet.

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