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UTSA astrophysicist to co-lead new international organization studying neutron stars and black holes

UTSA astrophysicist to co-lead new international organization studying neutron stars and black holes

SEPTEMBER 13, 2023 — The Simons Collaboration on Extreme Electrodynamics of Compact Sources (SCEECS) will have a UTSA chapter led by Richard Anantua, assistant professor in the College of Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy. The Simons Foundation recently formed the SCEECS to investigate the electrical and magnetic characteristics of neutron stars and black holes. Anantua is a co-PI on the project.

The Simons Foundation works to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. The SCEECS will run from September 1, 2023, to August 31, 2027, and includes a $2.5 million grant, of which $560,000 will be used to support Anantua’s SCEECS-related research activities at UTSA.

The collaboration’s goals include exploring extreme electrodynamics through neutron stars and black holes using theory, simulation and observation, educating and fostering a new and diverse generation of researchers with translatable skills and experience, connecting with scientists working in related fields and providing widespread public outreach.

“Our understanding of classical electrodynamics has been the underpinning of the energy infrastructure that modern civilization depends upon and is at the heart of our technological world,” said Anantua. “Extreme electrodynamics, such as that which occurs in the vicinity of neutron stars and black holes, pushes the frontiers of our knowledge making new solutions to increasingly complex challenges conceivable.”

UTSA was selected as a partner for SCEECS for its notable research enterprise and for Anantua’s past research contributions to the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT). Anantua is a leading member of EHT, an international research team that has a large overlap in its members with the SCEECS. EHT utilizes a vast worldwide network of radio telescopes and a technique called interferometry which enables the telescope network to capture high-resolution data as if it were one Earth-sized telescope.

Last year, Anantua modeled and simulated plasma physics that contributed to producing the first ever image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole located in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. This was only the second time in history that an image of a black hole had been captured.

Anantua broadly specializes in theoretical cosmology, high-energy theoretical astrophysics, high-energy theoretical particle physics such as string theory and condensed matter theory. He develops plasma heating models to help researchers better understand the polarized emission around black holes. Anantua was recently selected for the 2023 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award in recognition of his research contributions.

Anantua earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in physics from Stanford University, his Ed.M. in education and policy management from Harvard University and bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy and in economics and mathematics from Yale University.

"The SCEECS collaboration combines the expertise of scientists who think about plasma physics on both large and small scales around the most exotic environments in the universe,” said Brandon Curd, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics and Astronomy who is assisting Anantua on the project. “With the advent of GPU powered supercomputers, the possibilities for new discoveries are quite tantalizing."

⇒ Learn more about the College of Sciences.

The SCEECS research team at UTSA also includes Lani Oramas, physics doctoral student, and Joaquin Duran and Hayley West, physics master's students. 

In addition to UTSA, the SCEECS is comprised of several institutions from around the world including Caltech, Columbia University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Illinois State University, Princeton University, Stanford University, Tel Aviv University, The University of Arizona, University of California, Santa Cruz, University of Paris, University of Maryland, University of Toronto, University of Wisconsin—Madison and Washington University in St Louis.

— Ryan Schoensee

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